Outside the Apollo Theatre, New York – Photo by Sam Falk
Georgette Harvey, Ethel Waters and Fredi Washington on the Broadway set
To set eyes on Alfred Sole is to like him instantly.
He’s just welcomed me onto the Warner Brothers soundstage in Los Angeles where he works. At 75, Alfred is technically of retirement age, but he remains an in-demand production designer on popular television shows like MacGyver, Veronica Mars and Castle.
As I approach him, Alfred smiles broadly and extends his hand. He has a boyish face and a soft-spoken, warm manner. He’s of average height with salt-and-pepper hair. He’s like your friendly uncle, or your favorite person to sit next to at the neighborhood bar.
But looks can be deceiving, so I have to ask myself: Is this really the man who in the early 1970s was at the center of a national scandal about a pornographic film titled Deep Sleep?
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Stephen Colbert, 2019
In September 1887, Nellie Bly assumed the persona of “insane girl” Nellie Brown to go under cover at the notorious women’s asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Her assignment: to tell “a plain and unvarnished narrative of the treatment of the patients therein.”
Upon her release, Bly wrote an exposé cataloguing the dire conditions faced by inmates, from freezing forced baths to solitary confinement in vermin-filled rooms and physical violence. This six-part investigation, initially published in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World but later released in a collection titled Ten Days in a Mad-House, catapulted the intrepid reporter to fame and brought much-needed attention to the plight of the mentally ill.