Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
November 28, 1956, Vol II, No. 5
Is It Worth Telling the Truth to the Voice?
By Dan Balaban
What happens to the people who are interviewed in a survey? As the “man in the street” or “housewife” they appear briefly before the multitudes and then sink back into massive anonymity. Was the experience traumatic? Were their lives in any way affected? In this age of surveys, no one has inquired into the impact of surveys upon the survey.
In the back files of the Village Voice I found an early survey by Millicent Brower on “The Greenwich Village Male — What Women Think of Him.” You may remember it caused a storm of controversy at the time. As an ethical reporter, Millie never did divulge any names, but the editors had a map of her bar route. Armed with this I set out to answer my questions.
On the third night of my search, in a bar which shall remain nameless, I announced my purpose and noticed a tall, very pleasant looking girl turn pale. I took her aside and asked if she had been surveyed, but she refused to discuss it. It took many nights of persistent questioning and a considerable tab at the bar before Madame X, as I shall call her, consented to make a few guarded statements.
“Yes,” said Madame X. “Miss Brower interviewed me. I was the one who said Village men had no guts, no spine, no money. I said they were vain, wore rags, and were as sexy as a swizzle stick. I was very high at the time. It was a terrible mistake.”
“You mean,” I asked chauvinistically, “you really don’t hold those opinions? We will be happy to print a retraction.”
Oh no!” she exclaimed bitterly. “I meant every word of it. I haven’t changed my mind, but I’ve learned to keep my big mouth shut. I was so excited at being in the papers I’d point it out to everybody and say, ‘That’s me! That’s me!’ Oh, man! what happened to me!”
“Nu?” I asked.
“None of the men would talk to me. Conversations would stop when I came up. People would fall silent and look away. Worst of all, no one would buy me a drink. For nearly a month I had to sit by myself. I almost had to change my bar.” Her voice shook.
I referred to the survey. “But you did say you preferred Village to uptown men.”
“Yes,” she said. “But that wasn’t enough for them. They want you to say nice things besides.”
“Didn’t any of the girls stand up for you?”
“They were afraid to. The only time a girl would sit with me was when she had broken up with her boyfriend and was mad at the world. That was worst than being alone.”
“Well, I shall never tell,” I swore.
“Oh, I’m not worried about that,” she said. “I wouldn’t be talking to you about it now if I were. My friends stopped reading The Voice since it went up to 10 cents.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Just the same,” she continued, “you’d better call me Madame X.”
I said I would.
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]