Richard Milner is the author of Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z.
Margo St. James, the media prankster, former hooker and champion of sexual freedom, died on January 11 in her hometown of Bellingham, Washington. She was 83. During her decades as a counterculture activist in San Francisco (1960s through 1980s), she led the crusade to upgrade legal rights for “ladies of the evening,” whom she described with respect as ‘sex workers.” To that end, she founded COYOTE — “Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics” — which she characterized as “a loose union of women,” or perhaps “a union of loose women.” She was a serious unionist. When a reporter referred to her as a “former madam,” she demanded a retraction and proudly proclaimed, “I was never management.”
But I always thought Margo’s best claim to fame was as “the Realist Nun,” which is how I first heard of her. What, you may ask, was the Realist Nun?
In 1958, a satirist, social critic, and prankster named Paul Krassner founded an outrageous underground magazine called “The Realist”. It was inevitable that in the San Francisco of the 1960s Margo and Paul would meet and become longtime pals and co-conspirators. Margo got hold of an authentic nun’s habit and began wearing it when stepping out with Paul. Once they visited an airport and lingered at the departure gate, where they embraced and began kissing passionately, with Margo attired in the nun’s outfit. Finally, when they were through, she said in a loud voice, “Goodbye, have a great flight, Father Berrigan!” And thus began the annals of The Realist Nun. Continue reading “On the Passing of Margo St. James, the Realist Nun, by Richard Milner”