Guilty pleasures from harmless burlesque shows to sinister child prostitution were served up during the 1950s on "the Block" in Baltimore, MD according to an August 1959 FBI report. The report states that "'the Block' is generally considered a section of East Baltimore Street between Holliday and North High Streets, 400 to 900 block east" which was controlled in large measure by local mobster Benjamin "Benny Trotta" Magliano who answered to Lucchese mobster Frankie Carbo in New York and was a "constant companion" of Mayor Thomas D'Allesandro Jr. (as in Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's father).
According to the FBI report "for a number of years 'The Block' has been the location of a number of low-class night spots where strip tease performers are featured, 'B-girls' solicit drinks and prostitutes ply their trade." The FBI identified the following as vice dens: Ringside Bar at Albemarle Street; Shot Tower Bar at North High Street; Benny's Bar at 826 East Baltimore Street; Harry Corral Bar at 515 East Baltimore Street; Club Diamond near Harrison Street; Village Bar at North Harrison Street; Crystal Bar at 417 East Baltimore Street; Flamingo Bar at 503 East Baltimore Street; Gayety Nite Club at Custom House Avenue; Gay White Way at 10 North Gay Street; Galley Bar at 626 East Baltimore Street; Club Troc at 400 East Baltimore Street; Miami Nite Club at Frederick Street; Villanova Nite Club at 418 East Baltimore Street; Florida Bar at 608 East Baltimore Street; 408 Club at 408 East Baltimore Street; Oasis Nite Club at Frederick Street; and Kay's Club at Frederick Street.
According to the FBI report "merchant seamen, sailors and civilians frequent the above places regularly," and "it is alleged that people from Washington come to Baltimore in order to enjoy the entertainment in this area." The FBI characterized the "entertainment" as follows:
Customers in these places are solicited by the "B-Girls" to purchase drinks. If the customer seems friendly, he is then propositioned by the girls for a "date." The approach of the girls is very direct in most instances. They generally will name the time for the date and the place where the date will take place. Generally the girls will take the customer to her own apartment nearby or possibly to a nearby low-class hotel. The 408 Club and the Gay White Way have the greatest number of prostitutes frequenting the premises. Generally these girls will go from one club to another, depending on how business is at the various spots. Generally the girls in this area receive $20.00 for a date but recently the price obtained has decreased to $10 to $15.00. The girls have learned that "things are tough."
At least three of the clubs on "The Block" -- The Troc, Club 704, and The Gay White Way -- had alleged ties to Benny Trotta according to the FBI report:
The Troc is a notorious night spot on "the block" in Baltimore located at 400 E. Baltimore Street. Strip-tease dancers are featured. The dances are described as "a real good strip." Private shows have been put on for customers in the dancer's dressing room after the scheduled show. The dancers are generally expected to associate with the customers between shows to get them to buy more drinks. The dancers are also expected to further entertain patrons away from the club. BENNY TROTTA continues to work as night manager. He is generally at the side door during the evening and night hours greeting customers. He owns and operates the club jointly with [redacted].
The [redacted] located on [redacted] was recently purchased in the name of [redacted] aka [redacted] who claims she received some of the money to purchase the club from two of her brothers. [Redacted] is regard in "the block" as [redacted] BENNY TROTTA. HITTY WILDSTEIN who is related to BENNY TROTTA by marriage and is a close associate of BENNY TROTTA is managing the club. It has been reported that the word on "the block" is that BENNY TROTTA is the one who actually owns Club 704. The club was purchased at a very small figure estimated at $7500 down payment.
The Gay White Way
The Gay White Way is a night spot located near "the block" at 10 N. Gay Street. This place is frequented by prostitutes and female sitters. Girls frequenting this place have reportedly rolled customers after obtaining dates at this bar. ANGELO MUNAFO continues to operate this bar. MUNAFO is the son-in-law of BENNY TROTTA and closely associated with TROTTA in his legitimate and criminal activities.
Benny Trotta further allegedly owned the Star Attraction on N. Charles Street which was a booking agency which apparently provided girls "for strip shows" and "for immoral purposes for individuals who desired them."
Some of the prositutes were more interested in robbing their marks than providing happy endings for the johns according to the FBI report:
Newspaper publicity is frequently given to individuals who date girls on "The Block" and thereafter are "rolled" for their money. In March, 1959, a merchant seaman, [redacted], advised the Baltimore Division that after frequenting "The Block" with a friend they had purchased liquor from one of the bars and had taken two women to his apartment. One of the women, known as [redacted] had been picked up at the Midway Bar at 421 East Baltimore Street and the other girl, known only as [redacted] had been picked up at the Gay White Way. The girls stayed with the men all night and the next morning the women were gone. Thereafter it was found that the men had lost their wallets and several items of personal property. The complainant's seaman's papers in his wallet when it was taken were gone.
Although much of Charm City's vice activity was on the east side of Baltimore Street apparently there also was action on the west side, and the FBI report alleges the following:
The other night clubs located on West Baltimore Street also catering to prostitutes include the Copa Night Club located at 21 West Baltimore Street, which has regular strip tease shows. Known prostitutes frequent this bar. Other places in this area catering to prostitutes are Frank's Bar, 676 West Baltimore Street, and El Dorado Lounge, 322 West Baltimore Street.
The North Charles Street area also was a hot spot for working girls according to the FBI report:
Prostitutes who formerly frequented "The Block" are reportedly currently frequenting the Blue Mirror on North Charles Street. The Baltimore Sun Newspaper of March 13, 1959, reported that a patrolman from The Baltimore City Police Department testified before the Liquor Board that shady characters are frequenting the Charles Street area near Mount Royal Avenue. He referred to many of the saloon patrons as prostitutes and confidence men looking for prospects to roll.
And according to this same patrolman degenerate child fuckers trolled North Charles Street where girls as young as thirteen were pimped out:
He continued that teen-aged girls from 13 on up practice prostitution in that area, aided by youths serving as procurers. The Flying Saucer, a restaurant near the Bandbox on North Charles Street is a hangout for teen-aged drapes and the type of teenager who wears motor cycle jackets. Teen-aged girls who hang out in this area are being prostituted.
In addition to the vice dens "the Block" also had "cheap movie houses and cheap hotels," and "there are tattoo parlors, flop houses, and novelty stores in the area." The FBI report alleges that "BENNY TROTTA owns the premises at 402 E. Baltimore Street on 'the block,' which adjoins the Troc," and "he rents this property to an individual who operates a novelty shop on the premises."
And of course no red light district is complete without some smut shops. According to the FBI report the Block included "three large bookstores which prominently display large quantities of literature having suggestive titles and covers," and "also display numerous magazines bearing photographs of nudes." The FBI identified the smut shops as follows: Lloyd's Bookstore at 409 East Baltimore Street; Corner Bookstore at 427 East Baltimore Street; and Ben Siegel's Bookstore at 428 East Baltimore Street.
Many of the gay bars, particularly for the Lesbian crowd some of whom worked as prostitutes or B-girls catering to straight guys, also were located in "The Block." The FBI report provides:
Several bars have been identified in Baltimore as being hangouts for homosexuals. The most commonly known such hangout is Cicero's Night Club on Forest Street across from the Bel Air Market. Four girls who are considered "gay" reside at [redacted] and hang out at Cicero's. Girls at this place are paid $5.00 a night as employees and receive a commission of $.25 on drinks bought for them by customers. Girls frequenting Cicero's are known to be Lesbians.
Moreover, "physical surveillances and interviews of patrons of certain taverns in the City of Baltimore during the conduct of an official investigation in December, 1957, developed the information that the following taverns are notorious as 'hangouts' of Lesbians": Cicero's Cafe on Forrest Street between Gay and Ensor Street; Mary's Cafe at Fleet and Washington Streets; Rally Club at Forrest and Ensor Streets; and Yorktowne Bar at 2200 Block East Monument Street.
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Further reading that may be of interest: