“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, July 2, 1921, Boyle’s Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey; and Tony Soma’s, West 49th Street, New York City, New York

Boxing promoter George “Tex” Rickard, 51, knew that bringing his client, world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, 26, into the ring to defend his title against world light heavyweight champion Georges Carpentier, 27, would draw a big crowd.

Tex Rickard

So big, in fact, that, rather than hold the bout in his usual venue, Madison Square Garden, Rickard has built this new facility, Boyle’s Thirty Acres, across the river in Jersey City, New Jersey, to hold 90,000. Besides, he’s been having a bit of trouble recently with the New York State Boxing Commission and Tammany Hall.

Dempsey has an almost 20-pound weight advantage over the Frenchman. But Rickard has spun the story for the newspapers so that this is seen as a fight between the handsome French war hero, Carpentier, and the American draft dodger [in reality, Dempsey received an exemption for family reasons] who recently divorced his wife. As a result, Tex has more women buying tickets for a boxing match than ever before.

Program from Dempsey Carpentier fight

The winner gets $300,000. The loser, $200,000.

Rickard is hoping that this will be the first million-dollar gate in boxing history. It is the first fight to be sanctioned by the newly organized National Boxing Association. And the first sporting event to be broadcast live in more than 60 cities across the country.

*****

In a Midtown brownstone on West 49th Street, past an iron grille and a locked wooden door with a peephole in it, a group of revellers are drinking illegal booze out of big white coffee cups at tables covered with red checkered cloths.

Tony Soma’s is the speakeasy of choice for the Manhattan writers and editors who lunch regularly a few blocks away at the Algonquin Hotel.

Dorothy Parker, 27, Robert Benchley, 31, and Robert Sherwood, 25, met when they worked together on Vanity Fair magazine. But since a bit of a tiff with management at the beginning of last year, Dottie has been free-lancing, and Benchley and Sherwood are editing the humor magazine, Life.

On this Saturday of a long Fourth of July weekend, they are joined by friends just returned from their first holiday in Europe, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 24, and his pregnant wife, Zelda, 20.

In the New York Evening World, Parker and Benchley’s friend, magazine illustrator Neysa McMein, 33, has sketched Carpentier, calling him “The Pride of Paris,” commenting that Michelangelo “would have fainted for joy with the beauty of his profile.”

Tonight they are all here to listen to the radio broadcast of the “Fight of the Century.” As they always do, Benchley’s friends are urging the teetotaler to at least try some alcohol. How can he be so against something that he’s never tried? Benchley has taken the pledge to not drink, and even voted for Prohibition.

But tonight, he figures, What the hey. He orders an Orange Blossom.

Benchley takes a few sips. He turns to Parker and says,

This place should be closed down by the police.”

Then he orders another.

By the end of the evening, Dempsey has defeated Carpentier in the fourth round. And Orange Blossoms have defeated Robert Benchley.

Recipe for an Orange Blossom:

1 ounce gin

1 ounce fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Orange peel

Shake gin, orange juice, and sugar over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with flamed orange peel.

This recipe from the Robert Benchley Society appears in Under the Table:  A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick [Guilford, CT:  Lyons Press, 2013]

Orange Blossom cocktail

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available in print and e-book format on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh. In the fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London before the Great War in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, May 17, 1921, Hotel Pennsylvania, 401 Seventh Avenue, New York City, New York

This all started back in February.

Ruth Hale, 34, journalist and theatrical agent, received her passport in the mail from the U. S. State Department. It was made out to “Mrs. Broun.”

Ruth Hale

Well, the only “Mrs. Broun” in her Upper West Side house is the cat. So she refused to accept it.

Four years ago, when she agreed to marry fellow journalist and sportswriter Heywood Broun, 32, they agreed she would keep her surname. Which hasn’t been easy. She fights with authorities every time she has to sign anything.

One of her friends, New York Times reporter Jane Grant, 28, is waging the same battle, with some support from her husband, magazine editor Harold Ross, also 28.

Jane Grant

The four of them lunch regularly in midtown at the Algonquin Hotel, with other writers and critics from the city’s major newspapers. And they are often part of late night poker games at Ross and Grant’s apartment. Which Ross expects Grant to clean up after.

At least Hale, who insists on living on a separate floor from Broun in their house, had him agree to split the child care raising their son, Heywood Hale, 3.

The talk at lunch always turns to Hale and Grant complaining about the injustice of being expected to give up their surnames. A few weeks ago, Ross was sick of listening to them and said,

Why don’t you just go hire a hall?”

So here they are at the Hotel Pennsylvania for the founding meeting of the Lucy Stone League.

Ad for the Hotel Pennsylvania

They have managed to cajole some of their other lunch buddies to join, including FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams], 39, the top columnist in Manhattan; Neysa McMein, 33, an illustrator whose apartment has become a favorite haunt for the group; and Beatrice Kaufman, 26, publicist and wife of the playwright George S Kaufman, 31.

Broun joins; Ross doesn’t. And one of their woman friends from the Algonquin gang says no also:  Dorothy Rothschild Parker, 27, tells them,

I married to change my name.”

The Lucy Stone League honors the 19th century suffragist who was the first American woman to use her birth name even after she married. Guess she never needed a passport.

With this group of writers and PR women involved, the League won’t have trouble getting the word out. However, the Times reporter is referring to them as “The Maiden Namers.”

Just nine months ago American women finally secured, through the 19th Amendment, the right to vote in all elections. Among the rights the League’s founders—Hale as President, Grant as Secretary-Treasurer—feel they will have to fight for include opening a bank account, holding a copyright, registering at a hotel, and signing up for a store account, an insurance policy, or a library card.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, September, 1920, 57 West 57th Street, mid-town Manhattan

To be honest, it’s not great.

The apartment that free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 27, is planning to rent at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 57th Street on the Upper West Side, is not great.

But Parker feels that she and her husband, Eddie, also 27, a veteran of the Great War, really need a change.

Currently they are living farther uptown on 71st and West End Avenue. Eddie seems to have his morphine addiction under control, but still drinks. He has started back to work at Paine Webber, and she is selling lots of stories, articles and poems to magazines like Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal.

But the Parkers definitely need a change, and this could be it.

Dorothy has been looking around midtown and hasn’t come up with any better alternatives. One place an agent had shown her was much too big. She told him,

All I need is room enough to lay a hat and a few friends.”

This dusty three-story building, right near the rattling, noisy Sixth Avenue El, has a tiny place available on the top floor.

The Sixth Avenue El

The studios are designed for artists to use, not necessarily live in. One of the illustrators here is Neysa McMein, 32, whose apartment is used as a drinking hangout by many of their mutual friends, writers who lunch regularly at the Algonquin Hotel, right off Sixth Avenue on West 44th Street, a short walk away.

Neysa McMein

Another advantage is the Swiss Alps restaurant, on the ground floor of the building. They deliver.

So Parker is determined to sign a lease and move in with her seed-spilling canary, Onan, her not yet housebroken Scottish terrier, Woodrow Wilson, and her still traumatized husband.

If that doesn’t save this marriage, nothing will.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Read about Dorothy Parker’s ashes being re-interred in New York City here.

My “Such Friends” presentations, Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, and The Founding of the Abbey Theatre, are available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.

This fall I am talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

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

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.