Green’s Dictionary of Slang

live one n.

[live adj.]

1. (US) a notable, popular or well-respected individual.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 60: I’m a good mixer and I’ve kind o’ got next to the live ones.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 186: A sure-enough live one, like Sadie, that I’d always supposed had a head like a billiard table.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 96: So many bunk fighters have come here from other parts lately that it is indeed refreshing to see a live one.
[US]S. Ford Torchy 5: They’re a lot of dopes, and a man like you wants a live one around.
[US]Lincoln Daily News 29 March in DN IV:ii 124: President Wilson Picked Live One as His Private ‘Seck’.
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Speedy Sprite’ in Ade’s Fables 37: Loretta was marooned so far from the Live Ones that she couldn’t wig-wag for Help.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 97: You fellows can’t hardly appreciate what it means to be here with a bunch of live ones!

2. (US) a winning bet.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 8: If I could just grab a couple of live ones today.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 29: A. Mutt was on a live one yesterday and left the track with 40 real bucks in his jeans.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 60: The oldman was like always studyin the scratchsheet and sippin beer until a liveone came in.

3. (orig. UK Und.) the ideal victim for a proposed hoax, fraud or other deceit; cit. 1909 refers to a rich lover.

[US]F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 40: [D]ere’s a lot o’ de gang in de place, layin’ round an’ waitin’ t’ butt in wid de first live one dat ’ud drop in.
[US]Inter Ocean (Chicago) 25 Jan. 34/7: Being a live one with that roll I was all to the good with the cheerful ones I met.
[US]H. Green Mr. Jackson 28: Well, I never was a knocker, but times has changed for her since she grabbed a live one.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Carmen’ in Gullible’s Travels 19: Pretty soon they’s a live one blows into the joint and he’s Eskimo Bill, one o’ the butchers out to the Yards.
[US]Broadway Brevities Dec 13/2: Didn’t the young lady say, ‘If I meet a live one [...] I can do stuff that will hold him till hell freezes over’.
[US]S. Ornitz Haunch Paunch and Jowl 128: Panhandlers look for live ones. Fake cripples and blind men, offering pencils or shoe-laces, whine for pennies.
[US]C.R. Shaw Jack-Roller 96: We [...] started to ‘strong arm’ ‘live ones’ (drunks with money).
[UK]K. Mackenzie Living Rough 54: He hangs around [...] bumming drinks from live ones who will listen to his line.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 107: At the door Sparrow was letting the first live ones in.
[US]N.Y. Herald Trib. 2 Apr. 21/1: There is a slightly larcenous practice out there (and elsewhere) concealing added charges in production fees [...] This is known as ‘hooking a live one.’ (The ‘live one’ is a client with a fat wallet.).
[US]C. Clausen I Love You Honey, But the Season’s Over 175: That hooker found herself a ‘live one’ and she ain’t lettin’ him off till she’s bled him dry.
[US]H. Selby Jr Demon (1979) 70: They look like theyre waiting for a live one.
[US]E. Little Another Day in Paradise 258: ‘The movie-star-lookin’ one says, ‘Got a live one, Steve.’.
[US]Randy Everhard Tattoo of a Naked Lady 6: Cuz once I’ve hooked a live one into thinking he can take me for a ride, that’s when I nail him with the ‘build-up.’.

4. (US) a generous and enthusiastic patron of nightclubs, theatres and other places of entertainment (incl. brothels).

[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl Ch. x: Them dolls are always on the job and the only time they don’t catch a live one is when their hands are tied.
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 179: Certain Stiffs who hurried home before Midnight and wore White Mufflers, were trying to put the Town on the Fritz and Can all the Live Ones.
[US]O.O. McIntyre Bits of New York Life 4 Dec. [synd. col.] What is more, she hooked a ‘live one.’.
[US]J. Stearn Sisters of the Night 52: I’d get canned if I took a live one out of here.
[US]‘Hy Lit’ Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dict. of Hip Words 26: live one – A spender; a cat with a lot of popcorn.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 22: I got a live one goin’ in an hour [...] might net us half a hundred.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 77: In 1920s nightclub parlance a big spender was also known as a live one.

5. (US) a success, or one who has the potential so to be.

[US]Van Loan ‘Sporting Doctor’ in Taking the Count 30: I know that you’re a bug on fighters, but I always gave you credit for picking live ones.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Squirrel’ in Score by Innings (2004) 341: I wanted to go out and grab a few lives ones; I wanted to pay better salaries.

6. (gay) a generous rich client for a prostitute.

[US]G. Legman ‘Lang. of Homosexuality’ Appendix VII in Henry Sex Variants.
[US]Guild Dict. Homosexual Terms 28: live one (n.): The homosexual ‘client’ of a male prostitute.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 200: short-term sex partner [...] live one (especially used of one who pays).
[US]Maledicta IX 146: Many of his [i.e. G. Legman’s] other terms (boy or come-on boy, peg house and show house, dick-peddler, floater, handgig, live one, muscle in, trade) prove he used to know the words and music of gay prostitute slang but is now out of date.

7. an enthusiastic participant in a proposed scheme.

[US]W.P. McGivern Big Heat 17: Our man there is a live one from the Alabama school of journalism.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 25: ‘Gotta live one for you, boys,’ she screamed.

8. an eccentric, with implications of homosexuality.

[US]B. Moyers Listening to America 143: One of them hollered, ‘My, my, we have got a live one here! Hey, Sarah, the barbershop is across the street’.

9. someone destined to cause trouble in any situation, usu. challenging authority.

[US]D. Runyon ‘The Informal Execution of Soupbone Pew’ in From First to Last (1954) 69: Once in a while he ran against some live one — some real gun, and not a bum — who’d given him a battle.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 97: They immediately recognized Wilkinson as the quintessential ‘live one’.
[US]E. Little Another Day in Paradise 20: He looks at me, raising one eyebrow. Says, ‘Got a live one, huh kid?’.
[US] Village Voice (N.Y.) 15 Feb. n.p.: ‘We’ve got a real live one over here,’ the officer announced.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 78: She’s a live one [and] we’re going to have to handle her carefully.