Thursday, July 10, 2008 | midnight
Tell-all books have a hold on the public psyche for much the same reason that high-level gossip does: Americans are a nosy bunch, as addicted to TMZ.com and Page Six as older generations were to the McNeil-Lehrer Report.
Someone glancing at the cover of Jane McCormick’s tell-all, Breaking My Silence: Confessions of a Rat Pack Party Girl and Sex-Trade Survivor, might be more interested in the first part of the title, hinting as it does at learning juicy tidbits about the Rat Pack’s Vegas sexcapades.
But the book’s chronology (and choreography) actually works in the reverse—McCormick’s freaky tales are prefaced by a less-than-titillating rehash of the troubles that led her into the skin trade.
You’re halfway through the book before you learn that Frank Sinatra was a sex pistol—and had a rather large bop gun—that Arnold Palmer made love like a maniac and that McCormick glimpsed Sammy Davis Jr. with his head between the legs of a fellow prostitute; interracial sex was still taboo. The tawdry revelations come fast and furious and provide a nice payoff for wading through an overlong, 106-page preamble to the main gossip.
Though it at first seems beside the point, the first part of the book is no less instructive than the rest, setting the events of McCormick’s life in motion: sexually abused child (stepfather began assaulting her at age 3) becomes promiscuous young girl, becomes teenage mom, becomes abused wife, becomes divorcée, becomes desperate, out-of-work mother who turns to prostitution in hopes of making enough money to buy a house and win back custody of her children.
- Breaking my Silence: Confessions of a Rat Pack Party Girl and Sex-Trade Survivor
- Jane McCormick with Patti Wicklund
- Rapfire Press, $19.95
- Breaking My Silence official site
In hindsight, slogging through the details of McCormick’s early life is actually more satisfying than the party-girl revelations because, let’s face it, we know that rich, powerful men can and do have sex outside of wedlock. McCormick, who wants state and federal prostitution laws toughened, spoke to the Weekly from her home in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Why write this book now, so many years later?
I’ve tried to write it since 1975. I wanted people to know that these guys wanted to go to bed with some young girl. I wanted them to know what possessed these millionaires, these wonderfully married men, to go after a strange piece of tail. I also wanted to help women. I’ve seen so many girls get into prostitution and give their money to pimps. Pimps are the root of all evil. They should go to jail. And the john, the trick—he’s the basis of prostitution. If there are no tricks, there’s no prostitution.
Were you worried about repercussions? Have any of the men or the families of the famous men you mention as clients contacted you?
I was. But if they remember like I remember, they’re going to know who I am. They didn’t just see me once in the bed; they saw me a lot. I say things that they know are true. Like with Jerry Lewis. He thought if he pulled out before he climaxed, he wasn’t cheating. He knows he said that. Everything I say is true. I hired a libel lawyer for this very reason. Nobody’s said a word yet, but that’s because it hasn’t got out to Hollywood yet. I’m not afraid of them. If the person is dead, he’s dead and can’t talk. Others who are alive have no proof that it didn’t happen. If they did dispute it, my book sales could shoot through the roof.
How long did you live in Vegas? How much money did you make during that time?
I was here from 1960 to 1972. I met Frank [Sinatra] three months after I was there. He was shooting Ocean’s Eleven. In my time here, I made a half-million dollars a year for each year. But I blew it all and have nothing to show for it.
What role did your stepfather’s molestation of you play in the path you chose in life?
It groomed me. That’s what these men hope for—that the child they molest turns out screwed up. Being told to hold a man’s penis when you’re 3 or 4 years old, that has an effect on you. I was having sex at 13. I thought it was natural. You know it’s wrong, but you don’t know what’s wrong about it. Most women involved in prostitution were molested as children.
You seemed to have a habit of getting with poisonous men. It was loser after user after loser—men who hit you, unfaithful celebrities, even a mobster.
When there’s so much abuse going, women often need help to get out of the cycle. I think it affected my relationships with men and how I view them. You’re a man, you know how you are. Here in Minnesota, I’m trying to get the laws changed to arrest pimps and johns for prostitution. If a man thinks he’s going to be arrested, he might change his ways. What ticks me off about Gov. [Eliot] Spitzer’s [federal prostitution indictment] is that he didn’t get charged with transporting a woman across state lines for the purposes of sex. My old man, who I thought I loved, served three years for this.
You had a certain level of business savvy: no pimp; were your own boss; made lots of money. But you took care of your boyfriends—buying clothes and cars—thus ceding power to them. Why?
I wanted to be accepted and loved. When a girl like me goes out on the Strip and makes all this money, you don’t know what else to do. I used to go home and say [to my boyfriend at the time], look at all the money I made. He would treat me like the queen of the hop—make my dinner, run my bath water. It’s what I always wanted. I made the money, yes, and had the control, but I gave both away. It’s so sad. When I left Las Vegas, all I had was $300 and a suit. You’re not paying taxes. You don’t have a legitimate job, so you can’t put that nice home or nice car in your name. You have to pay cash for it. It doesn’t go in your boyfriend’s name, either, because he doesn’t have a job, so it goes into his sister’s name, and you’re left with nothing. That’s how the guys get all these working girls’ money.