Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Anecdote #11904T

Then there was my TA for the introductory course in Physical Anthropology, which consisted primarily of memorizing all the bones in the human body--all 206 of them. Sections of the large lecture class were broken up into groups of about 12, which met once or twice a week during the term, in small classrooms. The TA's were graduate students, earning tuition money by practicing on freshman. Our TA was Christina Milner--not a name known to me at the time. Our section included most of the varsity defensive line--very big chunky guys with crewcuts, whose claims to academic proficiency were pretty flimsy. Each one had a "handler"--another student assigned to assist him with his course-work, so he didn't flunk out. They were fun-loving guys who enjoyed getting drunk and generally making merry. Classes bored them. But the first section meeting changed all that.

Milner and her husband Richard were working on a book--perhaps an expansion of their graduate thesis projects--devoted to the world of prostitution. They carried on their "research" in San Francisco, along Columbus Avenue--notorious for its "Barbary Coast" strip clubs and street action. The book they eventually published, Black Players, purported to be a serious sociological study of the African American pandering which took place in the North Beach area.

Milner was a tall redhead, and in order to facilitate her research from the inside, she worked as a stripper in one of the clubs, billed as "Montana Red." Never having visited a strip club in my life, I presume this must have meant that she performed nude, or at least topless, since "topless" was the big draw on North Beach in those days.

In any case, at the first section meeting, Milner appeared in a skimpy pink mini-dress and net stockings, with a big handful of necklaces around her shoulders. Was she wearing a feather boa? She might have been. Long red curls. Sashaying walk. Meaningful smile. She introduced herself, then proceeded to walk around to the front of the desk, taking a position before the front row of seats. She got up on the desk, crossing and re-crossing her legs, not more than five feet from the four huge linemen who sat before her. Grunts of surprise and approval. She had definitely gotten their attention.

Our sessions in the following weeks were hilarious theatre. I suspect that the linemen had been assigned to Milner's section deliberately, since it was felt they'd pay more attention to her discussions than to another dry-as-dust graduate student. Red Milner thoroughly appreciated the exhibitionistic innuendos she created in those section meetings, as did the linemen.

Two years later, the Milners published Black Players, the pop exposé they'd been working on. Not long after this, the Milners parted, and pursued somewhat different paths. Mr. Milner nowadays performs his "musical" version of Charles Darwin, while Christina teaches anthropology at Santa Rosa Junior College, while working as a singer and dancer on the side.

The college lineman probably giggle when they recall their anthropology TA.

I, however, wasn't much interested in bones in those days, though I did manage to memorize the 206 names. I was taking the class pass-fail, so I didn't put much effort into it. Milner threatened to flunk me, but if she was passing the linemen, she could hardly have justified that.

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