Alexander Hamilton went to a woman’s house to lend her some money, they got a little frisky and then yada yada: America experienced its first political sex scandal, right here in Philadelphia. It was just another “America’s first” for our city and over the years, the sex scandals have continued, many of them involving local TV personalities (remember Alycia Lane?). In time for Valentine’s Day, Billy Penn presents Hamilton’s story and four other famous Philadelphia love affairs.
George Washington and Elizabeth Willing Powel
Yes, her middle name really was Willing and according to Nigel Hawthorne’s “Mammoth Book of Sex Scandals,” Washington met her in Philadelphia during his trip for the first Continental Congress in 1774. The relationship sparked up again during his presidency. With the capital in Philadelphia at the time, Powel may have even convinced Washington to run for his second term. The particulars of their relationship are unclear to this day, but Hawthorne recounts how Washington visited Philadelphia for a month after retiring from the presidency and spent a lot of time with Powel. Hawthorne writes, “In one letter she let it slip that they had breakfast together at her house. One can only surmise.”
Alexander Hamilton and Maria Reynolds
Whatever relationship Washington had with Powel, he didn’t get caught. Hamilton did. His tryst with Reynolds was the our country’s first political sex scandal. In the early 1790s, he was the Secretary of the Treasury, the founder of the Federalist party and one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Reynolds showed up at his house one day in 1791, Smithsonian magazine reports, asking for help after her husband left her. He didn’t have the money on hand and came to her house later that night and found out that she also wanted something “other than pecuniary consolation.” The affair was on from that point, and Reynolds’ husband discovered it and, pissed at Hamilton, tried to implicate him in a finance scandal involving his job in New York. To clear his name, Hamilton turned in all of his correspondences to Senator James Monroe. The affair was meant to be a secret between Hamilton, Monroe and John Beckley, the clerk of the House of Representatives. But after Beckley got fired in 1797 Hamilton’s letters to Reynolds ended up getting leaked to a Philadelphia newspaper. The affair basically sank Hamilton’s political career and the Federalist party’s hopes of having a president.
It gets even juicier. Hamilton confronted Monroe and challenged him to a duel. It never happened because Monroe’s lawyer friend intervened. Hamilton hated that lawyer for years. His name? AARON BURR.
Larry Mendte and Alycia Lane
This might be the longest-running, best-known Philadelphia scandal story of all. Lane and Mendte were co-anchors on CBS3 when their alleged affair began in 2004. Lane was single, but Mendte was married to Fox 29 anchor Dawn Stensland. Mendte claimed Lane seduced him, and Lane claimed Mendte made the first move. According to court testimony, the relationship consisted only of kissing, but it came crashing down when Mendte’s wife grew suspicious and he came clean. He also hacked into Lane’s email and sent damaging messages from it, an offense that caused him to be fired and spend six months on house arrest. Mendte sued the Inquirer and one of its gossip columnists. Lane sued the station and Mendte, but the suit was kicked out of court in 2012 after she allegedly lied during her testimony.
The saga hasn’t quite ended, though. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reinstated the lawsuit last week.
Bolaris fell for the tricks of two beautiful Eastern European con artists two nights in a row. It all started out with him alone at a hotel bar in Miami. He recounted to “20/20” that the two women approached him and talked him into taking a shot. After a few more drinks, everything got hazy, and Bolaris woke up the next morning with red wine on his shirt and the memory of buying some hinky painting.
So what did he do the next night? Hung out with the women again. He woke up the following morning not remembering almost anything and with over $43,000 charged to his American Express.
The women who stole from Bolaris were part of a larger ring caught by the Feds, and he got his money back after beating American Express in court.
Philadelphia Housing Authority directors
The Philadelphia Housing Authority had two consecutive directors resign over sex scandals. In 2010, the board learned director Carl Greene paid over $600,000 to three women as hush money settlements over sexual harassment complaints and fired him. Director Michael Kelly then resigned in 2012 after it was revealed he had an affair with an employee to whom he allegedly gave preferential treatment.