5 Facts About Boston's Notorious Combat Zone

5 Facts About Boston's Notorious Combat Zone

Strolling down Washington Street nowadays it is hard to believe that the area of Chinatown between Boylston and Kneeland was once home to Boston's seedy underbelly of strip clubs and peep shows.

The notorious "Combat Zone" thrived from the 1960s all the way through 1993 when Mayor Raymond Flynn brought it down.

Author, Stephanie Schorow's book, Inside the Combat Zone: The Stripped Down Story of Boston's Most Notorious Neighborhood, reveals the dirty little secrets of this "designated adult entertainment district," as well as personal stories of the people who lived, worked and sinned there.

The Boston Globe recently shared five little known facts about this unforgettable piece of our city's history.

1. The forbidden nightlife drew people from all walks of life.

Despite its reputation as a haven for sinful men, Schorow found through her research that the lure of the Combat Zone actually attracted women, college students, and curious suburbanites hoping to satisfy their curiosity.

2. Stripping was a much different craft back then.

The image of mostly-naked strippers twirling around poles as lustful men toss dollar bills may be a reality today, but in the Combat Zone's heyday, dancers were more like saleswomen. 

When they weren't onstage, they mingled with the guests, not peddling lap dances, but attempting to boost bar sales. "The women had to make a quota," Schorow said.

They did this part of their job fully dressed, but when it came time to perform they "took off one piece of clothing per song," ending up fully nude by the end of their routine.

3. Two Combat Zone strip clubs still remain.

While most of the area once known as the Combat Zone has been converted into luxury condos and trendy restaurants, two adult clubs still remain: Centerfolds and the Glass Slipper. Both establishments are next door to one another on LaGrange Street.

4. The Combat Zone ended the career of a powerful politician.

In October 1974, a powerful congressman from Arkansas named Wilbur D. Mills was disgraced when he was pulled over by Washington D.C. police with a stripper riding shot gun. 

The stripper, named Fanne Foxe, leapt out of the car and jumped into the Tidal Basin off the National Mall, earning her the nickname the "Tidal Basin Bombshell". 

Foxe landed a high-paying job in the Combat Zone, calling the congressman up on stage during her performances. The negative publicity eventually cost Mills his career.

5. The area is still designated as an adult entertainment district.

The 5 1/2 acres of the Combat Zone were officially zoned for adult entertainment in 1974 to prevent the trend from spreading into other areas of the city. While all but Centerfolds and the Glass Slipper are now gone, the zoning is still on the books.


H/T to Boston Globe

Featured Image via Peter Vanderwarker/Wikimedia Commons