Always a good source for Slavic tidbits, this week’s The City section of the New York Times came through again with Michael Pollak’s Passed for a Scandal Q&A about Communist agitator Maxim Gorky’s stay in Manhattan.
Turns out this year marks the 100th anniversary of Gorky’s Manhattan sex scandal, which hit the ceiling when The New York World published an article revealing that Gorky’s companion was not his wife, but rather an actress with whom he’d been living since he separated from his wife.
The two had been shacked up in the Hotel Bellclaire (Broadway and 77th Street, check out Christopher Gray’s 1992 Streetscapes: The Belleclaire; A 1903 Home for the Homeless for more) and were kicked out by the manager for offending common morality. No other hotel would take the pair in, and Gorky ended up continuing his speaking schedule in New York while staying with a supporter in Staten Island.
Given the mores of the time, the scandal was a big deal, and one newspaper reported that the Russian Embassy tipped off The New York World in an attempt to discredit Gorky among the American public.
Gorky was in the United States on a lecture tour to raise money for the revolutionary movement in Tsarist Russia. According to Pollack, his rhetoric earned him the nickname “The Jefferson of Russia” at the time.
Previously on Slavs of New York: New York Soviet Socialist Republic