Tanqueray by Brandon Stanton


On 18 November 2019, Humans of New York featured a Black woman in an outrageous outfit that combined fur, silk, and tapestry. Her name is Stephanie Johnson, but she’s better known to HONY followers as Tanqueray, the long-time Chelsea resident who was the toast of NYC’s stripper stages in the 1970s.

Less than a year later, HONY’s creator, Brandon Stanton, set out to chronicle her entire life. From her wheelchair, Stephanie told Brandon about her childhood in Albany, her abusive mother, her arrival in NYC on a Valentine’s Day in the early sixties, and her job at a clothing factory off Washington Square where she learned to make clothes for drag queens and strippers. Her story also reflects a time in NYC when places like the Peppermint Lounge featured Chubby Checker and The Temptations played the Copacabana, while go-go girls danced at Billy’s Topless and the Metropole Cafe.

Storming out of her factory job after the owner tried forcing her to have sex with him, Stephanie learned from a go-go dancer that a club was looking for a new girl. At the time, there were no black dancers in the clubs, but Stephanie got the job. There, she met Carmine, the love of her life, but promptly divorced him when she learned he was a drug addict. Needing money, she took the name ‘Tanqueray’, started stripping, and became more and more famous, until thousands of men across the country knew who she was. Tanqueray rode high, did her best strip to Donna Summer’s ‘Love to Love You Baby’, wrote a column for the porno magazine High Society, and lived a life of empowerment. With all-new stories from Stephanie as told to Brandon, Tanqueray is the frank, uproarious, raw and thrilling story of one of NYC’s undaunted and fabulous survivors.

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