What does "fifty dollars for the powder room" mean in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"?
December 27, 2004 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I grok that Holly Golightly is a call girl in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but what does 'fifty dollars for the powder room' mean?
posted by pieoverdone to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
She was asking for tip money for the attendant -- but obviously, looking to make a little extra for herself.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:57 AM on December 27, 2004

I believe it's a reference to "tidying up".
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:00 AM on December 27, 2004

thinkpiece is correct. She uses her feminine wiles to get money from the "johns" intending to go to the powder room and then takes off with the cash.

She is a call-girl in the novella and Paul ("Fred") is a gigolo but this is tamed down in the movie version.

In the movie version she is portrayed as trying to snare a rich man and Paul is simply a "kept" man.
posted by Lola_G at 8:11 AM on December 27, 2004

I don't think it's a scam as much as a euphemism. It's more polite to ask for money for the powder room than to actually charge a fee.
posted by signal at 8:16 AM on December 27, 2004

What signal said. It's a nice way to say a cash gift for services rendered.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:29 AM on December 27, 2004

Again, it depends on whether you are referring to the novella or the movie. Truman Capote was clever enough for the euphemism, however, Hollywood cleaned up the movie (much to the dismay of Capote) and she is portrayed as more of an opportunist.

Remember "Sid" from the first scene ("Every Tom, Dick and Sid.") says to her (paraphrasing) "Didn't I pick up the tap for your friends and give you $50 for the powder room?" He was upset because she took off and seemingly no services were rendered.
posted by Lola_G at 8:49 AM on December 27, 2004

Well right. But he was banging on the door demanding said services, suggesting he assumed a quid pro quo. I think the movie delicately sidesteps whether the quid generally gets quoed or not.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:22 AM on December 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

... or the tit actually gets tatted.
posted by zpousman at 10:49 AM on December 27, 2004

It was a polite way of being paid for spending time with people that she otherwise wouldn't be spending the time with.

I don't think Holly was a call girl so much as she was a paid companion. Someone that makes an ugly person less ugly.
posted by fenriq at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2004

It's a euphemistic way for men to give their quasi-professional paid escorts money. $50 for a cab (which cost $5 in those days), $50 for the "powder room" (when the standard tip to the restroom attendant at a fancy place was $1), etc., made it seem less sordid and yet added up in a time when monthly rent was $100 or so.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:59 PM on December 27, 2004

Tangentially, the Inflation Calculator says "What cost $50.00 in 1958 would cost $312.19 in 2003." It's been some time since I read B at T--did it state when the story was supposed to take place? If it was well before the 1958 publication date the difference would be even more striking. But after all I expect a girl of Holly's age, looks and personality would be turning $800 tricks today.
posted by jfuller at 1:30 PM on December 27, 2004

CunningLinguist said: quid generally gets quoed or not.

By a pro, presumably
posted by Sparx at 9:06 PM on December 27, 2004

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