After testing is done to make sure the cars start and stop when desired, we'll get our first chance to ride on the new Seattle Streetcar on Dec. 14. The route is generally from South Lake Union to Westlake Center and back, with 11 stops. In December you can ride for free, and then the basic fare is $1.50.
That first public run isn't far off, so we have work to do. Recently, Mayor Greg Nickels drove one of the cars back and forth while a group of journalists watched. We were considerate journalists, so none of us mentioned the elephant on the tracks. That elephant is what the line is going to be called. Its promoters are pushing "Seattle Streetcar," but they haven't a chance in hell. No matter what Mayor Nickels, Paul Allen, The Feary PR Group, or anybody else desires, the South Lake Union Trolley is going to be called the SLUT – as in "Ride the Slut," already appearing on purchasable T-shirts. If you need good reasons for calling the line that, read Eugene Carlson's nice piece in the Crosscut blog, titled, "That which we call a SLUT by any other name would be a big mistake."
So if, as seems inevitable, it's going to be the Slut, then we would be fools not to embrace and exploit the concept as much as possible. Which means we have to name the three streetcars, not just the streetcar line. If it worked for New Orleans (imagine the disappointment of A Streetcar Named #42), it will work for us. But for the full emotional, promotional effect, they must be named in the spirit of sluttiness. When that first trolley pulls up on Dec. 14, it must already have an evocatively slutty name emblazoned on each end.
Naming the cars for actual sluts is problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that many sluts have lawyers. My suggestion would be to name the cars not for known sluts but for known and acknowledged slut-mongerers. Fortunately, our local history provides obvious candidates.
The first car – I'd go for the red one – should be named the Madame Damnable, for the foul-mouthed harridan (real name Mary Anne Conklin) who so terrorized the city's first white citizens and ran an "inn" on land purchased from Doc Maynard.
The second streetcar – the purple one – should be named the Lou Graham (born Dorothea Georgine Emile Ohben), in honor of the madam whose cathouse at Third Avenue and Washington Street was the only truly first-class brothel in town a hundred years ago. The late Bill Speidel claimed that a lot more city business was conducted in the parlor at Lou's than in City Hall up the street, and he was probably right. Certainly the city should find a way to pay tribute to her efforts to maintain a good, clean establishment with advertised prices and lavish accoutrements.
There's no obvious candidate for the third, orange streetcar, but here are some possible names to consider:
- John, because two slut-monger-honoring streetcars should be followed by a John. Or perhaps because even though "slut" is usually applied to women, there's nothing that says it has to be. I've known a number of male sluts. So perhaps the third car should have a generic male name to represent all those guys who don't know "gigolo" is Italian for "slut." People like, oh ...
- ... Frank Colacurcio Sr. Surely the subtext of a strip club is that the young ladies on stage and pole are sluts, whether they are or not. And therefore, who's been a bigger slut-mongerer in our city than the legendary strip club entrepreneur and 90-year-old convicted groper?
- Gracie Hansen. The 1962 Seattle World's Fair had an "adult entertainment" area (about where KCTS-TV is now) with a few offerings, the most famous of which was Ms. Hansen's "Paradise International: A Night in Paradise." It was a "Vegas-style" show that by today's standards would probably look like a Daughters of the American Revolution luncheon but was then the ultimate in slap-and-tickle sophistication. (How long ago was 1962? The fair's midway was called The Gayway.)
- Gaby. This ecdysiast/artiste was pictured brandishing her "44s" outside the Rivoli Follies Burlesque in downtown Seattle for decades. For thousands of us baby-boomer males who found an excuse to pass by the theater, Gaby was a hint of The Possible, even in her static magnificence on the poster. I would ride Gaby for a buck and a half even if I didn't want to go to Westlake Center.
Just a few ideas. Your suggestions are welcome, although please remember that there's probably never been a court determination as to whether calling someone a "slut" is a prima facie case of slander.