Archive for history

More Dreams of Fields (W.C. Fields Team-Ups That Might Have Been)

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, W.C. Fields with tags , , , , , , on December 19, 2016 by travsd
W.C. and Groucho out of uniform at a Hollywood party

W.C. and Groucho out of uniform at a Hollywood party

We’ll be blogging about comedian W.C. Fields all through November and December as part of our tribute to the comedian called Fields Fest.  For a full list upcoming live Fields Fest events go here. 

This post is sort of a follow-up to our earlier one “Unfilmed Fields: 20 Films W.C. Fields Might Have Made But Didn’t.” 

W.C. Fields worked with some of the great Hollywood directors (D.W. Griffith, George Cukor, Leo McCarey, Norman McLeod, George Marshall, Gregory LaCava) as well as some decent ones (Fred Newmeyer, Eddie Sutherland, Chuck Reisner, Eddie Cline, Clyde Bruckman, Arthur Ripley) and some well-known, prolific hacks (William Beaudine, Norman Taurog). And he worked closely with great producers like Mack Sennett and William Le Baron. Here’s a lost opportunity I thought of the other day — how great would it have been if PRESTON STURGES had directed W.C. Fields? There was a certain amount of overlap in their stock companies: Franklin Pangborn especially, and both worked with Edgar Kennedy, Jimmy Conlin etc. And the film Sturges did with Harold Lloyd, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock comes close to showing what such a thing might have been like, with its circus and alcohol themes. YES, the boozing on the set might have gotten out of hand. Sadly, they both passed out of (in?) Hollywood around the same time, but, gosh, it would have been swell. (Someone brought up the good point that Sturges was a stickler for his carefully crafted lines, whereas Fields loved to paraphrase and ad lib, making for potential conflict. C’est la guerre. It’s all academic anyway!)

And here’s ANOTHER one I thought of! Fields would have been GREAT in a movie with WILL ROGERS. Rogers starred in a series of great comedies (many directed by John Ford) in the early 30s. Like many of Fields’ comedies of the time, most of them had small town settings. Both men were friends and colleagues from their Follies days — I can see the pair of them interacting in one of these small town comedies PERFECTLY, maybe with Rogers as the town judge, and Fields as a guy he has to keep locking up, or the Mayor, or both. Sadly, Rogers died in a plane crash just as Fields career in talkies was catching on. Anyway, just day dreaming — that’s what I do!

Jack Benny, W.C. Fields, Eddie Cantor in p.r. shot with Miss America, 1939

Jack Benny, W.C. Fields, Eddie Cantor in p.r. shot with Miss America, 1939

And while we’re on Fields’ Follies cohorts….Fields DID appear on screen some of them, including Marilyn Miller, Leon Errol, Marion Davies and Louise Brooks. But there are some people Fields was teamed with in Follies comedy sketches who also had film careers in the talking era whom he never shared a screen with. How great would it be to see him opposite comedy giants Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Ed Wynn, or Walter Catlett?

And while he was teamed with some top stars like Mae West, and (early in their careers) both Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (in separate movies), I wonder what team-ups with some other similar heavyweights might have been like. For example, a possible co-starring with Marie Dressler was discussed. It’s an exciting prospect, one easily imagines her doing the kind of thing Alison Skipworth and others did in the role of Mrs. Fields, but with a lot more heft and star power. Unfortunately she passed away in 1934, just as Fields’ solo career was really getting rolling. Jack Benny is another tantalizing one. His film career was similar to Hope’s and Crosby’s in the 30s; both Fields and Benny had appeared in (different) editions of the Big Broadcast series, and had done comedy on radio together. So close and yet so far! And then there are his drinking buddies! It might have been interesting to see him co-star with John Barrymore, as a couple of old drunken thespians. Or to see Errol Flynn play Prince Hal to Fields’ Falstaff.

Fields with Lou Costello

Fields with Lou Costello

Another pairing that might have been inevitable had Fields lived a bit longer (and one that is kind of surprising did not occur in the 4-5 years after Never Give a Sucker an Even Break when Fields was more than available and dying to do a real movie), was a teaming with the reigning Universal comey stars of at the early ’40s, Abbott and Costello. I don’t claim it would have necessarily been good, but would have been smart producing, at least! He’s in publicity pictures with them (see above), and he appeared on radio with them. And he’d appeared in films with other radio stars like Burns and Allen and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. But Abbott and Costello were waxing hot in the early ’40s, just as Fields was starting to be eclipsed. It may be that Fields’ ego couldn’t bear what such a screen teaming may have looked like (nor could Costello).

With the woman who Chaplin's leading lady during most of Fields' talkie career, Paulette Godard. (Whew, this one can use some re-touching, eh)

With the woman who was Chaplin’s leading lady during most of Fields’ talkie career, Paulette Godard. (Whew, this one can use some re-touching, eh?)

And what about a teaming with the biggest one of them all, Charlie Chaplin? Probably never likely…Chaplin tended not to surround himself with his equals (he kept conspicuously distant from his old Karno colleague Stan Laurel, for example…I’ve always thought something like insecurity must be the reason). And Fields’ had bad-mouthed Chaplin as a “damn ballet dancer”. But both men had shared screens with Chester Conklin and Jack Oakie, and Chaplin later threw a bone to Buster Keaton, every bit his equal, in Limelight. The President of Klopstokia perhaps could have interacted believably with Adenoid Hinkel. 

The photo at the top of this post suggests another possibility: one thing the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields shared in common was Margaret Dumont as  foil. After finishing her last comedy with the Marxes, The Big Store, her next picture was Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, with Fields, followed by a re-teaming with him in Tales of Manhattan (1942) (their sequence was cut, essentially for being better than the rest of the movie). I don’t know how Fields would function in a movie with all three Marx Brothers (although I have my theories). But I can also see a team-up with solo Groucho along the lines of Copacabana. 

Lastly, in The Bank Dick, we get to see Fields alongside one of The Three Stooges, Shemp Howard.  The Stooges’ comedy was generally of a lower intellectual order than Fields’, but ya never know…he wouldn’t have been the first brainy comedian (Keaton springs to mind) to be shoe-horned into the Columbia comedy factory. Or if that tack seems unfortunate, consider the 1951 western feature Gold Raiders, in which the Stooges shared a marquee with George O’Brien. As we saw In My Little Chickadee, the western genre worked well for Fields as well!

Remembering William Cullen Bryant

Posted in AMERICANA, BOOKS & AUTHORS, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2016 by travsd

 

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Today is the birthday of William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). 19th century America would be astounded to know that a man of his standing and eminence could be so swallowed up by time — to such an extent that millions of people could walk in, around, and through the park that is named after him and located right in the heart of New York City and still have no idea whom it is named after nor even have any curiosity about it. Or that those same millions could pass by the great monument to him that is in that park, a monument that could answer the question they never thought to ask, and never look at it or read its inscription. (There it is above. I snapped it a few months ago as I strolled around Bryant Park with my son Charlie).

The significance of William Cullent Bryant is multifold; this might one reason why he is not well remembered. His complex career does not boil down to a trivia question. He was both one of 19th century America’s most important poets and one of its most important journalists and newspaper editors. So was Whitman though of course. And it might be argued that Bryant was more important on both scores, so I guess that won’t explain his present obscurity. Like Irving and Cooper, Bryant was one of America’s first literary figures of international importance. Like Longfellow, he was one of our first poets. He was born and raised in Western Massachusetts, the same area where Melville would later meet Hawthorne, and where the cloistered Emily Dickinson would later toil, but he would come to be associated primarily with New York City, like Irving, Cooper, Melville and Whitman. And, he became one of that city’s most influential newspaper editors, casting a shadow not unlike that of Horace Greeley. 

There are two most important things you need to know about William Cullen Bryant:

One is that from 1829 until his death (thus for nearly half a century) he was the editor of the New York Evening Post (the same paper as today’s New York Post). Under his direction, the paper had quite a different tone and philosophy from the one it inherited from its founder Alexander Hamilton, and of course a very different one from today. Despite the fact that he had begun his political life as a Federalist, and had first gained notoriety by writing an anti-Jefferson satirical  poem, the Post was not a “conservative” paper under Bryant. Events (and probably New York) changed him. Bryant’s Post was a pro-Jacksonian Democratic one. In time, it evolved. Bryant took an Abolitionist stance, which caused him to drift away from the Democrats to the Free Soilers, who later evolved into the Republicans. Truth be known, it was his longtime editorship of the Post that got him a monument and a park. People and politicians may pay lip service to poetry, but in the modern age they seldom move mountains to honor it.

The other important thing you should know about Bryant is his most famous poem, “Thanatopsis”. Time was when it was learned by every American schoolchild and when it was one of America’s proudest (and only) literary exports. If you only know one thing he wrote (and most people who know anything do only know this one thing) this is the thing. To this day, “Thanatopsis” is widely anthologized, and it’s been my experience that it’s the only Bryant poem (out of many volumes of poetry he wrote during his lifetime) that you will see so represented.

Coming across “Thanatopsis” from time to time is one way I came to know about Bryant. The other is my years at the New-York Historical Society. Bryant spoke there many times in the 19th century. If you visit their Luce Center on the top floor, you will find this bust of him by the sculptor John Rogers:

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And closer to home nowadays, at the Brooklyn Museum, I always stop and look at this portrait of him done in his last months by the painter Wyatt Eaton: 

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I have a stake in promoting him; Bryant and I share many of the same Pilgrim ancestors. There is some irony to be found in the fact that this dead poet’s poem about death, with its meditation on immortality, has proved all too mortal in the popular memory. Yet there are so many good reasons to know it and remember it. It is an incredible fulcrum, a torch-passing, full of the English influence of the Graveyard Poets and nature-loving Wordsworth, but also having much in common with the Transcendentalists and the upbeat optimism of Whitman. I don’t find it dated or stuffy or irrelevant. All young people should be exposed to “Thanatopsis”. I can’t imagine that most of them couldn’t be taught to appreciate it. Bryant was essentially a Goth teenager when he wrote it, but there is a touching, naive hopefulness to it that I also relate to and associate with youth.

THANATOPSIS

     To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around—
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—
Comes a still voice—
                                       Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
     Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world—with kings,
The powerful of the earth—the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre.   The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,—the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods—rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old Ocean’s gray and melancholy waste,—
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings—yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life’s green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man—
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
     So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

My Relatives in an H.P. Lovecraft Story!

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, Halloween, Horror (Mostly Gothic), ME, My Family History with tags , , , , on October 4, 2016 by travsd

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In preparation for the lead up to the Halloween season  (and spurred on by the fact that I have learned I am related to him, and also by recent walking tours I’ve taken with Rory Raven and Jane Rose, a recent play by Nat Cassidy, and annual festivals by RadioTheatre and Dan Bianchi) over the past few weeks I went back and re-read the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft. As always, I did plenty of snorting and eye rolling, but mixed in with it all that was plenty of admiration.

What joy it would give me to be his editor!  Imagination: A+. Originality: A+. Intelligence: undeniable. Command of language: dazzling. Culture: prodigious. And many of the situations in the stories are indeed chilling and nightmarish. But there are times when the author’s vagueness steers me away from fear or horror towards boredom. And times when he lazily substitutes modifiers for the hard writing it would take to achieve a truly vivid effect (i.e., he tells us something is “loathsome” or “horrible” or whatever, rather than painting a concrete portrait that will produce in US that impression). I love the fact that he is erudite and abstract and is in such command of the language. That’s precisely what will always keep me coming back to his writing; it is what sets him sets him above so many others. But ironically, he is at his most effective when he allows himself to be more graphic. By that, I do not mean to imply “more bloody” as the word is typically employed in horror criticism. I merely mean more descriptive of the real world. He is very good on the “unseen”. We need him to work harder on the “seen”.

At any rate, a friend asked me which story was my favorite. And that’s too hard to say. There will always be several. (Easier to say which were my least favorite: normally, the fragments based on transcriptions of dreams he had. No plot, just description of imaginary cities and planets or whatever). However, there is one piece of writing I came across that will now always hold a special attachment: the short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Written in 1927, the novella went unpublished until several years after he died. It’s one of Lovecraft’s stronger stories plotwise, mixing many intriguing elements: doppelgangers, alchemy, the resurrection of the dead, deals with the devil, madness, and a Dorian Gray like cessation of the aging process.

But what gave the story an added power this time around was the amount of reality he put into it. In fact, there’s so much of the “true” in it, that one could almost include it in the American Hoax tradition, along with certain writings by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain. First, there’s an appealing amount of autobiography. It’s one of a small handful of stories in which Lovecraft allows his beloved Providence to be the setting. And more than any other story that I noticed, he paints a portrait of his hometown, which the titular character roams around on extended walks, much as the author himself did. Well known landmarks and streets are folded into the story. It’s not “Arkham” or “Miskatonic University”. It is a very vivid Providence. Beyond his mapping of the town as he knew it, he has carefully researched its history, and filled it with several real characters. In many cases, he depicts actual historical personages. In other cases, he simply creates a fictional character with an actual Rhode Island surname.

And this is what gives the tale an added pull for me, for these are all names in my family tree. I am connected by blood to all these people and places and names: the four Brown Brothers (and institutions connected with them, like Brown University and Moses Brown School), Olney Court, Stampers Hill, Stephen Hopkins, Capt. Abraham Whipple, Capt. James Mathewson, Samuel Winsor, Thurston’s Tavern, the First Baptist Church, and characters with the names Slocum and Tillinghast. I am also related to the Ladd Family, after which Brown’s Ladd Observatory is named. It was a frequent haunt of Lovecraft’s and wound up in many of his writings.

So there’s an added thrill in reading this stuff now. And furthermore, my relatives are the good guys in the story! Well, Charles is good, too. He’s just a little, shall we say, misguided in his quest for “knowledge”.  Judge for yourself! The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is available to read (gratis) here. 

Groucho Marx: Bouffon

Posted in Clown, Comedians, Comedy, Comedy Teams, Marx Brothers with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2016 by travsd
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“No Matter what it is or who commenced it — I’m against it!”

Today is the birthday of Groucho Marx. I’ve done over a hundred blogposts on the Marx Brothers as a team; but very rarely focusing solely on my favorite comedian (okay, he vies for the top spot with a short list of others). This one was prompted by a query I got from a young comedian named Darius Emadi a few months ago. His question was quite simple, but so revolutionary and new and unprecedented, I was taken quite aback and thought about it for days. I have been planning this post ever since then.

The question was this: “Groucho Marx: Clown or Bouffon”? The answer is immediately apparent. No rumination required. Groucho is a bouffon. And that realization came as such a delightful thunderbolt. The idea of bouffon is the perfect frame for thinking and talking about Groucho. And yet this conceptual tool is so new that it’s only recently become available. And the misconception that Groucho is a clown in the conventional sense has driven so much that’s been so misguided, including his casting in films, and criticisms and appreciations by fans and writers.

I’ve written a bit about bouffon here and here. (I urge you to follow the links and explore. It will provide much background and insight and relieve me from having to remake the wheel here). Bouffon certainly grew out of clowning, much as Lucifer fell out of the choirs of heaven. It has much in common with that ancient art on the outside: exaggeration, costume, make-up and the goal of making people laugh. What it does not share with clown however, and this is crucial, is a need for SYMPATHY. In fact, bouffons are profoundly UN-sympathetic. It is what they are there for. They are nasty. They are the nasty parts of us made manifest. Groucho exists to confuse, lacerate, run rings around, fuck with, tweak, rattle, undermine and muss up the people around him. He exists to break things down, not build them up. The essence of his character is not to help people, and neither does he want nor deserve help. On those occasions in his early vehicles where he does assist the perfunctory ingenue or some stuffed shirt of a leading man, it is because it is part of the conventions of the format, which he subverts with every breath he draws. He has no “heart”. The attempts to impose one on his character in his later movies are like trying to graft an elephant’s trunk onto an octopus. This organ does not belong here! It is useless and irrelevant to this character. This is not to rail against goodness and emotion and altruism. My point is that everyone else has those. Some characters do not. Groucho does not. Thus Charlie Chaplin is a clown. Groucho Marx is a bouffon.

Mr. Emadi gave me great hope with his question by even asking it. By even thinking to ask it. By even knowing to ask it. Not for some egghead reason, though you’ll probably think so if you’re a complete philistine, as most people are. But, the fact remains that I myself am not a scholar. I have no degree, I am not affiliated with any institution, I contribute to no scholarly journals, I do not speak at symposia. I consider myself first and foremost a theatrical practitioner. Sometimes I write it, sometimes I direct it, sometimes I perform it, sometimes I produce it, sometimes I review it. And part of living that life, according to my philosophy, is mastering its history. So sometimes I write about it. That’s just part of the gig. I’ve always felt that way. Have you ever met a magician? I know quite a few of them. And one thing I’ve observed ACROSS THE BOARD is that they are absolute geeks about the history of their art form — back to EGYPT! — and they’ve always been that way.  And I really feel actors and comedians should aspire to the same level of awareness. They certainly used to. That was the vaudeville way. Sometime around the 1960s, I think many began to cut loose from the moorings.

And contemporary Hollywood has so much to do with that,I think, this severing ties with tradition. And it happened in the same time frame, when “the business” became disconnected from its mother art, the theatre, and when self-respect became secondary to the bottom-line — a bottom line in a culture where everyone is racing to the bottom. The kind of thing that’s always bothered me: brilliant comic geniuses like Steve Martin (a philosopher and art collector) and Robin Williams (a Julliard grad) churning out the worst crappy movies for decade after decade…and then throw the art form a bone when they do Waiting for Godot in private for two weeks at Lincoln Center with Bill Irwin. I feel like you have a responsibility to the public, man. A great quote from the late Edward Albee (thanks Yvonne Roen!): “Don’t GIVE the people what they want. TELL them what they want.” Be a leader — LEAD. Make the culture better. Don’t degrade yourself. Especially when you’re a Hollywood player with wealth, power and fame at your disposal.

So what I love about Emadi is not that he’s an egghead — he’s actually a stand-up comedian. And he’s also studying clown in France. It won’t ruin him. So did Sacha Baron Cohen, whom I also admire. And really ultimately, in their way, so did Mack Sennett and Charlie Chaplin. Know whereof you speak and speak it. Anything else is to be a worm. You know what Groucho was doing when he wasn’t lampooning academia in Horsefeathers? He was compulsively reading books.

Fields Fest Lives!

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Hollywood (History), Jugglers, ME, My Shows, PLUGS, Vaudeville etc., W.C. Fields with tags , , , , , , on September 26, 2016 by travsd

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December 25, 2016 will mark the 70th anniversary of the passing from our plane of the great stage and screen comedian W.C. Fields. To mark the occasion we have organized Fields Fest, a festival of talks, screening and other events to celebrate the life and career of the Great Man. Fields Fest is our follow up to the highly successful Marxfest, which took place in May of 2014. 

Here’s some of what we have planned. Stay tuned for updates!:

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Tuesday, November 1, 7:00pm: Launch event at the Lambs: W.C. Fields for President

Did you know that in addition to being one of the most popular American entertainers of the 20th century, W.C. Fields was also a proud member of The Lambs? The clubhouse will once again be filled with the stories and charm so often on display from Fields during a special night on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. The team behind the upcoming stage show W.C. Fields For President (based on the humor book Fields for President, recently re-released with a new forward by Dick Cavett) will present a night devoted to the showman’s legacy. The event will bring to The Lambs actor-circus performer Glen Heroy, star of the one-man show, and its writer-director, the mountebank Trav S.D. (author of No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous), and Lauren Milberger, as Gracie Allen!. A suggested donation of $10 supports The Lambs Foundation. 3 West 51st Street. www.the-lambs.org. Attendance is limited, RSVP to Kevin Fitzpatrick, kevin [AT ]fitzpatrickauthor.com.

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Thursday, November 17, 7:00pm: Hear and Now with Rachel Cleary

Trav S.D. and Glen Heroy (of W.C. Fields for President) will appear on Rachel Cleary’s Radio Free Brooklyn show. Listen to it here: http://radiofreebrooklyn.com/show/hear-and-now-with-rachel-c/

Fields and his comedy cohorts from the Ziegfeld Follies

Fields and his comedy cohorts from the Ziegfeld Follies

Saturday, Nov. 19, 1:00-3:00 PM: W.C. Fields History Walk
Walk in the footsteps of W.C. Fields and see where he lived, worked, and socialized. This two-hour walk is led by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, author of The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide (Globe Pequot) and Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide (Lyons Press). See more than a dozen locations associated with his life and times in a spirited walk. Meeting point: in front of the Shubert Theatre, Shubert Alley (44th Street between 7th and 8th avenues). The walk will encompass approximately 25 blocks, so wear comfortable shoes. The walk is open to the public. Kids, strollers, and dogs welcome. Buy tickets in advance by emailing Kevin: kevin [at] fitzpatrickauthor (dot) com. Tickets are $20.00 each.

 

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Tuesday, November 22, 7:30pm: The Bank Dick (1940)

The classic Fields film, introduced by Dr. Harriet Fields, W.C.’s only granddaughter and global health activist, at the Cinema Arts Center, Huntington Long Island: www.cinemaartscentre.org

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Young Fields in his days as a vaudeville tramp juggler

Thursday, December 1, 6:30pm: “W.C. Fields in Vaudeville”

Trav S.D. talks about the great comedian’s early years in show business as a juggler in vaudeville and a revue comedian, and the many ways those experiences influenced his later motion pictures. The talk will be illustrated and will draw from the author’s research on the comedian for his blog Travalanche (travsd.wordpress.com) and his popular book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous. At the Mid-Manhattan Branch of NY Public Library, 455 Fifth Ave, Sixth Floor. FREE

"Sally of the Sawdust" (1925)

“Sally of the Sawdust” (1925)

Saturday, December 10 1.30pm: “W.C. Fields in Astoria: The Paramount Silents”

Many people know that W.C. Fields had one of the most distinctive speaking voices of the classic comedy era. What they may not realize is that prior to the advent of talking pictures, Fields was a SILENT comedy star. From 1924 through 1928 he appeared in ten Paramount features filmed at that studio’s Astoria Queens facility. In this illustrated talk author and lecturer Trav S.D. takes you up close to this lesser known stretch of the Great Man’s career, and shows how much of Fields’ silent work presaged his better known talkies. At Greater Astoria Historical Society, Queens: www.astorialic.org

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Monday, December 12, 7pm: “W.C. Fields: From Dime Museums to the Jazz Age” an illustrated talk by Trav S.D., sponsored by Zelda Magazine

A look at screen comedian W.C. Fields’ growth from humble sideshow and dime museum juggler to sketch comedian and one of the biggest stars of sophisticated Broadway revues like the Ziegfeld Follies, George White’ Sandals and Earl Carrol’s Vanities. Along the way meet the glittering stars he shared the limelight with like Louise Brooks, Fanny Brice, Will Rogers and Eddie Cantor. Admission: $8. Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn NY

Sunday, December 25, 4pm: W.C. Fields Memorial Pub Crawl

The culminating event of Fields Fest, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the day in which The Great Man met the Man in the Bright Night Gown. Location TBA

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Thursday, December 29, 7:00pm: The Man on the Flying Trapeze

A screening of Field’s often overlooked 1935 Paramount classic The Man on the Flying Trapeze at Metrograph. Celebrity guest speaker TBA.

Summering in Newport

Posted in AMERICANA, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, ME, My Family History, Travel/ Tourism, VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2016 by travsd

OK, here’s our latest vacation slide show post! By now, it’s become a regular content stream here.  We’ve done Ireland (Galway & Dublin), New Orleans (a 5 part series), Salem, Burlington, Providence, and too many staycation destinations here in NYC to list. This past week was the Mad Marchioness’s birthday, but my time was somewhat limited by the fact that I am in rehearsals for The Iron Heel. So our trip needed to be close and the time spent getting there needed to be short. Our solution was to do what New Yorkers (of a class far more exalted than ours)  did back in the Gilded Age — make for the shores of nearby Newport, Rhode Island. We both had special childhood memories of visiting the mansions there. And in addition to loving art and history and the beauty of nature, the Marchioness loves restaurants, and there is a very high number of good ones there.

And of course the place has some personal connections for me. I’m from the area. I have some ancestors among the town’s founders (see below) and I spent a very crucial summer there 30 years ago saving up the money that would get me (partway) through theatre school, which then launched me to New York.  As I blogged here, I worked for a man named Michael Shorrock in the summer of 1986, making and hawking tee shirts in Rhode Island’s two principal resorts of Block Island and Newport. These are the only known photos of me during that time. I was 20 and working some party at a Newport mansion (giving away custom tee shirts as party favors):

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The visor says “Tall Ships, ’86” — it makes sense that there would be another tall ship display a decade after the Bicentennial.

 

Bellevue manor sign

At any rate, we went into the Belly of the Sea-Beast last week, and I do believe we managed to sample each of Newport’s “Nine Cities” which Thornton Wilder wrote about in his novel Theophilus North.

We stayed at a highly eccentric complex called the Inns on Bellevue, in a charming 19th century guest house.  “Charming” is our customary euphemism for no shampoo, unlaundered towels, a loud upstairs neighbor, a tv at a 90 degree angle to the bed (not the first time we’ve encountered this quirk) and a leaky toilet. The latter was the worst problem (use your imagination) and so we requested a move to a different room. We liked the new space better, with the one exception being the fact that the shower was in the bedroom! It was only mildly perturbing, mostly just surreal. It’s very disorienting to look over from bed and see a shower stall with no wall or curtain in between. The line between “New England charm” and “mental illness” can sometimes be very fine.

Benedict Arnold windmill

But we were in the perfect location, one of the reasons I chose the place. For one thing, we were about half a block from one of Newport’s best known landmarks, the Newport Tower. For many years, there was a spurious but popular theory abroad that the structure had been built by Vikings before the time of Columbus. On the other hand, locals have pretty much always known what it always was, a stone windmill built by Rhode Island’s first colonial governor Benedict Arnold, great-grandfather of the eponymously named traitor, and a distant relation of mine. The fact that the tower is located on Mill Road might give some clue. Still it wasn’t until carbon dating by some killjoys in the 1990s that the Viking theory was officially disproved. Still, this tower is the reason so many businesses in the area have the name Viking. (Our guest house was across from the Viking Hotel, for example).

We were pretty wiped out when we arrived, but we were also starving and eager to site-see, so we headed down the hill to Bowen’s Wharf and grabbed some seafood at the Wharf Pub, which was having a promotion for? Brooklyn Brewery. There’s no escape!

Then we roamed around the docks, where it became necessary to take this photo:

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Somehow we got a second wind and took a LONG walk down Thames Street, past  countless seafood joints and watering holes, both fancy and divey, heard countless bad cover musicians, passed many a boat-yard, and roamed around an antique shop in an old armory.

Trav at breakfast

Complimentary breakfast at the inn. For once, the Marchioness was up and at ’em and eager to get started long before me. That never happens! This picture illustrates my slow attempts to attain her energy level.

Our inn was just a short bus ride from all of the mansions, with the vast majority of them literally located on the same street, Bellevue Ave. We headed first for the Breakers, which was the farthest away, and the one we had both visited previously in our childhoods. Built as the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895, it’s the largest and most garish and gaudy of the mansions, built in an Italian Renaissance style, but with interiors that are a sort of vulgar mish-mash of whatever European plunder from whatever time period that Vanderbilt could get his hands on. This was intimated to us by our teachers as schoolchildren, but I’m sure most of us still just went, “I want a house like THIS some day!” I know I did. But this time I felt myself more interested in the butler’s pantry and kitchen. A changed perspective.

Anyway, for this reason and others, if at all possible I would recommend that travelers see this house LAST, so that you can see the smaller and simpler houses for context and comprehend what you’re even looking at. The Breakers was designed to be the last word in conspicuous opulence, in Newport, at least, so it is better to see all the other houses it attempts to outdo FIRST.

Ironically, one of the most gorgeous things about the Breakers is the view from the inside looking OUT:

Breakers ocean view

And the house’s exterior is tasteful if imposing. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt.

Breakers from lawn

I was much more enamored of Marble House, built by Cornelius’s brother William K. Vanderbilt in 1892, just a few years prior. It was also designed by Richard Morris Hunt in the Beaux-Arts style.  Its name comes from the marble used on the building’s exterior, which was inspired by Versailles. My favorite spot was the nautical trophy room, full of souvenirs from William’s yachting activities. Apparently lots of Frenchmen like to come there and put their grubby hands on things:

vanderbilt ship wheel

Some other interesting features include a spectacular staircase that was used in the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby (in which one of the teachers at my high school was an extra), the Chinese Tea House on the back lawn, and the dark, atmospheric Gothic Room which has the atmosphere of a church.

Interestingly, three years after it opened, the Vanderbilts divorced. The mansion was already in Alva Vanderbilt’s name — she’d been given the house as a birthday present. She went on to marry Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont (to whom I am distantly related on his mother’s side) and became the mistress of Belcourt, another Richard Morris Hunt mansion. Belcourt was still open as a museum until recently. In 2012, it was sold to private owners(!) This struck me as a startling tipoff as to where wealth equality is headed in this country. In similar news, that same year Beechwood, the Astor’s Newport Mansion which was also long a living history museum, was sold to billionaire Larry Ellison but he reportedly intends to turn it into an art museum.

From here we went to Rosecliff  which opened in 1902 and was designed by McKim, Mead and White. I definitely recognized some of the interiors in this house from that same movie of The Great Gatsby (e.g., the scene where they are sitting in a sun room at Tom and Daisy’s and the sea breeze is wafting the curtains). At Rosecliff we heard tales of decadent parties with the likes of Houdini as entertainment, and scandalous guests such as a chimpanzee who swung from the chandeliers. These bashes were intended to compete with the annual balls thrown by Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish at her Newport mansion Crossways, a house which still stands but now houses condominiums.

By now, we were footsore and starved so we went and had seafood at a place called The Landing on Bowen Wharf

Carolyn at restaurant (2)

From here we stayed closer to the old town waterfront. We visited the modest Museum of Newport History, located in an Old Brick Market built in the 1760s.

Gardiner Thurston

There I found this portrait of Rev. Gardner Thurston (1728-1802), pastor of Newport’s Second Baptist Church, and a distant relative. Our mutual ancestor is Edward Thurston (1620-1707) one of Newport’s founders (see below)

James franklin's press

This is apropos of nothing except that I thought it was cool. It is an actual printing press used by James Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s older brother. Ben had been apprenticed to him as a printer in his youth, acquiring skills that allowed him to achieve international prominence as newspaper editor and publisher, and author.

One thing you’ll hear about at this museum (and very few other places in town) is Newport’s past as a slave trading center. Prior to the American Revolution, Newport was America’s fifth largest city, and its wealth came largely from its participation in the Triangle Trade. The city was occupied for a time by the British; a large portion of its population fled and never returned. While Rhode Island had the North’s highest per capita concentration of slaves of any New England colony or state, it was gradually banned by legislation in 1784 (an effort driven largely by local Quakers). In the 19th century, after the last of the slaves had died, the town’s connection to the hated practice continued when the first millionaires who made their summer homes here were Southern slaveholders who came North for the cool breezes. This ceased with the advent of the Civil War. Thereafter Newport would be the playground of the rich from New York and Boston. At any rate, I’ll be blogging more about my home state’s complicity in the slave trade as a follow up to this broader one about the North. 

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Photo by Marchioness

Drinks were in order at this stage; we had them at the colonially themed Clarke Cooke House on Bannister’s Wharf. where we sat and listened to some exceedingly cheesy preppies bleat loudly about the things they bought and owned — a vital part of the Newport experience.

Then we took the first of our two boat rides, this time the 55 minute loop on the Newport Harbor Shuttle. We shared the boat most of the way with three giggling drunk ladies and received interesting information from the vessel’s pilot/ tour guide Paul. The coolest sight we saw on this trip was the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry which was moored just outside Fort Adams. 

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It’s not so visible in my photo but there was a crew of student sailors aloft in the mast; the ship is used for training — in the unlikely event you will be able able to secure a job as a crew member of a 19th century sailing ship.

After this we stopped at the historic Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf. I sampled their famous chowder, my third portion of chowder since arriving, I wanted to compare and contrast. Their chowder was okay, but I was more knocked out by their hot buttered rolls — and by the fact that they served hot buttered rolls. 

NEXT DAY

While it may look like we did a lot on our first full day, we enjoyed the second day even more. It began with a little rubbernecking at some places close to our hotel.

We were  startled to stumble upon something called Audrain, a storefront automobile museum. This place (founded 2014) is so new it wasn’t in my guidebook. That’s okay, I can live without visiting an automobile museum (and why do they have one in Newport?) but we ended up seeing it anyway. The entire display (it’s an admittedly gorgeous and impressive collection) is visible from the street through the windows for free. Someone should tell these novice exhibitors to invest in some curtains and some very good signs or they’ll lose a lot of potential admission fees.

We also looked at the famous Newport Casino, designed by McKim, Mead and White in 1880, the site of the first U.S. Opens and, since 1954 the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. We had a peek around back and caught a glimpse of the charming, impressive tennis stadium, which you’d never dream exists from the modest looking streetfront (undoubtedly by design, for it started out as a private club):

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From thence we went to nearby Kingscote, which we absolutely loved. Without reservation, I would recommend this as the FIRST stop in any tour of Newport mansions. It provides a crucial foundation for the history of all that came after. Originally built in 1839 by Southern plantation owner George Noble Jones, it was acquired during the Civil War by China Trade merchant William Henry King and remained in his family for nearly a century. The primary style is Gothic revival; the main house was designed by Richard Upjohn, with more modern additions later by McKim, Mead and White (one of their first commissions). Among the pleasures (besides the Gothic atmosphere we so deeply love) is the fact that the house was acquired by preservationists when its last private owner died with great suddenness in 1973. This meant that all of the family belongings (books, china, art, silver, etc) were still inside and were acquired along with the house. It looks and feels like a home that somebody lived in…and that is a major part of the context it’s hard to get a feel for in those later, larger mansions.

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Then came what I can safely say was the highlight of our trip, a visit to the too-little known National Museum of American Illustration. I can’t say enough good things about this experience — our jaws were dropping. The experience is a double whammy. First, it is located in the gorgeous 1898 mansion Vernon Court, designed by the firm of Carrere and Hastings (who also designed the Frick), so at its base level it’s yet another house tour (of an extremely tasteful and beautiful house). But…on top of that, it’s full to the rafters with original paintings and drawings by so many of the American illustrators the Marchioness and I both love: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Charles Dana Gibson, James Montgomery Flagg, John Clymer, and many others.  And also, there were countless John Rogers sculptures, a not entirely dissimilar artistic phenomenon. Our eyes were popping out of our heads. This place deserves to be better known. It’s relatively new — founded in 1998, by polymath collectors Laurence and Judy Cutler. We don’t just want to go back, we want to live there. Not so much for the mansion as for the art. I declare the National Museum of American Illustration the most significant museum of Rhode Island, more important in its way than the RISD museum.  The benchmark for this bold statement being, “What museum has the sort of collection that you HAVE to go to this particular museum to see? And WOULD you travel to this museum to see it?” Not to pick on the RISD Museum, I love it, but it is the sort of place I might pop into if I happened to be in town. But I might easily be persuaded to travel 180 miles JUST to see the Illustration Museum.

But we had places to see and…places to see.

The last (and my favorite) of the big mansions we saw was The Elms, built by coal magnate Edward Julius Berwind in 1901, designed by Horace Traumbauer in the style of a French chateau. A bit slavishly perhaps. It seems a very faithful copy to my untutored eye, and that was what I liked about it. There seems to be more taste in its conception and very little monkey business. The house is full of art, prints, paintings, sculpture, tapestry, but it all seems appropriate, it seems to fit organically. (Although the Marchioness was amused by the bust of Caesar presiding over the dining room table from a nearby mantelpiece. As she observed, these houses seem designed to intimidate one’s enemies as much as anything else). Here she is surveying the grounds in her new birthday sun hat.

Elms

After a quick and cheap lunch at Griswold’s Tavern (the meaning of whose name we wouldn’t learn until the next next day), it was on to the day’s next big event: a harbor sail on the schooner Aquidneck. 

schooner Aquidneck

This was just a pleasant 90 minute excursion around the harbor, scheduled at dusk for maximum beauty. The crew of three not only manned the sails, but kept topping off our complimentary cups of champagne. It’s the only way to travel. I had never actually sailed before (not even on a sunfish), so it was a wonderful experience for me when the canvas was unfurled and the vessel began to move ahead silently, with the engines cut. It was quite magical.

aquidneck sail

A view of the Newport bridge from Narragansett Bay:

newport bridge from bay

The birthday girl in restful repose:

Carolyn on sail boat

A lousy photo of Fort Adams State Park: (So close and yet so far! The Newport Folk Festival was opening the next day, featuring a pair of our favorite entertainers Flight of the Conchords, but we had to get back to the city, and it was sold out anyway):

fort adams

Hammersmith Farm, the family home of Jackie Bouvier (Kennedy Onassis). It was formerly opened to visitors…but now is not. Interestingly, it’s virtually next door to a house that Eisenhower used as a summer White House.

Hammersmith Farm

We capped off the evening with the Marchioness’s birthday dinner at the historic White Horse Tavern, established in 1673. It was easily the best food I ate during our stay, and the unseemly faces I made while I consumed it hopefully communicated my appreciation.

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Amusingly, while were were surrounded by pewter and stoneware and colonial antique furniture, the music being piped in was Sinatra and Tony Bennett — the combination felt very Rhode Island.

NEXT DAY

Last day! And for once I woke up early enough to spend a couple of hours taking some history snaps around the city while the Marchioness slept in. I basically had the town to myself, the only sounds were me and the sea gulls. It was lovely.

Touro synagogue

This is Touro Synagogue, a source of pride for any Rhode Islander with half a brain. It is the oldest synagogue in the country; and America’s second oldest Jewish congregation. It eventually dawned on us why we saw the occasional Orthodox families running around this still-WASP-ish enclave. They were making a pilgrimage!

WASP or no WASP, I feel a close affinity to this congregation, for its founders and my own ancestors came to this place for the very same reason. As I blogged here, Rhode Island is one of the first places to make true freedom of worship the law of the land.

Because I am descended from colonial Newport Quakers like Christopher Holder and Edward Thurston, and am related to the Hopkins family (you may recall the Quaker Stephen Hopkins from the musical 1776), I took great interest in this:

Quaker mtg house 4

The Freinds’ Meeting House was interesting:  huge and barn-like, unlike any other buildings in the area, reminding me of places much farther afield like Pennsylvania (which makes sense) or the South.

Quaker mtg house 3

 

quaker mtg house 1

In surroundings such as these, one might be forgiven for mistaking Quakers for Houyhnhnms (look it up).

Also, there is this. Newport’s United Baptist Church is essentially the second Baptist church in America. The oldest, in Providence was of course the one founded by Roger Williams, my (10th) great grandfather who fled persecution not only in England but also in Massachusetts and Plymouth. My (9th) great grandfather Obadiah Holmes was one of the first pastors at the Newport branch.

Baptist Church 1

 

Baptist Church 2

After this I managed to locate the remains of one of my ancestors in tiny Coddington Cemetery:

Coddington cemetery (edward thurston)

Here is the marker for my (10th) great grandfather Edward Thurston:

Edward Thurston grave

It is amazing how much maintenance these markers require. Thurston’s is covered with lichen at the moment. But here is a photo of the same stone someone took a few years ago:

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I also walked to the outskirts of town to the Common Burying Ground where I know many of my relatives are interred. But there are 5,000 graves there, and no time to sort through them all. So after a brief sweep, I pressed on.

It seems like almost every house in Newport has a sign telling its age and its original inhabitants, and the surnames are more often than not names from my family tree. In most cases I’ll go out on a limb and say I and those people will be related, with earlier colonial ancestors in common. (Most of these historical houses are from the 18th or early 19th century. The common ancestors would be from the 17th century.) I photographed a couple, but quickly realized it was silly…there were too many. But this one is particularly interesting:

Wantan Lyman Hazard 2

The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House is the oldest house in Newport (built c. 1697). I am related both to its original builder and owner Stephen Mumford, and to a later owner Daniel Lyman, a Revolutionary War soldier and Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

 

Wantan Lyman Hazard 3

And, just becuz, here’s St. Mary’s Church, where JFK married Jackie. It is the first Catholic parish in the now heavily Catholic State of Rhode Island, dating from the early 19th century (more evidence of Rhode Island’s religious tolerance):

 

St Marys

This is the tee shirt shop I mentioned above, where I worked to earn the money to go to theatre school. I had to hunt for ages to find this place. It had been 30 years!  It’s a pretty crucial piece of my life. If only I’d known about my family history in the area at that time — I only dug out these facts about a year ago.

tee shirt shop

Okay! Now the Marchioness was up, and so we squeezed in a couple of additional museums before we catch our train. Both were practically next door to our hotel.

The first was the WONDERFUL Redwood Library and Athenaeum, established in 1747. This is just the kind of quirky local institution  I can’t get enough of. A private membership library and club, and public museum. Its merits are too many to name: the building itself was designed by America’s first architect Peter Harrison, and there are the library’s original collection of centuries-old books, and antique clocks, and 18th century portraits by local artists with national reputations like Charles Bird King (from Newport) and Gilbert Stuart (who is from just across the bay in Saunderstown). And there was a traveling exhibition in the space, about mid 20th century futuristic car design, on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. But because of the weird multipurpose nature of the institution, the place had a sort of tension which I relished. There was a very funny portrait on the wall of a minister with crossed-eyes. I wanted to show it to my girlfriend so we could laugh together about it, but there were two club members sitting in high backed chairs, scowling, reading the newspaper and clearing their throats.

The last place we visited was sadly the least impressive. The Newport Art Museum may have enjoyed the early support and involvement of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and may have shown many important artists over the years, but its mission may be said to be more artist-friendly than visitor-friendly. Its mission seems to be to support work by contemporary local artists. And we did see some interesting work. But we were in town for the history. Maybe if we lived there, we’d find it more engaging. By the way, this museum is located in the John N.A. Griswold House, designed by Richard Morris Hunt (which is reason the pub we mentioned above bears the name — it is across the street). the Griswold House and Redwood Library feel of a piece and of a time with nearby Kingscote, an earlier era than the monster mansions up the way.

At any rate, shortly after this we came down off our cloud and boarded the bus for home. And if there is anything that will bring you down to earth, it’s taking the bus.

 

 

 

Windows on the Bowery

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, ME, PLUGS, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2016 by travsd

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The Bowery Alliance of Neighbors has just launched their terrific new “Windows on the Bowery”” project, to which I was honored to contribute in a small way. To learn all about the who, what, where and why of the project read my new article in The Villager here. 

I was at the project’s launch event at Cooper Union this past Tuesday (July 5, 2016) and documented it for your delectation:

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The indefatigable David Mulkins of Bowery Alliance of Neighbors gives remarks.

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A good crowd of press, dignitaries and public for a Monday morning! Among those assembled: feminist scholar and author (and longtime Bowery resident) Kate Millett, poet and novelist Paul Pines, and the grandsons of Eddie Cantor (see below) and CBGB’s Hilly Kristal

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Cooper Union’s Mindy Lang, who headed up the design aspects of the project

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I wrote the text for the panel in the upper right quadrant!

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Likewise, I wrote the text for the panel in the upper right quadrant here as well!

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Your awkward correspondent with Brian Gari, Eddie Cantor’s grandson, a talented entertainer in his own right

 

Mulkins dishes it out to NY-1

Mulkins dishes it out to NY-1

When the press conference wrapped, I took a little stroll down the Bowery to see which of the storefront signs I could spot. We had done a similar excursion before when we took our Bowery Ghost Walk, but this time we took pictures some of what we came across.

 

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See the photo below for a close-up which reveals the identity of this once notorious location, which will ring a bell for fans of Luc Sante’s “Low Life”.

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Somewhere around here I passed the Bowery Mission. I was sorely tempted to take a picture of the long line of men I saw waiting at its door, but shrank from the task as bad manners, which is only one reason why I’m a bad photographer. But it did occur to me that my Villager article is skewed towards the Bowery’s entertainment history. The fact is that charitable missions and flophouses are an important part of its storied past as well.

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This location might be of interest to fans of my book “No Applause” seeing as how it was….

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This one tickled me mightily for it is a beer hall, not dishonoring in any way the space’s former occupant, which was…

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This one didn’t have a sign, it’s just a cool old business that’s been in the Bowery for ages, and I was in a picture taking mood

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One of the few remaining architectural links to the Bowery of old. The Bowery Savings Bank at 130 Bowery was designed by McKim, Mead & White and opened in 1895

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Down the street at Bowery and Canal is the HSBC Bank, which has an interior display of many of the placards describing the lower end of the famous thoroughfare:

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I’ve noticed this building many a time without suspecting its significance. In many cities and towns it probably wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but in NYC, where most old buildings have been torn down, it stands out. See what makes it distinctive below:

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Most of today’s Bowery is now Chinatown, and given the delicious aromas emerging from this bakery, it was hard to imagine any real regrets about the transformation. But what was here before was also cool:

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Chatham Square is where I peeled off and made for the Brooklyn Bridge and home. But know that the are DOZENS more of these signs in addresses all down the Bowery! It’s well worth the excursion for NYC history buffs, especially now that the weather is nice! And once again my full background article on this project is here.

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