It’s the 80’s just before the advent of AIDS, and we are behind the scenes at the entrancing Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater, which Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson has declared to be "the Carnegie Hall of public sex in America." The theater and its steamy live shows are a countercultural venue for celebrities in entertainment and sports, and for San Francisco politicians and journalists. They are drawn by the beautiful strippers and the backroom hospitality of their outrageous porn king hosts, Artie and Jim Mitchell--who directed the groundbreaking porn film, Behind the Green Door, starring Marilyn Chambers.
Simone Corday, who danced at the O’Farrell and was a girlfriend of the late Artie Mitchell for nearly a decade, shares her unique story and her insights. She is the only woman insider to write about this insular but captivating world during this period, when she was close to the impulsive Mitchells, and a friend of the O’Farrell’s honorary Night Manager, Hunter Thompson. Corday’s unusual background of having an MA in English, along with her honesty, irreverent sense of humor, and keen focus as an observer, make this a delicious expose.
- Portrait by
Corday gives vivid accounts of three Mitchell Brothers’ films she took part in. They include the disastrous Behind the Green Door, the Sequel, a grandiose safe-sex epic with characters from Greek mythology, and their documentary on Hunter Thompson, titled The Crazy Never Die. She shares memories of her unconventional, passionate relationship with "Party Artie" Mitchell. His affectionate personal and domestic side, along with his love for his children, are remembered fondly. His taste for cocaine and advancing alcoholism--that led him to disappear on binges with a succession of young dancers--is also recaptured, as well as his volatile temper, his impish sense of fun, and his charismatic, macho persona.
Corday sheds light on Jim Mitchell’s motives for shooting Art to death, and on the murder trial that follows. She reflects on her experience in the sex industry, and on her relationship with a notorious club owner. From the fun she had performing in the O’Farrell’s spotlight as the theater’s nemesis, then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, to her heartbreak visiting Artie’s grave a few short years later, this is a sensational ride.
I am grateful to the late Charles Gatewood, for the use of his unforgettable cover photo of a dancer from his “Post Modern Pin-Ups.”
*Please Note: The cover model is not the author! The cover photo was chosen to represent the numerous alluring women who give the sex business vibrance, and enable it to thrive.
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"In Corday’s (9 ½ Years Behind the Green Door, 2011) fantasy novel, dancers at a San Francisco burlesque theater—some living, some dead—go in search of a mobster’s money.
Alice starts working at the Moulin Rouge with her friend and fellow dancer Deirdre, who’s just confided to her that she’s pregnant and that the club owner’s son, Tommy, is the father. Soon after, Deirdre reveals the pregnancy to Tommy, who eschews responsibility and starts having an affair with a different dancer. An ensuing argument ends with Deirdre losing her footing and falling down a set of stairs, killing her. Later, Alice’s friend Miranda casts a spell of protection on her fellow dancers when the club’s ownership tries to force them into freelance employment. However, the spell has the unexpected effect of conjuring Deirdre’s ghost as well as those of other long-dead dancers. Alice and her new phantom pals soon hatch a plan to go to the Cal Neva Lodge in Tahoe, where they plan to search for Mafia cash hidden there long ago by one of the ghost’s mobster boyfriends. (They plan to open a new club, The Blue Angel, with the loot.) The ghost of Cal Neva’s former owner, Frank Sinatra, haunts the club, and the group later comes face to face with the spirit of Marilyn Monroe. This engaging supernatural adventure will particularly appeal to fans of literature set in the Bay Area, as the characters travel extensively around familiar parts of San Francisco and its environs in Alice’s Volkswagen van. It will also interest those with an enthusiasm for burlesque-theater history. The story is basically split into two sections: the group’s journey to find the Mafia money, and the bureaucratic process of opening up its new nightclub. In both parts, though, Corday makes sure that there’s a lot going on, as the dancers deal with ghost hunters filming a reality show; the return of Alice’s estranged lover; a new ghost friend, checking in on the family that he left behind; a break-in at Alice’s house; and even a lost cat.
An eventful and enjoyable romp." —Kirkus Reviews
"Unique and otherworldly, Alice In Ultraland brings the burlesque nightlife alive, with a supernatural twist.
Alice is a stripper working the Moulin Rouge, a burlesque club with a throwback atmosphere. Her story isn’t about the dark underbelly of the stripping world, but of a young woman who appears to enjoy her job and most of those she encounters, including her fellow dancers. When Alice is working the special “Ultraland” room with her best friend Deirdre, a strange, supernatural occurrence chases away customers. Then, an accident that kills Deirdre sets off a chain of events, and the supernatural story begins to ramp up.
Faced with unfair working requirements, the sisterhood of dancers decides to open their own
club. Difficult, yes, but also filled with unpredictable adventures, famous ghosts, and a sexy, mysterious romance between Alice and her longtime love, Adrian.
With several plot layers that include Alice’s own story, her relationships with other dancers and their personal dramas, a many faceted, intriguing supernatural plot line, the mysterious bad-boy Adrian, and the burlesque club intrigue, Alice In Ultraland risks being too complicated, and at times, it is. However, although there are only the slightest nods to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, readers must approach it with the same suspension of disbelief and sense of a wonder: a willingness to simply go where the book goes.
This means enjoying the characters, particularly the wonderfully likable and three-dimensional Alice and the odd group surrounding her, and occasionally ignoring the scattered dialogue and disjointed plot direction. It means taking in the story’s supernatural elements, accepting the odd journey, all in search of the ultimately satisfying conclusion. It also requires being open to sexual talk and implied sexual situations (BDSM, oral sex, sex), although these scenes are never graphic.
Alice In Ultraland is a quirky take on the backstage world of strippers, an unexpected ghost story, a mystery, and a romance. It will appeal to open-minded readers seeking an unconventional tale."
— Blue Ink Review
"An exciting look into the world of burlesque dancer, Alice. Corday incorporates a supernatural touch to this adventure as Alice and her friends set out on a voyage throughout California where they meet ghosts, ghost hunters, and the banshee of the Moulin Rouge. Wicked fun with an amazing cast of characters." — San Francisco Book Review
Alice takes you to the nighttime world of a burlesque theater, haunted by a banshee and alluring stripper ghosts, the scene of an exotic dancer's tragic death. Plucky stripper Alice leads an uprising of her coworkers. They travel with their ghost girlfriends to Frank Sinatra’s haunted casino filled with Rat Pack era ghosts such as film siren Marilyn Monroe and Frank himself. The audacious strippers are after Mafia money hidden by the badass lover of a beautiful ghost stripper to fund their own new club. Follow Alice to a secret gated ghost community on Telegraph Hill, to haunted San Francisco and Lake Tahoe where phantoms from past centuries interact. Alice In Ultraland takes you into the strip club dressing room where dancers gossip, plot and share their obsessions to a chain of supernatural events and a surprising outcome.
Will Alice and her friends prevail over their adversaries? Will Alice fulfill her fondest dreams? By turns irreverent, funny, touching and haunting, Alice In Ultraland is a ghost story like no other.