The Read Sisters, Hostesses at Club Alabam

Sunny and Billy Read, Hostesses at Club Alabam.

Courtesy Chicago Tribune.

In 1935, twenty-one-year-old Vera “Billy” Read and her twenty-four-year-old sister, Hazel “Sunny” Read, worked as hostesses at Club Alabam. Natives of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the young women were seasoned in the sometimes dangerous milieu of Chicago after dark when they made headlines in a legal battle with George Eastman Dryden (grandnephew of Kodak camera king, George Eastman).

After several rounds of drinking at Club Alabam, “East” Dryden, heir to a rubber fortune, invited Hazel to a party in his apartment. As they were leaving, Hazel noticed that Vera was draped across the club bar, possibly drunk. Deciding to take Vera with them, they hired a cab to drive the one block to Dryden’s apartment at 814 Rush Street. There, he was responsible for what journalists dubbed a “gay party,” and got himself into some hot water, allegedly dunking Vera Read, fully clothed, in his bathtub.

Eager to learn the whole story? It’s detailed in my new book, The Blackest Sheep.


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The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online bookstores.