Phone Booth Annie was a dwarf hooker who usually worked Stewart Avenue between Nalley Chevrolet and Dill Avenue. She was known for providing oral pleasure to patrons inside of phone booths wherein the John could appear to be making a phone call while Annie worked her magic below. Logistically this was a snap since, given her short height, her head lined up easily with the mid section of the average adult male. Now it couldn’t be any phone booth because they were usually paneled with transparent material although the lower glass of the phone booth located at the corner of Dill and Stewart had been knocked out and replaced with some plywood which provided the necessary cover for Annie to accomplish her work. Interestingly the phone booth was located next to the Capitol View Fire Station leading to a working theory that the busted glass and replacement paneling wasn’t an accident. After all, a day or two in the station could lead to some boredom thus some “distraction” for an anxious fire fighter might help take off the edge. The story grew and the phone booth got a reputation such that even the straighter area residents became aware of it which resulted in great suspicion towards anyone who might be in the phone booth or even near it. My guess was that it was one of the most under utilized booths in the area in terms of actual phone services. Someone told me that the phone didn’t even work !
“Fanta Orange Clears The Deck……”
When standing still or sitting on the curb Phone Booth Annie reminded me of a ventriloquist’s dummy that at any moment might animate and turn homicidal. She had a stiff walk which caused her to bobble from side to side even when walking straight. There was a facial scar (a pimp’s retribution I was told), that left her with a permanent scowl though independently of that it was clear that life had dealt her some bad cards though instead of trying to draw some more she stuck with the crappy hand. (The deck was probably rigged anyway). She sported excessive amounts of makeup and wore her hair in a permanent which was probably a wig though I never got close enough to make a determination. In terms of clothing it was almost always a terry cloth recreational outfit that she wore even in January ! She usually traveled with a larger group and it was kind of sad watching her trying to keep up with the rest of the women who were already walking slowly anyway. Occasionally you would see her standing alone waving at cars as they passed by with no attempt on her part to conceal her occupation. And if a cop car rolled by she just waved at them though not as means to taunt them but as a genuine sign of recognition. Anyway, she would come into Brothers Three with a group of women and between like four of them would buy a single Fanta Orange drink. They would then walk out into the parking lot where each would take a swig, swish it around, spit, and pass the bottle. One day I just had to ask what this ritual was all about and was told that Fanta Orange was the best thing to “clear the deck” after providing services. Since that time I have never been able to think of Fanta Orange (or Fanta anything), without this memory elbowing it’s way to the forefront of my consciousness.
You might be tempted to think that Phone Booth Annie fulfilled some kind of fetish role for men but I was told this wasn’t the case at all. She was just one of the many women who worked the Avenue who came (no pun intended), in all sizes and colors thus one of exceptionally short stature was just there for variety in the stable. I do know that she was frequently hired as a novelty act at some of the end of the work week blowouts taking place at businesses lining The Avenue. I discovered this first hand when I was asked to deliver some beer and liquor to an in-progress party at Kaiser’s Trim shop and as I entered the shop Annie was sitting there naked on a couch while a party was raging on. Before I could react a naked black woman weighing at least 250 lbs asked me if I wanted to dance – I politely declined. This was all too much for my 15 year old brain and I got out of there fast. Someone from the party had evidently phoned back to the store and provided a description of my reaction so by the time I returned my coworkers were already talking about hiring Annie and “Tiny” (the obese hooker’s name), for my upcoming birthday. No Thanks.
“So cutie, what brings you here today ? Is the Lord not keeping you satisfied ?
The Salvation Army had an installation (which remains till today), located just up the street past Atlanta Area Technical School and they would send their cadets up and down the Avenue collecting donations in exchange for a copy of their “War Cry” magazine. Most of these cadets were young enthusiastic Christians who were simply trying to make a difference and it was a quite a visual juxtaposition seeing the cadets in their clean, snappy uniforms walk by a group of hookers each group with it’s own code of behavior and outlook on life. There was cordial acknowledgement between the two elements though rarely was there any attempt at an exchange beyond the basics. However, I once saw a young female cadet stop and talk with Annie for quite a long time. I could only guess what they were discussing but when the cadet rolled into Brothers Three to cool off from the Summer heat I had to ask her about the event. She told me that she was describing some of the Salvation Army programs to Annie with the hopes of getting her off the street and into a better way of living although evidently Annie wasn’t interested. It then occurred to me that I had never heard Annie speak but according to the cadet she was articulate and seemed capable of accurate self-appraisal though feared what might happen to her if she abandoned the only life she knew. I wanted to continue the conversation but Jimmy, my co-worker that day, actually started hitting on the cadet, “So cutie, what brings you here today ? Is the Lord not keeping you satisfied ? I’ll buy one of your Jesus magazines and we can read it together.” The cadet rolled her eyes and with a curt, “Have a good day Sir” bolted and after that no Salvation Army cadet ever stopped in again.
It should be of little surprise that many of these women rarely made a smooth transition (if at all), out of the life as many were trapped in a classic vicious cycle of needing money to finance a drug habit or kick up to a pimp so there really is no way to make an exit at least not without help. Of course how could anyone ever really know if someone got out successfully since there was no reasonable way to track anyone ? You would see someone a couple of times each week over the course of a year and then not at all ever again. I’m not sure at what point I stopped noticing Annie’s presence on The Avenue. It took a few weeks and it was actually one of the older guys, “RoughHouse” who got on the phone and came up with some information that everyone was passing around although without confirmation – that Annie’s decapitated body had been found in a dumpster. If true, it was an unusually harsh event that even as a strong rumor got serious attention but not enough that it was confirmed (or investigated) by the police. Nonetheless, she had disappeared unexpectedly under very mysterious circumstances and a pall settled in.
By the following Summer it had been mostly forgotten and Annie became a footnote in a larger story about a phone booth and prostitution continued to thrive. Thereafter Stewart Avenue became forever synonymous with prostitution although there were other areas of town such as Ponce and Moreland Avenue both which had significant activity also. There are other stories some with equally as horrifying outcomes such as the bachelor party gone wrong at the Alamo Plaza incident that led to the Stewart Avenue to Metropolitan Pkwy name change. However, Annie’s story is particularly emblematic of a larger struggle in the area and as far as I am concerned is the canonical reference for prostitution in southwest Atlanta. © 2016 The Stewart Avenue Kid