Sunday, August 7, 2011

Red Stars

Legend has it that sometime in the 1800's, Baltimore's ladies of the evening painted red stars on the sidewalks in Fells Point, as a means of leading visiting sailors to the dens of ill repute.

While I cannot affirm the veracity of this story (a cursory Google search yielded attestations that were not exactly scholarly), I've always been charmed by the idea of sailors - newly arrived in port with their, er, guns primed - eagerly pursuing a trail of iniquitous bread crumbs through the gloomy, reeking dockside streets toward the promise of bare shoulders, ample bosoms, and, most likely, an early, syphilitic death.


When I first arrived in Baltimore in the eighties, the sidewalks of Fells Point still boasted numerous examples of the fabled red stars. Today their numbers are diminished. The star above is one of three that still exist on Ann Street, between Pratt and Gough.

So here's a toast to those randy seafarers of yore and those Baltimore working girls for whom they yearned during those frightening, harsh, and lonely nights on the Atlantic. When the last of the red stars is gone, may their ghosts still find the right door.