Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Casino. At the Stage Left nightclub Myrtle Goldstein changed it to Myrna Gold, “because that’s what I am baby, pure gold.”
Sally sat on the chaise lounge, legs crossed, exposing one creamy thigh and flipping through one of the pulp magazines Larry left sprinkled around the room like his dirty socks. She liked adventure stories, though she thumbed the pages without reading a single word, because really, men from Mars? Who could stand this space stuff?
“You need a stage name, of course,” Larry said from across the room as he poured himself a scotch and soda. “No one knows how to pronounce Juspeczyk. And it’s too ethnic.”
“Says the man named Schexnayder,” she replied with a curl of her lips, flicking a page with a long red fingernail. There was nothing about her name she didn’t already know.
Silk Spectre, born Sally Juspeczyk. Tch. Scottie from Skokie had called her his little Jujube, tasting her name like candy. Juicy was her name at the Lunchonette, the men’s enormous red faces like salted hams as she poured their coffee, sweaty and dry-lipped. The casting director for the off-Broadway show didn’t call her anything, just looked at her name on the sheet and wanted to know, “So are you a Polack or a Jew?” The boys howling at her feet when she danced at Stage Left, a vision in diaphanous yellow silk, just called her gorgeous. And her mother called her something unprintable.
(In 1975, Laurie changes it back, her voice like a slamming door.)
Not rising to Sally’s bait, Larry drained his scotch in one long swallow. He laughed. It was his “this is crazy enough that it just might work” laugh. “A lady crimefighter…”
“The only lady crimefighter in the world, Lar. How’s that for an act? My name has to be something no one’s ever heard before, something with pizzazz.”
Larry’s mustache seemed to twitch. “Who do you think you are, Gypsy Rose Lee?”
Gypsy Rose Lee, born Rose Louise Hovick. One of the highlights of Sally’s young life was meeting Gypsy at Stage Left, and for years she would happily retell it with all the enthusiasm and reverence others might use if they had bumped into Marlene Dietrich.
(In 1959, Sally takes Laurie to see Sondheim’s Gypsy. As they leave the theater, Sally squeezes Laurie’s hand and looks into her ten-year-old’s face as if sharing a piece of world-shattering wisdom: “Honey, those strippers were right. You gotta get a gimmick.”)
The real Gypsy was taking a break from Minsky’s Burlesque to say hello to the new pretty young things in Times Square. Backstage she smiled at Sally, lifted a lit cigarette to her cherry-red mouth--the rings on her fingers as big as Sally’s eyeballs--and said, “That was something, kid. You’re out of this world.”
Sally grinned at Larry. “I got a few ideas.” She closed the magazine, fingered the dog-eared cover. A robot that looked like it was made out of Campbell’s Soup cans was being blasted by a ray gun—one that belonged to a leggy broad in a skintight yellow space suit. But instead of looking terrified or on the verge of fainting, as so many of the pulp girls did, she was smiling triumphantly. And why not? She was on the cover; she had an entire planet for a stage.
‘Come with us…on a JAUNT TO JUPITER!’ the cover entreated.
“Like what?” Larry asked, finally handing her a scotch of her own.
“Something out of this world,” Sally promised, tossing the magazine over her shoulder.
(In 1985, Jupiter’s daughter is the first woman on Mars.)