Gloria Steinem Recalls Freelance Writing ‘Low Point’

The 1964 New York Times article was all about textured stockings.

New York Times Metro reporter John Leland has shared some fun behind-the-scenes notes in connection with his weekend profile of Gloria Steinem, the latest focus of his wonderful interview series “Lions of New York.”

The golden nugget for us involves yet another New York Times article, published Nov. 8, 1964 and contributed by Steinem. Headlined “Crazy Legs,” it was all about the new rage among city women for textured stockings. Today, Steinem remembers the assignment with a twinge of regret:

“That was the low point of my lack of spine,” Ms. Steinem said. “But I needed to pay the rent, so I did it.”

We should all be so lucky as to have such a relatively accomplished marker of “spineless” behavior. In today’s Times Insider piece, Steinem also shares some nostalgic memories of various corners of her early New York, now mostly vanished. For example, when she was working with Mad magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman on Help! magazine, the two used to lunch at a chain that served up tea-leaf readings along with the food. The place was called Gypsy Tea Kettle.

Getting back to that pay-the-rent article, we particularly enjoyed this bit:

“In 1960,” explained a Broad­way actress, “I bought a pair of toast‐brown, diamond‐pat­terned stockings that I loved. My agent told me to take them off or I’d be type‐cast as a beatnik. I wore them to a party, anyway, and the host asked if I’d injured my legs.” Today, the same actress is wearing her brown stockings happily, and no one thinks they are bandages.

And as far as the Gypsy Tea Kettle clairvoyants are concerned, it appears, from this comment left at the bottom of a recent Lost City blog item, that they knew how to read the bottom of a cup:

Ronnie Mann: I used to go to the Gypsy Tea Kettle on 42nd Street with my mom. The readers were all ladies of a “certain age”. One time – I think it was the 70s – we went and the reader told my mother to get my father to a doctor and fast. There was something wrong with his heart. She was right. He had a heart attack soon after. (And lived another 30 years.)


@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.