‘Such Friends’:  New York City, May 1917

The May issue of Vanity Fair is on the newsstands in Manhattan.

vanity-fair-cover-may-1917

Vanity Fair, May 1917

On the Upper West Side, lawyer and art collector John Quinn, 46, is eager to get his copy and see in print the article he submitted, ‘James Joyce: A New Irish Novelist.’

Quinn had sent most of his friends copies of the new novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce, 35. Earlier this year, his piece had been rejected by the New York Sun for being too long. So he had submitted it to Vanity Fair, knowing that they did not shy away from challenging their readers. They’d published Gertrude Stein, 43, after all. Vanity Fair had accepted it, offering to donate the $65 fee to an Irish charity of Quinn’s choice.

Ha! Quinn feels he is done with Irish charity, having supported his artist, writer and political friends there financially and morally over the last few years. He told them to give the cash to French war orphans instead.

But Irishman-in-exile Joyce has become his pet project. Quinn had heard his Irish friends talk about him when visiting Dublin almost ten years ago. But it wasn’t till the American ex-patriate poet Ezra Pound, 31, had introduced him to Joyce’s writing that he vowed to champion this new prose in America. Through Pound in London, Quinn had managed to get $100 to a grateful Joyce, ill in Zurich, by buying the original manuscript for A Portrait. Quinn felt that buying manuscripts and paintings from developing writers and artists was a good way to support them as well as increase his own holdings.

Portrait_of_the_Artist_as_a_Young_Man

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Paging through the current issue of Vanity Fair, Quinn finds his article nestled among the ads for perfumes and deodorants, children’s shoes and rubber body suits for weight loss.

Farther down in mid-town, Dorothy Rothschild, 23, is grabbing her copy of Vanity Fair to see her latest poem, ‘Actresses:  A Hate Song’:

I hate actresses.

They get on my nerves.

There are the Adventuresses,

The Ladies with Lavender Pasts.

They wear gowns that show all their emotions,…’

She’s been getting a lot of mileage—and $12 a shot—out of this theme, starting with ‘Men:  A Hate Song’ in the same magazine over a year ago.

Dottie is actually on staff at Vanity Fair’s sister magazine, Vogue, both owned by Conde Nast publishing.  She spends her days writing captions such as,

‘Brevity is the soul of lingerie—as the Petticoat said to the chemise.’  

vogue-cover-may-1917 (1)

Vogue, May 1917

Rothschild would love to switch over to the more literary Vanity Fair, and submits poems to get their attention. But mostly she is thinking about her upcoming wedding to Wall Street stock broker Edwin Pond Parker II, 24, about a month away.

Is this a good time to get married? Just last month, America entered the war in Europe! At least she will be able to change her name.

Also in midtown, looking through this month’s issue, is another sometime Vanity Fair contributor, Robert Benchley, 27. In ‘The Alcoholic Drama’ he reviews a roundup of plays, including one he wasn’t so impressed with:

Somehow it drags. One has plenty of time…to look about the house and see who is there, and then come back to the play, without missing a stroke.’

Benchley has just been fired along with all his colleagues on the New York Tribune Magazine. He’d loved that job. They’d even encouraged him to play a corpse in a play so he could write an article about it.

But the publishers of the Tribune are big supporters of America’s involvement in the war, so they’d gotten rid of any staff who disagreed. Benchley is a pacifist; and with a wife and 18-month old son in the suburbs, he is exempt from military service.

Bob had seen the disaster coming, so has applied for a rumoured opening at Vanity Fair. But the editor is vague about whether this will materialize, so Benchley is thinking of creative ways to free-lance. Writing articles for the Atlantic Monthly, advertising copy, movie titles. Even becoming a press agent for Broadway shows.

Quinn instructs the staff in his Nassau Street law office to send copies of Vanity Fair out to a list of his acquaintances. He wants to do everything he can to promote Joyce and his writing.

But he also has to get ready for the dinner party he is giving tonight. On Pound’s suggestion, he has invited the editors of a literary magazine based in Greenwich Village, The Little Review, Margaret Anderson, 30, and Jane Heap, 34, to dine that evening in his Central Park West ninth floor penthouse.

The purpose of the dinner is to discuss the support Quinn has been giving to the magazine via Pound, who has been appointed, at Quinn’s request, as The Little Review’s foreign editor. Quinn is sure he will be able to persuade these women to take his additional advice about how to run their little magazine.

Little Review May 1917

The Little Review, May 1917

This year I’ll be piecing together my planned biography of John Quinn (1870-1924). Read more about him on the link to your right: ‘I want to tell you about an amazing man.’

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.

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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.’

In Manhattan, November, 1918…

…novice playwright George S Kaufman, born 29 years ago in Pittsburgh, PA, is thrilled to see a good review of his Broadway debut play, Some One in the House, in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine.

Unfortunately, the play closed last month. After only 32 performances.

Kaufman and his collaborator had written it as a melodrama, based on a magazine story. But their first venture into legitimate theatre had the misfortune to premier during the outbreak of the flu epidemic in New York, severely limiting the number of people going out for the evening. The authorities were advising people to stay away from large groups. So Kaufman had taken an ad,

Avoid the Crowds…See Some One in the House.’

And now, here is a good review. In Vanity Fair, no less…

Somehow, I have heard very little excitement about Some One in the House. It slipped unobtrusively into the Knickerbocker Theatre…All I knew about it was what I could glean from the billboards—that it was a “melodramatic comedy”—whatever that might be…And then I went to see the thing, they completely sold me on it. It wasn’t so much the melodramatic part that intrigued me…No, it’s the comedy that got me. It’s the best time I have had in, lo, these many weeks—ever since the current theatrical season opened, to be perfectly accurate. And the thing is done so perfectly, too….Lynn Fontanne [30], in a part that is a perfect dramatization of [New York columnist FPA’s, 36, character Dulcinea, does] the best bits of characterization that have been seen in these parts in many a day…You could go right down the cast that way and never find an error.’

Kaufman is encouraged. Vanity Fair is known for its usually acerbic reviews, by the only woman theatre critic in New York City, Dorothy Parker, 25. He decides he’d like to meet her some day and thank her.

Vanity Fair, November 1918

Vanity Fair, November 1918

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