Now and then, I think about a certain character from the old East Village. With her folding table and anti-pornography signs, she was vibrant and angry, intimidating and exciting. Her voice and the cadence she used to call out her mantra, "Sign the petition," has stayed in people's psyches over the years. Now and then, some of us find ourselves still saying it, in our heads, or out loud to friends, spontaneously, as if we are conjuring old ghosts: "SIGN the pe-ti-SHUN!"
Who was that woman? Awhile ago, I asked the Hive Mind on Facebook and the Hive Mind answered.
Valerie Harper in Times Square
Her name was Page and she was a feminist against pornography. People's memories of her go back to the early 1990s, possibly the 1980s.
A regular at Astor Place, she was known for her graphic posters, including the infamous Hustler meat grinder cover, and her scare tactics. Laura recalled, "One of my friends once asked her where the money went and she snapped and said. 'Go away, you doe-eyed bimbo, go home and get your beating......Sign the PETition!'"
Danielle remembered: "Once I heard her SCREAM at a male passerby, 'Go home and beat your damned wife!'"
Jessica worked for her, briefly. She recalls: "she had an ad in the Voice. she said she was going to pay $8 an hour. she had to train me to yell right. i couldn't do it. i wasn't loud enough or mean enough."
Eventually, Page turned her efforts to the animal world. "I’m through with women," she told The Observer in 1998. "I’m through with those ding-dongs! They dress like whores because they are whores!"
She was still around in 2004 when Wilson wrote an article about her in The Villager saying, "You think you’re just going to sign something in support of animal rights, but then she tells you that the 'sign-up' fee to join her organization is $7 (which is enough to cover a pack of cigarettes, which she then promptly purchases at St. Mark’s and Third once she’s suckered her first victim of the day)."
Sometime in the mid-2000s, Page vanished from New York. Signs point to San Francisco where I hope she is still standing on a corner somewhere, calling "SIGN the pe-ti-SHUN" for women or for kittens, for something, for anything. She made the neighborhood more interesting and we're missing that--now more than ever.
Somehow, I don't think the new shiny Astor Place would permit her--especially now that it will be overrun with Twits.
UPDATE: Photographer Richard Greene got this rare shot of Page and her anti-porn table at Broadway and 8th Street in 1989: