LOVERS, MUGGERS & THIEVES, based on a true story set in 1969, follows Jonathan Tudan, a G-rated, 18-years old college freshman, from his white-middle class home into the X-rated world of Boston’s Combat Zone, notorious for adult entertainment, strip clubs, street crime and prostitution. Stepping into a world unlike any other, Jonathan faces uninvited consequences each day as he balances his life between the margins of sin and virtue. His evolution as a street-wise building super advances quickly as he rents rooms by the week to the local dancers, scammers, hookers, drug dealers and musicians. He befriends many lost souls along the way while managing to keep his humanity throughout a torrent of temptations. With the backdrop of the worst days of the Vietnam War, the apex of the student upheavals on campuses across the country, and the transcendence of the hippie and black pride countercultures, Lovers, Muggers & Thieves steps into the dark, fascinating, and often humorous world of Boston’s red-light district. “Running this show is a mind-blowing business, a bit like being the mayor in the Land of Oz, on acid,” from Lovers, Muggers & Thieves – A Boston Memoir.
SETTING AND BACKGROUND
The Combat Zone was the name given in the 1960s to the adult entertainment district in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. The area was the site of scores of strip clubs, peep shows, X-rated movie theaters, and adult bookstores; and held a reputation for high crime and prostitution
A Short Excerpt: Architecture Boston magazine July, 2007 article "After Dark"
Combat Zone, Boston, circa 1969 BY JONATHAN TUDAN AIA
photograph by Jerry Berndt
Dusk drops a veil over the scene, making the lights of the marquees burn that much brighter. I feel a charge of excitement as I step onto Washington Street and blend into the flow. The sidewalks are brimming with men of all shapes and colors eager to tap into the sexual fantasia that pours from the strip clubs as easily as the liquor and the beer inside. Many travel in packs of threes and fours; a few are in uniform; the majority are your average, loud-mouth, boozing, adolescent rednecks, office creeps, and college boys. They all share one common fascination: female subjugation. Local scammers, pimps, and drug dealers troll the gutters, feeding on innocence, pleasure, and greed. Black musicians - romantics and entrepreneurs - walk the street with an air of confidence and superiority, affecting an attitude that is suave, urbane, and debonair. Affecting no attitude at all, except maybe boredom, are the bartenders, bouncers, and capitalists living off the local entertainment.
And then there are the girls...
You can clearly discern the various patterns of female life in the Combat Zone. Three classes distinguish the ladies. The first group - the Entertainers - make up the majority. They include strippers, dancers, and cocktail waitresses. The second is the Girlfriends. They consist of women who are along for the ride with the men in their life; the men are definitely behind the wheel. And finally there are the Hookers. They are further distinguished by two subclasses: the Winners and the Losers. The Winners are semi-successful, work out of their apartments, and service a steady customer base. At the bottom of this sexual swamp are the Losers, the ones who hang out in the street, often alone. But don't under-estimate their power. They can be the most dangerous, mostly because they've got nothing left to lose. One in thirty people out tonight is a woman, and one-hundred percent of the women fall into one of these three categories.
At the entrance to the Normandy Lounge, a middle-aged man in a white shirt and tie and neatly combed hair is standing on the edge of the sidewalk reading from a Bible. The guy reminds me of my high-school vice-principal. He's preaching repentance and salvation to a world that has ignored his existence.
"Jesus loves you!" the vice-principal shouts into the face of a wino shuffling by clutching a paper bag. The top of a green bottle pops out from the bag like the head of a turtle.
"Whiskey loves you!" the wino shoots back, raising his turtle in the air.