“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Maugham and Sadie II – Sadie in Samoa

Posted: December 29th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

Sadie Thompson, who I mentioned yesterday, deserves a bit more of a plug as I’ve been re-reading W Somerset Maugham’s short story Miss Thompson (or Rain) for a piece of writing on famous American Madams of the Orient. Maugham wrote the story after leaving Hawaii with Sadie Thompson, a notorious prostitute and madam who’d been expelled. They were both sailing to Samoa where she launched another brothel which included, handily, a laundry (pictured left in 1928).

Maugham described her boarding of his ship, the Sonoma, as a “blond runaway” from the Iwelei Stockade, Honolulu’s red light district, running up the gangplank at the last moment before departure. Sadie is later recorded in Pago Pago, Samoa, as “running a House of Prostitution” catering to U.S. sailors. Maugham claimed Sadie’s shipboard antics with her Samoan lover kept him up nights – which must have meant he was pretty tired when he got to Somoa – as you can see it’s a hell of schlep across the Pacific.

Yesterday I bemoaned the fact that you can’t stay at Maugham’s hotel in Honolulu, the Alexander Young Hotel, as it was demolished in the 80s and is now a characterless condo. The good news is that you can stay in Sadie’s old bordello in Pago Pago which is now the Sadie Thompson Inn – http://www.sadieshotels.com/. So if you’re in Pago Pago don’t pass up the chance to stay in a bordello.

Incidentally Sadie has made it to the silver screen several times most notably in 1928 in a silent starring Gloria Swanson;

then in 1932 with Joan Crawford;

and in 1953 with Rita Hayworth which gives me an excuse to

put some women on my blog for a change.

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2 Comments on “Maugham and Sadie II – Sadie in Samoa”

  1. 1 busycorner said at 8:41 am on January 3rd, 2009:

    Somerset Maughan captured the precise moment when Victorian morality and British empire were on the decline.

    Sadie is the original 1920’s flapper. She’s not impressed by Victorian or religious standards. That’s what makes the story a legend.

    I wrote the application to get Sadie’s on the Historical National Register based on that story line.

    We made and Sadie Thompson’s is a registered historical landmark.

    From Pago


  2. 2 Paul French said at 9:42 pm on January 3rd, 2009:

    Excellent – monuments to a few more Sadie’s and a few less Generals would make the world a better place!

    Hope to get down to Pago at some point and see in person.

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