Originally the Chelsea Piers evening boat tour was scheduled to depart at 6:00 but was cancelled due to dense fog. Disappointed, Emma consulted her tour guidebook for something else to do. She read:

The Vortex. Not your father’s watering hole. Located at 15 Christopher Street in the heart of Chelsea. Smoking prohibited in accordance with the New York Clean Indoor Air Act. Other than that, anything goes! 

“Hmm. Now that’s intriguing” Emma thought “and it’s nearby.” 

After a brief stroll Emma arrived at The Vortex, a secluded and rather alluring place. Finding a seat at the bar she ordered a dirty martini. Reflected in the mirror behind the bar was the image of a retro-looking poster. Sliding off her barstool she casually walked up to the poster for a better look. She snapped a photo and returned to the bar.

More people were in the place now – gays, heteros, bisexuals, interracials. Emma found it all so exciting and very New York! When the bartender brought her drink, Emma commented on how electric the atmosphere was and asked “Can you tell me something about that poster?”

“Sure! It’s a beauty, isn’t it?” he replied. “The Vortex is a play written by the literary giant, Noël Coward. It premiered in London in 1924 garnering Coward great critical and financial success. It’s a story about a nymphomaniac socialite and her cocaine-addicted son. Many thought the drug was a cover for homosexuality. As you can imagine it was considered pretty shocking back then. Rumor has it that Princess Margaret owned the original poster for a while. She was a free spirit and loved a good lampoon, especially those directed at the upper classes and British aristocracy.”

“That’s fascinating!” Emma exclaimed. “Something tells me there’s more to the story.”

“Oh, there is” the barkeep agreed. “During the run of The Vortex, Coward met an American director and producer named Jack Wilson. They ran with the same crowd where drugs, booze and homosexuality were prevalent. Wilson became Coward’s business manager and lover. We thought The Vortex was a cool name for the bar. My mother recently brought me that poster; there’s a showing of the play this week.”

“Your mother!” Emma remarked with surprise. “Sounds like you might have a personal connection to this story.”

“Yeah, in a circuitous way I do. My great-great-grandmother was once a chorus girl and she got on famously with Jack Wilson – so much so that she and her husband named their first baby Jack Wilson Morrow and asked Jack to be his godfather. The tradition continued through the years; lots of my relatives were named Jack Wilson so-and-so. In fact, my name is Jack Wilson Connors.”

“Pleased to meet you, Jack Wilson Connors” Emma laughed as she extended her hand. “I’m Emma Louise Kennedy and you have officially blown my mind!”

“I like you, Emma Louise Kennedy! Always nice making new friends. How about another drink – on the house?”

Emma blushed a little and said “Yes, I’d love one.” 

While Jack was preparing Emma’s drink all sorts of thoughts were running through her head … he’s cute, friendly, great personality, no wedding ring. I wonder ­– should I?

“For my new friend, Emma. One perfect dirty martini” Jack said with a flourish.

Trying to sound nonchalant, Emma said “You know, Jack. There’s a performance of The Vortex tomorrow night. How about we make it a date?” 

“I’d really love to, Emma, but I’m married and I don’t think my husband would approve.”

“Oh my God, Jack! I’m sorry! I didn’t realize………”

“No worries, Emma. It runs in the family.”

NAR © 2020

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