It’s no small task to summarize the very giant accomplishments of Gail Sheehy. Over the course of her 50-plus-year career, the veteran journalist and author has won numerous awards, published 17 books (including influential 1976 bestseller, Passages), and shattered many a cultural taboo along the way. Sheehy also just so happens to be a critical part of New York magazine’s DNA: When Clay Felker founded New York in 1968, she became one of the original contributors. (This was also the start of long professional and, eventually, romantic relationship between the two — Sheehy and Felker would later marry).
Through the early ’70s, Sheehy’s series of in-depth New York features on prostitution garnered national attention – Newsweek even called her “The Hooker’s Boswell.” In 1973, she’d go on to publish a book on the subject, Hustling: Prostitution in Our Wide Open Society.
This unique beat was not without its risks. Sheehy’s hands-on method dubbed “saturation reporting” entailed immersing herself in the seedy scene, dressing the part and staying out until 4 a.m. with “fellow” working girls and their pimps. Tape recorder safely tucked away in a fanny pack, Sheehy would don hot pants, festoon herself with sequins, and hit the streets. “There was a secret thrill in seeing what it was like to walk on the wild side,” says Sheehy in her memoir, Daring.
In partnership with HBO’s The Deuce, a new series exploring the netherworld that was Times Square in 1970s New York, we looked back on the era with Sheehy. In the video above, watch Sheehy recall the hustling scene she reported so thoroughly on. And, don’t forget to catch the premiere of The Deuce on September 10 at 9 p.m. In the meantime, you can watch a special advance premiere streaming on HBO NOW.
This is paid content produced for an advertiser by New York Brand Studio. The editorial staff of Daily Intelligencer did not play a role in its creation.