Above photo by Bernard Olcott
As explained in my post SURPRISE!!!, gosh was I ever! A new step-mom. I didn’t really get too anxious about meeting my new step-mom because I didn’t have time – it was to be in 3 days! Her clothes were in the closet. She had already traveled with Dad to Brazil and Japan. Silk wedding gowns adorned the walls.
So Gloria joined our small Olcott nuclear family. This meant that whenever we went out for a road trip, which was often – and something I continue to do to this day between Québec and North Carolina – I had the pleasure of her company in the car. Gloria was an excellent conversationalist. And we tested each other right away.
The author, Gloria, and Dad. Photo by Addie Lundberg.
Something else was new for me. Up until the Gloria years, I came back to New York City region only during summers. In December 1971, I hopped a plane to come up North for my first snowy Christmas since 1961. Ten years for a 13 year old is a long time; I had forgotten what snow looked and felt like, in its various forms.
While waiting for Dad and Gloria to pick me up at JFK that evening, I remember kicking a solid piece of compacted snow (more like ice) around for entertainment purposes and wondering how it could possibly be molded into shapes.
Our winter road trips – listening to Don McLean’s American Pie on the radio – included outings to the Playboy Club Hotel at Great Gorge in McAfee, New Jersey which was a very attractive modern ski lodge type structure a short drive from the slopes. Built with rough-hewn interior walls made from beige colored pebbles, the architectural style was a blend between today’s eco-modern crossed with touches from the new (in 1971) Newark Airport Terminal.
We would grab a table in the lobby bar next to the indoor waterfall cascading over one of the stone-faced walls. The waitresses in their bunny outfits with rabbit ears and tails would take the orders and hop back with drinks and nibbles. Gloria would rate the various waitresses on their looks and demeanor.
Stock pictures of the Playboy Club, McAfee, New Jersey
“There’s a cute one,” she would say about a waitress serving another table. Dad and I quickly agreed. “This one,” she would say with a side motion of her head towards an older one at the other side of the serving area, “maybe a little past her prime,” she would say with a knowing smirk and a giggle. Gloria’s analysis was spot on. As a 13 year old male of the species, I asked her how she knew so much. “I’m a woman,” she replied, “I should know what they look like.” True dat! Her logic was, uh, yeah, rock solid.
I could have sat there for hours, listening to my step-mother, who was no slouch in terms of looks herself, rate the other girls for me. This one had a great ass. That one beautiful hair and a spritely smile. She had great taste. I never asked her to rate my Tits ‘n Ass, but here it was anyway, not unwelcome. All I had to do was to give my periodic assent. Accordingly, I was most agreeable to both her commentary and the scenery.
Well, yes. We were sitting in the Hotel lounge enjoying our beverages like nice people. The waitresses were very charming and engaging, acting as if they were in funny costumes (which they were!) While they were away fetching drinks, prancing carefully in their high-heels, my step-mother would rate their bosoms for shape, lift, and other attributes of interest to 13 year olds (males).
As for the Playboy Club Hotel itself, Dad explained at the time that the complex was built in anticipation of casino gambling coming to New Jersey. It did come later, but only to Atlantic City in 1978. The hotel languished in the 1980s and was eventually shuttered under the “Legends” brand. According to Wikipedia, it had been built specifically as a casino, with windowless and dark interiors – the better to lose yourself in. Today, the empty building sits in forlorn decay.
Later on that summer, our road trips were directed northeast instead of northwest towards either Southampton or Stony Brook, Long Island (where Gloria’s parents lived). Driving home on Sunday nights involved the Queens Midtown Tunnel into Manhattan and then a traverse to 41st Street past Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Avenue towards the Lincoln Tunnel.
Like today, the Tunnel was a traffic-filled mess. Most waking hours find it a stop and go affair. Especially on Friday and Sunday nights with people coming and going on their weekend business.
However, unlike today, there was an element of worldly charm that existed back then but does not today. That feature was streetwalkers. A signature uniform easily distinguished them – high platform heels, little itty-bitty purses flailing off hips, hot pants made of spandex, tossed hair, tight shirts with bare-midriffs. No, I’m not referring to the crowd at Regine’s – these were street hussies! Generally, on any given Sunday night, you could usually spot a few here and there and they were easy to ignore.
One Sunday night, however, it was especially hot and muggy. The streets were filled (warm weather seems to attract more traffic for some strange reason). Dad was driving the new blue Cadillac west on 41st Street past Eighth Avenue and the New Jersey Embassy (otherwise known as the Port Authority Bus Terminal where a visa and one way transportation to the Garden State could be negotiated). Gloria was next to him up front and me on the back bench. After Eighth, we came to a dead stop, gridlock. And as soon as all cars came to a stop, on came hordes of street-walking $10 hookers in search of customers like vultures alighting on a dropped deer.
Up and down, between the cars they walked, those damn purses almost hitting the side of my window. The first thing I learned was that the girls sure loved themselves those Cadillacs. Especially new ones. Ours got a lot of attention. One black prostitute stood in front and lifted up her shirt, revealing items available for immediate purchase. Another one found an open window to an adjacent car. She leaned in to have a chat with the driver, all smiles and buzzy.
Before the Disneyfication of Times Square. (Obviously).
It was a dazzling, electric scene, with real money and services changing hands. I had never seen it to this level before! Dad sat impassively, at the wheel, looking straight ahead, trying to ignore the scenery. I could see the back of Gloria’s head. She seemed to be acting natural! For me, this was beyond strange, being stuck in a car with your parents in a sea of hos in full wallow.
I was starting to feel really uncomfortable until Gloria started rating the girls! “She’s cute,” she said, meaning the one who just flashed us. I leaned forward to take a look. “Look, she has a nice belly!” And, she did!
On the other side, to our left, was a very noticeable white skank who didn’t look so good. Her stark and pale appearance drew even more attention to her. “That one’s a little husky,” Gloria said more softly, a tinge of empathy in her voice. A little bit more heavy-set, the poor girl looked like she was ready to nevertheless bust out of her top. Some of the other hookers were waving little hellos to the cars, maybe even one or two to Gloria, who at least was animated.
Ach du lieber!! Mein Gott in himmel!!! I tried my best to follow Gloria’s lead but there was flashing meat for sale 8 inches from my nose! It wasn’t really the time for me to comment about lift and shape without being unseemly. Oh, and can you say this scene was distracting to a 13 year old?! I could pretend to have a conversation with Gloria, but, with EXACTLY what kind of concentration?!
If only I could bury my boner in the blue plush pile carpeting, I was sure I could have acted at least somewhat normal! Or, at least, less awkward. It would have been worse if Gloria hadn’t been there – my Dad and I would have been like zombies sitting in the car staring straight ahead trying to ignore the unignorable whoring swirling around us.
G-L-O-R-I-A, my step-mother. She was a pistol! Uh, I mean, the cat’s whiskers!
Photos by Bernard Olcott.