At the 49th Street Theatre, mid-town Manhattan, April 30th, 1922…

…writer Robert Benchley, 32, is relieved.

He’s just come off stage after performing his one-man skit, “The Treasurer’s Report,” in his friends’ one-off revue, No Sirree! That went well, he thinks.

Preceding Benchley on stage was a chorus line of short women, including Tallulah Bankhead, 20, and Helen Hayes, 21, dancing around his friend, 6 feet 8 inches tall Robert Sherwood, just turned 26, singing “The Everlastin’ Ingenue Blues,” written by their drinking buddy and former co-worker when they all worked at Vanity Fair, Dorothy Parker, 28.

We’ve got the blues, we’ve got the blues,

We believe we said before we’ve got the blues.

We are little flappers, never growing up,

And we’ve all of us been flapping since Belasco was a pup.

We’ve got the blues, we mean the blues,

You’re the first to hear the devastating news.

We’d like to take a crack at playing Lady Macbeth,

But we’ll whisper girlish nothings with our dying breath.

As far as we’re concerned, there is no sting in death

We’ve got those everlasting ingénue blues.”

The show is for an invited audience and going well, but thank God they decided to do it as a joke for just one night. They named it after one of the hottest revues currently on Broadway, La Chauve-Souris.

Expected to contribute something, Benchley had finished off writing his part in the taxi on the way over. He thought it was pretty funny; the audience liked it. Right now, he’s just really glad he won’t have to do it again.

Bench Treas Report

Robert Benchley filmed doing The Treasurer’s Report

Here is a link to the short film, The Treasurer’s Report, for Fox Movietone (1928): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edlpn3CnqaQ

In the film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), there is a scene showing parts of No Sirree!, including a short piece of “The Everlastin’ Ingenue Blues”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMX6BubBwmM

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At the offices of Vanity Fair magazine, mid-town Manhattan, June 25th, 1920…

…the theatre critic Dorothy Parker, 26, is packing up her desk. It’s her last day.

When the editor, Frank Crowninshield, just turned 48, had met her in the tea lounge of the Plaza Hotel a few weeks ago, he told her that their regular critic, PG Wodehouse, 38, was coming back. But she knew that wasn’t the reason she was being sacked. Parker had pissed off too many powerful Broadway producers with her nasty comments. She proceeded to order the most expensive desert on the menu. Crowninshield was paying.

That evening she had called her office mate, managing editor Robert Benchley, 30, and he immediately took the next train into the city from his family home in Scarsdale.

They had sat up that night drinking with her husband, going over all the crap that had been happening at the magazine over the past few weeks. One of the other writers, Robert Sherwood, 24, with whom they had begun to lunch regularly at the nearby Algonquin Hotel, had been let go as well.

The next day, Benchley had handed in his resignation, telling Crowninshield that the job wasn’t attractive enough without Parker and Sherwood.

Dorothy was stunned. Benchley had a wife and kids in the suburbs to support.

Now, as she was leaving her full-time, salaried writing job, heading out to the insecure world of free-lancing in New York City, all Parker could think about was Benchley. She later told her friends at lunch,

It was the greatest act of friendship I’d known…’

vanity-fair-cover-june-1920

Vanity Fair, June 1920

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At the Algonquin Hotel, mid-town Manhattan, June 1919…

…New York City’s top newspaper and magazine writers have all been invited for lunch.

Earlier this month, press agent John Peter Toohey, 39, searching for a way to promote his young client, playwright Eugene O’Neill, 30, had set up a lunch with New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 32, just returned from France. At lunch, Alex, who weighed only 195 for the last time in his life, had no interest in talking about anyone but himself and his recent exploits in the “theatre of war,” of which he was inordinately proud.

To get back at Woollcott for monopolizing that meeting, and to get more publicity, Toohey had decided to invite all the other well-known critics from New York’s many publications to a big gathering at the hotel—all 12 dailies in Manhattan and five in Brooklyn.

Thirty-five have showed up! So hotel manager Frank Case, 49, has put them all at a big round table in the back of the dining room.

Dorothy Parker, 25, is here as the drama critic at Vanity Fair, wearing her best suit, and she had insisted that her new co-worker Robert Benchley, 29, come along. Sports writer Heywood Broun, 30, and his wife, Ruth Hale, 32, are here. Parker had met him, a vague acquaintance of her sister, one summer a few years before. The dean of New York columnists, FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 37] is here as a personal friend of Woollcott.

When lunch is over, Toohey–or somebody–says, “Why don’t we do this every day?”

And so they did. For the next nine years.

hirshfield alg

 

The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld. Left to right at main table, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, FPA. On the other side of the table, left to right, Robert Sherwood, George S Kaufman, and Edna Ferber.

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At 31 Rue Campagne Premiere, Montparnasse, Paris, mid-February, 1930…

…Ex-patriate photographer Man Ray, 39, is going through his mail.

He’s pleased to find a letter from a fellow American, writer Gertrude Stein, just turned 56. He had recently written to her,

Dear Gertrude Stein,

I am leaving in four days and need all the money I can get together for the south.

May I ask you to send me a cheque for 500 frs. for the last serie[s] of photographs?

With many thanks,

Yours

Man Ray’

When he opens the envelope, he is disappointed to find only his own note returned to him. Gertrude has written on the same piece of paper:

Kindly remember that you offered to take the last series of portraits the first time you saw my dog. Kindly remember that I have always refused to sit for anyone to photograph me in order to give you the exclusive rights. Kindly remember that you have never been asked to give me any return for your sale of my photographs. My dear Man Ray, we are all hard up but don’t be silly about it…’

Stein and basket by Man Ray

Gertrude Stein and her dog, Basket, by Man Ray

At the website for the Yale University Library, http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3477184, you can see photos of the actual letters between Stein and Ray, including the two quoted above on pages 30-31.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At 27 rue de Fleurus, on the Left Bank of Paris, Christmas Eve, 1926…

…American novelist Sherwood Anderson, 50, is enjoying the annual party given by his fellow Americans, Gertrude Stein, 52, and Alice B. Toklas, 49. His wife Elizabeth, just turned 42, is a bit intimidated as she has not been to the legendary salon before, but Alice has taken her aside for a chat. As she always does with the wives of writers.

Over there is American composer Virgil Thomson, 30, and Sherwood and Elizabeth’s son and daughter appear to be enjoying themselves. But it is awfully hot, due to the new radiators Gertrude and Alice have had installed.

Sherwood is pleasantly surprised that the hottest American writer of them all, Ernest Hemingway, 27, isn’t there. Since Anderson had given Hemingway a letter of introduction to Stein a few years ago, the younger novelist had trashed his benefactor with a vicious parody novel, The Torrents of Spring.

andersonSherwood Anderson

Stein and Anderson had talked about Hemingway, and as she wrote later, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,

[They] are very funny on the subject of Hemingway. The last time that Sherwood was in Paris they often talked about him. Hemingway had been formed by the two of them and they were both a little proud and a little ashamed of the work of their minds.’

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

On the Left Bank of Paris, in June, 1927…

…ex-patriate American composer Virgil Thomson, 30, is excited to begin his next project. He has commissioned fellow American Gertrude Stein, 53, to write a libretto for an opera. And now he has received her text.

Gertrude has been working on this since March and, as he expected, having already set some of her shorter works to music, it’s not exactly traditional.

Virgil and Gert working together

Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein working together

Stein and Thomson had decided that the subject would be saints. Maybe four.

Gertrude has written a story about 20 of them, although focusing on two, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Teresa of Avila. Virgil is thinking that he may have to write parts for two St. Teresas. And maybe a master and a mistress of ceremonies could actually sing Stein’s stage directions.

Overall, he likes it. Virgil can see in Gertrude’s characters the creative people they all know on the Left Bank, who come to Stein’s salon on rue de Fleurus.

From Four Saints in Three Acts by Gertrude Stein

Pigeons on the grass alas.
Pigeons on the grass alas.
Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass. Pigeons
large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the
grass.
If they were not pigeons what were they.
If they were not pigeons on the grass alas what were they. He had
heard of a third and he asked about it it was a magpie in the sky.
If a magpie in the sky on the sky can not cry if the pigeon on the
grass alas can alas and to pass the pigeon on the grass alas and the
magpie in the sky on the sky and to try and to try alas on the
grass alas the pigeon on the grass the pigeon on the grass and alas.
They might be very well they might be very well very well they might
be.
Let Lucy Lily Lily Lucy Lucy let Lucy Lucy Lily Lily Lily Lily
Lily let Lily Lucy Lucy let Lily. Let Lucy Lily.

Beagles on the grass

In the late 1970s I was privileged to meet Virgil Thomson and shake his hand. Thank you, David Stock. RIP.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In Madrid, Spain, in June of 1923…

…ex-pat American writer and publisher Bob McAlmon, 27, is watching his first bullfight.

McAlmon came here with his new American buddies from Paris, Ernest Hemingway, 23, and his pregnant wife, Hadley, 31, and publisher Bill Bird, 35. Hem had heard of the glories of the bullring from his mentor in Paris, writer Gertrude Stein, 49, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 46. McAlmon is thinking that Hemingway is enjoying this spectacle just because Stein said he should.

Bob is not sure if he is enjoying it, though. Yeah, they’ve got the top seats and the top liquor—but that’s because he’s paying for everything! Ever since Bob’s Paris friends found out that he and his British wife Bryher, 28, are living off her substantial inheritance, they all expect him to pick up the tab.

McAlmon is also paying for the publication of Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, due to come out in a few months from McAlmon’s new Contact Press. Bryher’s family money is supporting that too.

But that’s an investment. Bob thinks he might make some money out of the books some day. But certainly not out of the bullfights.

HemingwayMcAlmon-630x527

Bob McAlmon, left, and his new BFF Ernest Hemingway at the bullfight in Madrid, 1923

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In Juan-les-Pins, on the French Riviera, in February, 1926…

 

…novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 29, is reassured by his editor at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins, 41, that there is great hope for his newest book, All the Sad Young Men, a collection of short stories, most of which have been published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Fitzgerald had written to Perkins that he was worried the book wouldn’t sell even 5000 copies. But Perkins responded that he felt the stories were not only commercial, but also literary. One, “Absolution,” was the beginning of what became Scott’s third novel, The Great Gatsby. Published last year, Gatsby has been well received critically, but Fitzgerald is disappointed with the sales. Perkins likes to bring out a short story collection soon after publishing a novel, to capitalize on the author’ popularity.

All the sad young men

Original cover, 1926

In a few months, Fitzgerald is able to write to Charles Scribner, 71, the president of the publishing company,

For the first time in over four years, I am no longer in financial debt to you—or rather I won’t be when the money from my short story book becomes due me. But in another sense I shall always be in your debt—for your unfailing kindness and confidence and obligingness to me in all my exigencies during that time. Never once was I reminded of my obligations which were sometime as high at $4000, with no book in sight.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Perkins’ work with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In New York City, on the morning of February 11th, 1926…

Ernest Hemingway, 26, wakes up and makes his decision.

The day before he had met with Horace Liveright, 42, the publisher of his first book, In Our Time. They had had a pleasant discussion, but confirmed that Liveright could not publish Hemingway’s latest novel, The Torrents of Spring.

In fact, Ernest had purposely written Torrents as a vicious parody of the style of his friend, Sherwood Anderson, 49, Liveright’s top novelist.

This morning, after a sleepless night, Hemingway has decided he will meet with Maxwell Perkins, 41, editor at Scribner’s. Their mutual friend, fellow novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 29, had recommended Hemingway to Scribner’s before they had even met. And Ernest likes the letters he has received from Perkins. He’d written to Scott last year that he preferred Perkins because of his

confidence in Scribner’s and would like to be lined up with you.”

Off to Scribner’s. Time to meet this Perkins fellow…

Scribner’s Building in Manhattan, also seen in the film Birdman

Scribner’s Building in Manhattan, also seen in the film Birdman

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.
Manager as Muse explores Perkins’ work with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available in both print and Kindle versions from Amazon.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At Oxford University, in England, 7th June, 1926…

…American Alice B. Toklas, 49, is watching her partner Gertrude Stein, 52, delivering her lecture entitled ‘Composition as Explanation.’ She’s excited, but a bit nervous for Gertrude.

Last year, when the Cambridge University Literary Society first asked Stein to come speak, as she wrote later,

quite completely upset at the very idea [Stein] quite promptly answered no. Immediately came a letter from Edith Sitwell saying that the no must be changed to yes. That it was of the first importance that Gertrude Stein should deliver this address and that moreover Oxford was waiting for the yes to be given to Cambridge to ask her to do the same at Oxford. There was very evidently nothing to do but to say yes and so Gertrude Stein said yes.’

Back in January, Gertrude had drafted the lecture in a few hours while waiting for the mechanics to fix her Ford, called “Godiva,” because it arrived naked. Then Gertrude had read it to Alice and to friends. And had them read it back to her. She read it and read it and read it.

Gertrude and Alice planned only a short trip to England from their home in Paris, but they did enjoy the dinner party that Sitwell, 38, gave last week in Stein’s honor. They had met writer Virginia Woolf, 44. Gertrude and Alice were hopeful that Woolf would agree to publish the lecture through the Hogarth Press that she ran with her husband, Leonard, 45.

Despite her initial apprehension, Gertrude is a big hit. Alice remembers later,

One of the men was so moved that he confided to me as we went out that the lecture had been his greatest experience since he had read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.’

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in traveling mode, c.1927

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in traveling mode, c.1927

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’