When the B-Girl Was A Thing: Part One

The B-girl worked bars and clubs throughout the thirties, forties and into the fifties. She was not, officially, a sex-worker. Though, of course, some men thought she was. Maybe most did. And some did turn tricks. But as Alaska historian David Reamer writes in the Anchorage Daily News, these women were best known as “hostesses” or “percentage girls.”

Their role? To seduce unsuspecting men into a night of free spending. It was all about the bottom line.

At heart, it was a drink hustle. A B-girl approaches an unwary man. Asks him to buy her a drink. He says, “yes.” The drinks start to flow and, then, the costs start to escalate. Maybe she’ll coax him into buying a bottle. But, since it’s her job to stay sober, she’s drinking tea (hey, same color as whiskey), while he’s imbibing the real thing. Yeah, things can go south fairly quickly. Her attention never wavers until, of course, it does.

B-girl
Courtesy San Francisco History Center

It was also, as it turned out, a vexing problem in many an American jurisdiction. In San Francisco, attempts to crack down on the B-girls began in the late ’30’s. Because they weren’t sex workers, the women who worked as B-girls often got busted for vagrancy. Which, of course, sounds as antiquated as it really is. It was a time, remember, when opportunities for women were few and far between. Except of course as perennially underpaid housewives.

Alaska B-girl Hustle

In Alaska, things went on longer. Much longer. After all, Alaska was a territory until 1959. This hustle was the last vestige of Alaska’s colorful Gold Rush days. And through the early and mid-fifties, there were clubs which harbored B-girls in both Anchorage and Fairbanks. One was the Squadron Club in Fairbanks.

If you want an insight into the Squadron Club’s customer base, skip the part about “Couples Invited.” Stick with the name itself. Then feast on the top-line. “Military Welcome.” What could be better than a rolling red carpet of newbies, ready, willing and able to be taken?

Another was the Stagecoach in Anchorage. Same basic hustle. The men came for the girls and stayed for the B-girls. There was nothing subtle about the come-on. Come on in and let’s get acquainted. The pleasure will be mutual.

B-girls
Source: Don Reamer, July 4, 2021 (Courtesy Anchorage Daily Times)

Sound Familiar?

If this sounds reminiscent of the strip clubs that dominated Anchorage in the 70s and 80s, during the height of the pipeline boom… You’d be mostly right. Certainly the hustle part was a constant across time. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

That these establishments were concentrated in Fairbanks and Anchorage was no coincidence, either. Besides being two of the biggest population centers in Alaska, both are home to a considerable military presence. And then, in the 70s and 80s, there was another lure. All that pipeline money. The workers had to spend it somewhere…

Still, in the late-fifties, there was a change in the air.


Copyright Leland E. Hale (2021). All rights reserved.

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