When I first began research about my great uncle Gene Harris and his legendary Chicago nightspot, Club Alabam, I wasn’t confident that there was an audience for his story. Then I discovered that the scandalous beauty Evelyn Nesbit performed at the club, becoming a friend and colleague of Dan Blanco and later Gene Harris.
If you recognize the name Evelyn Nesbit, you were likely introduced to her in the novel Ragtime, which was later made into a movie and, more recently, a Broadway musical. If you are new to Evelyn’s life story, you are bound to find it captivating.
While the details of her early life and her connection to “the crime of the century” (her husband Harry K. Thaw’s cold-blooded murder of her former lover Stanford White) had been told and retold, Evelyn’s long and fascinating life following the 1907 and 1908 trials was treated as anti-climactic.
During and after Prohibition, Evelyn supported herself and her only son, Russell Thaw, by working in cabarets and nightclubs. Criminals and powerful gangsters populated her world. Addiction to narcotics, initially used for pain relief, plagued her for decades. Her roller coaster of successes and failures, in love and in show business, was a wild ride.
My new book, The Blackest Sheep, recounts the “second half” of Evelyn’s biography, revealing her phenomenal inner strength, native intelligence, and ability to survive notoriety that would have destroyed most women.
If you enjoy local history, especially the world of entertainment, follow me at joannelyeck.com or on the Facebook page: The Blackest Sheep.
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.