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Guys and Dolls and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 27, 2008
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Intrusion: A Novel
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
GUYS AND DOLLS AND OTHER WRITINGS
DAMON RUNYON was born in Kansas in 1884 and grew up in Pueblo, Colorado. As a teenager he wrote articles for the local newspapers, and in 1898, at the age of fourteen, he enlisted in the Spanish-American War. He returned to work on various newspapers and became a sportswriter for the New York American in 1911. During the First World War he was a war correspondent for the Hearst newspaper chain and after the war continued to work as a Hearst columnist. He died in 1946.
PETE HAMILL is a veteran journalist and novelist. He has written many best-selling books, including A Drinking Life, Snow in August, and Forever. His most recent book is Downtown: My Manhattan. He is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. He is a past winner of the Damon Runyon Award from the Denver Press Club.
DANIEL R. SCHWARZ is the Frederic J. Whiton Professor of English and the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University. He is the author of numerous poems, articles, and books, including Broadway Boogie Woogie: Damon Runyon and the Making of New York City Culture, Imagining the Holocaust, Reading Joyce’s Ulysses, Reconfiguring Modernism: Explorations in the Relationship Between Modern Art and Modern Literature, Rereading Conrad, and Disraeli’s Fiction.
Guys and Dolls
and Other Writings
Introduction by PETE HAMILL
Essay and Annotations by DANIEL R. SCHWARZ
The beautiful thing about Damon Runyon is that he still speaks to us across the decades. He was born in the nineteenth century—fittingly in Manhattan, Kansas—and died in 1946 after a long struggle with cancer. In between, he wrote millions of words of journalism, some poetry, and the wonderful Broadway stories that make up part of this book.
Almost all of them are tales related by an unnamed narrator (who is surely a stand-in for Runyon), and they describe a world that vanished long ago, if indeed it ever existed at all. The world was located in about ten square blocks of midtown Manhattan during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. Usually the area is called Times Square, although Runyon, who worked for Hearst and never The New York Times, seldom uses that name. It is a world primarily inhabited by the New York children of Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants, although Runyon enjoys describing the collisions of his Broadway people with various outlanders: slumming members of the upper class, greenhorns from way out in America, ambitious grifters in town to make big scores. There are almost no African-Americans (and in the racist argot of the era, Runyon refers to various black porters and waiters as “stove lids”). Harlem in that era was vivid with life and ambition. Runyon, the story writer, never bothered going there, except for glancing visits on the way to and from the Polo Grounds, where a team called the Giants once played baseball, long ago.
The Runyon world appears in these stories to be a male club (one critic describes it as “homoerotic”). His gangsters, gamblers, old bootleggers, prizefighters, waiters, musicians, and newspapermen are triumphantly male. Their language has a male rhythm. So do their lives, where the macho codes often lead them to mayhem. But many of the stories feature women, and the effect they have on men. The women are often tougher than men, and certainly more realistic. Most of them accept the notion of love, but they almost never separate that dangerous and delightful emotion from the hard realities of economics. Runyon’s showgirls all seem to understand that their beauty is a transient thing, an accident of genes and luck, but that with clarity and a certain amount of guile, a doll can build a secure future upon that splendid accident. Most of Runyon’s females would have agreed with Runyon’s advice to young writers: “Get the money.”
One result: the men are terminally wary of women and live with them in a state of comical alert. Here is the narrator in the story “Tobias the Terrible” (1937):
If I have all the tears that are shed on Broadway by guys in love, I will have enough salt water to start an opposition ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific, with enough left over to run the Great Salt Lake out of business. But I wish to say I never shed any of these tears personally, because I am never in love, and furthermore, barring a bad break, I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus.
Nobody alive knows what a “phedinkus” is, and Runyon’s stories are sprinkled with other words whose meanings have vanished into air. But their meanings can almost always be deciphered from context. A phedinkus must be a swindle, a fraud, a sweet lie created to tear down personal defenses. Runyon, of course, was not immune to the old phedinkus. All accounts of his life tell the story of his two failed marriages, his estrangement from his children, his erratic romances, his abiding solitude and loneliness. In the Runyon story, there was another object of his enduring capacity for love: the city of New York.
He started life as Alfred Damon Runyan (with an “a”). The date of birth was October 4, 1880, a year before Doc Holiday and the Earps fought in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, while Henry James, in a very different America, published The Portrait of a Lady. His father, Alfred Lee Runyan, was a second-generation newspaperman, an itinerant who could set type and write stories and who settled for a long while in Pueblo, Colorado. There the boy was raised and began to learn his trade. The boy’s mother died when he was either seven or eleven (the biographical confusion came from Runyon himself, who at the height of his fame shaved four years off his age for an entry in Who’s Who in America). The best bet is eleven. His widowed father was part of the hard-drinking newspaper tradition, while Damon roamed Pueblo with his schoolmates. He went only as far as the sixth grade but would get his most valuable education (about craft and life) from working at newspapers, following the unwritten syllabus of a classical apprenticeship. At fifteen he was being paid to write for the Pueblo Evening Press. In one of his early bylined stories, a typo changed the “a” to an “o,” and the young man let it stand, perhaps as a small declaration of independence from his father.
In 1898 he enlisted in the army for the Spanish-American War (with the Thirteenth Minnesota volunteers) and was sent to the Philippines. He saw no action but did write stories for papers called Manila Freedom and Soldier’s Letter. When he returned to Colorado, he moved from paper to paper, constantly developing his craft, before landing at the Denver Post, a big-time newspaper. There he became a star sportswriter who could also report features, politics, and an occasional murder. He began writing short fiction for national magazines, much of it set in the West. At the same time he ached for the East, specifically that other, larger, more glittering Manhattan. In 1910 he got his chance.
He went to work for William Randolph Hearst, another westerner who had gone east. He started covering baseball and boxing for Hearst’s New York American (where an editor cut the “Alfred” out of his byline). He gave up drinking for life (but kept smoking heavily), married a newspaperwoman named Ellen Egan, and fathered two children. By 1914 he was a star reporter, traveling to the Mexican border to observe Pershing’s futile pursuit of Pancho Villa and covering murder trials, eventually the war in France, the first exploits of pilots in the heroic early days of flight, and then the multiple imbecilities of Prohibition. He was earning about $500 a week.
By all accounts, he was a small, quiet man, given to expensive clothes and good food, with a fine eye for detail and an ear for the nuances of human speech. As a newspaperman, in that era before television, he could put the reader in the courtroom or the ballpark or the scene of a murder. His silence was not surly. He was listening. Reporters learn quickly that if they are doing the talking, they can’t hear a word from anyone else. The same accounts tell us that Runyon, in the years of his growing fame, was a dreadful husband. (His wife would die in 1931 from the effects of alcoholism while Runyon lived in solitude at the Hotel Forrest.) He was, like many of his characters, a heavy gambler, always in need of money.
In 1929, that year when all the certainties of the Roaring Twenties began to shudder and then disappear into the Great Depression, Runyon found a way to get more money.
The first of Runyon’s Broadway stories appeared in Hearst’s Cosmopolitan two months before the Wall Street crash and was called “Romance in the Roaring Forties.” It was about a rough customer called Dave the Dude, his doll, Miss Billy Perry, and a gossip columnist called Waldo Winchester. Like most of the Broadway stories, it’s about love and money. Dave the Dude was probably based on real-life gangster Frank Costello (who by mob standards was a pacifist, preferring brains to muscle). The gossip columnist was an obvious version of Walter Winchell, who would soon be the most powerful journalist in America and much later, in the last years of Runyon’s life, a close friend. That first Broadway story was something new in American fiction, with its own rhythms and language and a view of human beings that was at once cynical and embracing.
The audience must have loved it, and certainly magazine editors did, in that era when the short story was a major form of American fiction. More than eighty stories would follow, featuring Nathan Detroit, Feet Samuels, Sky Masterson, Big Jule, Nicely-Nicely Jones, Madame La Gimp, Good Time Charley Bernstein, Miss Missouri Martin (based on Texas Guinan), Benny South Street, and scores of others. Many would later appear in the Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls, which opened on Broadway in 1950. Runyon wouldn’t live to see this wonderful show, but I suspect he would have loved it. The lyrics, music, and spoken word were absolutely true to Runyon’s stories and his vision of Broadway.
The voice of those stories is usually the “historical present,” as in “Butch Minds the Baby”:
One evening along about seven o’clock I am sitting in Mindy’s restaurant putting on the gefilte fish, when in comes three parties from Brooklyn wearing caps as follows: Harry the Horse, Little Isadore and Spanish John.
The narrator is not sitting in Mindy’s while he is telling the story; this unfolding story happened in the past, even though Runyon uses the present tense. But the simple device gives the stories a kind of energy that would be absent in most uses of the past tense. It looks easy, until you try to do it. The voice was above all urban, drawing on Yiddish, which in the 1920s was New York’s second language, as Spanish is today. Thus, a five-dollar bill is a “finiff” and various people are “starkers” (tough guys) or “gonophs” (thieves, cheats, pickpockets). Sometimes we can hear Runyon’s people talking above their station, playing social roles that are lies, but we certainly don’t mistake them for characters out of Edith Wharton, who do the same thing.
This is, of course, a fictional world. The gangsters don’t speak the way real gangsters spoke in that era, or in ours. There is no obscenity, for example, no compounding of vile words to express contempt. And in the tales of romance there are subtle implications of sexual activity but no clinical details and no eroticism. Runyon is often accused of sentimentalizing his gangsters, and is sometimes guilty as charged. But a close reading of most of these stories shows us a clear darker side. His people often do terrible things to each other, and out of base motives.
He actually knew many of the people he describes in his fictions. One such character he called Nathan Detroit in some stories and in others, Armand Rosenthal, The Brain. The character was loosely based on the notorious gambler Arnold Rothstein, who was said to have fixed the 1919 World Series. In his 1925 masterwork, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald presented a minor character named Meyer Wolfsheim, also based on Rothstein, but alas, he is a clumsy anti-Semitic caricature. Runyon’s version was free of this virus, for good reason. He knew Rothstein well and often sat with him for coffee at the Rothstein table near the cashier at Lindy’s restaurant on Broadway (as Mindy’s, the location of many of his stories). Rothstein was no common thug. He was, by most accounts, articulate, subtle, intelligent. Presumably their conversations were about gambling, women, and food, and not the meaning of life, but Runyon never told us. On November 4, 1928, Runyon had one final whispery conversation with Rothstein at Lindy’s before the gambler went off to be shot dead at the Park Central Hotel for welshing on a gigantic gambling debt. He lives on in Runyon’s stories.
So does the New York that almost certainly existed only in the imagination of the man who wrote about it. Perhaps it was New York as he wanted it to be, the place he had yearned for when he was young in the West. Perhaps it was a city that was both magical and real. Certainly Runyon loved New York as William Faulkner later said he loved Mississippi: in spite of, not because. These stories were almost all written during the Great Depression, but hard times never overwhelm the players, even the two-dollar horse players. They know that their fate is to die broke. Runyon was free of ideology, generally embracing the principles of the New Deal (although he grew more conservative as he grew older). There are a few ideologues in the stories, usually figures of fun, and at least one story deals with the civil war in Spain, which consumed so much energy among many New Yorkers. But Runyon did not write fiction to change his readers’ minds. He wanted them to laugh. And they did, and still do.
Yes, he was an entertainer. So was Mark Twain. He never wrote a novel. Neither did Anton Chekhov. He said he wrote for money, and he made a lot of it at the typewriter, with at least sixteen of his tales becoming movies. “I took one little section of New York,” he said once, “and made half a million dollars writing about it.” Around 1940 he moved to Hollywood, where he worked for a few years as a producer and made more money. He continued writing his newspaper column. But he was already sick with the cancer that would ultimately kill him.
In 1932, a year after his first wife died, Runyon married a young woman he called Patricia del Grande of Caliditas, Spain. She was, he insisted, “a Spanish countess.” Maybe she was, but her story is the stuff of fiction. In one version Runyon met her in Mexico when he was covering the Pershing-Villa events, was touched by her poverty, and offered to pay for her education. She was then simply Patricia Amati. She was also Mexican, not Spanish, and definitely not a countess. In the late 1920s she came to find Runyon in New York, where she hoped to become a dancer. He fell in love with her, in the sudden way so many of his characters did, even though he was twenty-six years her senior. For a while they lived very well indeed, in Beverly Hills, and in a villa on Hibiscus Island in Miami, across from Palm Island, where Al Capone had his mansion.
In 1944 Runyon’s cancerous larynx was removed. He continued to write occasional newspaper columns, but the fiction dried up. At some point his wife began to live a separate life and divorced him in early 1946 to marry a younger man. By then he was back in New York, where he had lived most intensely and written his finest work. After his death his ashes were scattered over Manhattan from an airplane flown by the World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker.
Today not many remember Runyon himself, or the era in which he lived with so much verve and melancholy. But here are the stories. They forever remain part of the long tale of New York.
Suggestions for Further Reading
by Daniel R. Schwarz
I. WORKS BY DAMON RUNYON
My Old Man. New York: Stackpole Sons, 1939.
My Wife Ethel. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1940.
The Damon Runyon Omnibus. Garden City, N.Y.: The Sun Dial Press, 1944.
In Our Town. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.
Short Takes. New York: Somerset Books, 1946.
Trials and Other Tribulations. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1947.
Poems for Men. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947.
More Guys and Dolls. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Books, 1951.
Runyon on Broadway. London: Constable, 1951.
The Turps. London: Constable, 1951.
Runyon from First to Last. London: Constable, 1964.
II. ESSENTIAL CRITICAL AND SCHOLARLY MATERIALS
Behn, Noel. Lindbergh: The Crime. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994.
Bender, Thomas. New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City from 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.
Bernhardt, Debra. Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives. New York: New York University Press, 2000.
Breslin, Jimmy. Damon Runyon. New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1991.
Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to the 1890s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Clark, Tom. The World of Damon Runyon, New York: Harper & Row, 1978.
Cooney, Terry A. The Rise of the New York Intellectuals: Partisan Review and its Circle, 1934–45. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.
D’itri, Patricia Ward. Damon Runyon. New York: Twayne, 1982.
Douglas, Anne. Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996.
Erenberg, Lewis. Steppin’ Out: New York Night Life and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890–1930. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
———.“Impresarios of Broadway Nightlife.” In Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World, ed. William Taylor. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1991.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner’s, 1925.
Friendly, Albert, and Ronald L. Goldfarb, eds. Crime and Publicity: The Impact of News on the Administration of Justice. New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1967.
Fritzsche, Peter. Reading Berlin 1900. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Gabler, Neal. Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
Harris, Neil. “Urban Tourism and the Commercial City.” In Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World, ed. William Taylor. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1991.
———.“The View from the City.” In Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, eds. Maureen Hart Hennessey and Judy L. Larson. Atlanta: High Museum of Art, and New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.
Hoyt, Edwin P. A Gentleman of Broadway. Boston: Little, Brown, 1964.
Kahn, Bonnie Menes. Cosmopolitan Culture. New York: Atheneum, 1987.
Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War 1929–1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Kennedy, Ludovic. The Airman and the Carpenter. New York: Viking Penguin, 1985.
Kennedy, William. Guys and Dolls: The Stories of Damon Runyon. New York: Penguin, 1992.
Lampard, Eric. “Introductory Essay.” In Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World, ed. William Taylor. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1991.
Lofton, John. Justice and the Press. Boston: Beacon Press, 1966.
Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” In The Great Short Works of Herman Melville. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.
Mosedale, John. The Men Who Invented Broadway. New York: Richard Marek, Publisher, 1981.
Mumford, Lewis. The Culture of Cities. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1938.
Nelson, Richard, ed. Strictly Dishonorable and Other Lost American Plays. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1986.
Roberts, C. E. Bechhofer. The New World of Crime: Famous American Trials. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1933.
Schwarz, Daniel R. Broadway Boogie Woogie: Damon Runyon and the Making of New York City Culture. New York: Palgrave, 2003.
Senelick, Laurence. “Private Parts in Public Places.” In Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World, ed. William Taylor. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1991.
Wagner, Jean. Runyonese: The Mind and Craft of Damon Runyon. New York: Stechert Hafner, 1965.
Weber, Max. The City. New York: Free Press, 1958.
Weiner, Edward H. The Damon Runyon Story, London: Longmans, 1964.
A Note on the Text
The works of Damon Runyon appeared in a great variety of periodicals, books, and newspapers throughout his lifetime, and beyond. The following Broadway stories were taken from the collection Guys and Dolls: The Stories of Damon Runyon, published by Penguin Books, 1992: “Madame La Gimp,” “Blood Pressure,” “The Lily of St. Pierre,” “The Bloodhounds of Broadway,” “Dream Street Rose,” “Tobias the Terrible,” “Dancing Dan’s Christmas,” “It Comes Up Mud,” “Broadway Complex,” “The Three Wise Guys,” “The Lemon Drop Kid,” “Sense of Humor,” and “Breach of Promise.” The following Broadway stories were taken from Romance in the Roaring Forties and Other Stories, published by American Play Company, 1986: “Romance in the Roaring Forties,” “Butch Minds the Baby,” “The Hottest Guy in the World,” “The Snatching of Bookie Bob,” “Hold ’em Yale!” “For a Pal,” “Little Miss Marker,” “Earthquake,” “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown,” and “The Old Doll’s House.” The remaining Broadway stories can be found in The Damon Runyon Omnibus, published by The Sun Dial Press, 1944, which features selections from three of Runyon’s volumes (Guys and Dolls, Blue Plate Special, and Money from Home): “A Very Honorable Guy,” “Dark Dolores,” “Lillian,” “Social Error,” “‘Gentlemen, the King!’” “The Brain Goes Home,” “Broadway Financier,” “The Brakeman’s Daughter,” “Princess O’Hara,” “A Nice Price,” and “Undertaker Song.” The final Broadway story, “A Light in France,” was first published in Collier’s, January 15, 1944. “A Call on the President” first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, August 21, 1937, and “The Defense of Strikerville” in McClure’s, February 1907. “Two Men Named Collins” was printed in Reader, September 1907, and “Lou Louder” in Collier’s, August 5, 1936. “Mr. ‘B’ and His Stork Club” was first published in Cosmopolitan, May 1947. For the original sources of all remaining inclusions, please refer to “Essay and Annotations” by Daniel R. Schwarz.
Guys and Dolls and Other Writings
THE BROADWAY STORIES
ROMANCE IN THE ROARING FORTIES
Only a rank sucker will think of taking two peeks at Dave the Dude’s doll, because while Dave may stand for the first peek, figuring it is a mistake, it is a sure thing he will get sored up at the second peek, and Dave the Dude is certainly not a man to have sored up at you.
But this Waldo Winchester is one hundred per cent sucker, which is why he takes quite a number of peeks at Dave’s doll. And what is more, she takes quite a number of peeks right back at him. And there you are. When a guy and a doll get to taking peeks back and forth at each other, why, there you are indeed.
This Waldo Winchester is a nice-looking young guy who writes pieces about Broadway for the Morning Item. He writes about the goings-on in night clubs, such as fights, and one thing and another, and also about who is running around with who, including guys and dolls.
Sometimes this is very embarrassing to people who may be married and are running around with people who are not married, but of course Waldo Winchester cannot be expected to ask one and all for their marriage certificates before he writes his pieces for the paper.
The chances are if Waldo Winchester knows Miss Billy Perry is Dave the Dude’s doll, he will never take more than his first peek at her, but nobody tips him off until his second or third peek, and by this time Miss Billy Perry is taking her peeks back at him and Waldo Winchester is hooked.
In fact, he is plumb gone, and being a sucker, like I tell you, he does not care whose doll she is. Personally, I do not blame him much, for Miss Billy Perry is worth a few peeks, especially when she is out on the floor of Miss Missouri Martin’s Sixteen Hundred Club doing her tap dance. Still, I do not think the best tap-dancer that ever lives can make me take two peeks at her if I know she is Dave the Dude’s doll, for Dave somehow thinks more than somewhat of his dolls.
He especially thinks plenty of Miss Billy Perry, and sends her fur coats, and diamond rings, and one thing and another, which she sends back to him at once, because it seems she does not take presents from guys. This is considered most surprising all along Broadway, but people figure the chances are she has some other angle.
Anyway, this does not keep Dave the Dude from liking her just the same, and so she is considered his doll by one and all, and is respected accordingly until this Waldo Winchester comes along.
It happens that he comes along while Dave the Dude is off in the Modoc on a little run down to the Bahamas to get some goods for his business, such as Scotch and champagne, and by the time Dave gets back Miss Billy Perry and Waldo Winchester are at the stage where they sit in corners between her numbers and hold hands.
Of course nobody tells Dave the Dude about this, because they do not wish to get him excited. Not even Miss Missouri Martin tells him, which is most unusual because Miss Missouri Martin, who is sometimes called “Mizzoo” for short, tells everything she knows as soon as she knows it, which is very often before it happens.
You see, the idea is when Dave the Dude is excited he may blow somebody’s brains out, and the chances are it will be nobody’s brains but Waldo Winchester’s, although some claim that Waldo Winchester has no brains or he will not be hanging around Dave the Dude’s doll.
I know Dave is very, very fond of Miss Billy Perry, because I hear him talk to her several times, and he is most polite to her and never gets out of line in her company by using cuss words, or anything like this. Furthermore, one night when One-eyed Solly Abrahams is a little stewed up he refers to Miss Billy Perry as a broad, meaning no harm whatever, for this is the way many of the boys speak of the dolls.
But right away Dave the Dude reaches across the table and bops One-eyed Solly right in the mouth, so everybody knows from then on that Dave thinks well of Miss Billy Perry. Of course Dave is always thinking fairly well of some doll as far as this goes, but it is seldom he gets to bopping guys in the mouth over them.
Well, one night what happens but Dave the Dude walks into the Sixteen Hundred Club, and there in the entrance, what does he see but this Waldo Winchester and Miss Billy Perry kissing each other back and forth friendly. Right away Dave reaches for the old equalizer to shoot Waldo Winchester, but it seems Dave does not happen to have the old equalizer with him, not expecting to have to shoot anybody this particular evening.
So Dave the Dude walks over and, as Waldo Winchester hears him coming and lets go his strangle-hold on Miss Billy Perry, Dave nails him with a big right hand on the chin. I will say for Dave the Dude that he is a fair puncher with his right hand, though his left is not so good, and he knocks Waldo Winchester bow-legged. In fact, Waldo folds right up on the floor.
Well, Miss Billy Perry lets out a screech you can hear clear to the Battery and runs over to where Waldo Winchester lights, and falls on top of him squalling very loud. All anybody can make out of what she says is that Dave the Dude is a big bum, although Dave is not so big, at that, and that she loves Waldo Winchester.
Dave walks over and starts to give Waldo Winchester the leather, which is considered customary in such cases, but he seems to change his mind, and instead of booting Waldo around, Dave turns and walks out of the joint looking very black and mad, and the next anybody hears of him he is over in the Chicken Club doing plenty of drinking.
This is regarded as a very bad sign indeed, because while everybody goes to the Chicken Club now and then to give Tony Bertazzola, the owner, a friendly play, very few people care to do any drinking there, because Tony’s liquor is not meant for anybody to drink except the customers.
Well, Miss Billy Perry gets Waldo Winchester on his pegs again, and wipes his chin off with her handkerchief, and by and by he is all okay except for a big lump on his chin. And all the time she is telling Waldo Winchester what a big bum Dave the Dude is, although afterwards Miss Missouri Martin gets hold of Miss Billy Perry and puts the blast on her plenty for chasing a two-handed spender such as Dave the Dude out of the joint.
“You are nothing but a little sap,” Miss Missouri Martin tells Miss Billy Perry. “You cannot get the right time off this newspaper guy, while everybody knows Dave the Dude is a very fast man with a dollar.”
“But I love Mr. Winchester,” says Miss Billy Perry. “He is so romantic. He is not a bootlegger and a gunman like Dave the Dude. He puts lovely pieces in the paper about me, and he is a gentleman at all times.”
Now of course Miss Missouri Martin is not in a position to argue about gentlemen, because she meets very few in the Sixteen Hundred Club and anyway, she does not wish to make Waldo Winchester mad as he is apt to turn around and put pieces in his paper that will be a knock to the joint, so she lets the matter drop.
Miss Billy Perry and Waldo Winchester go on holding hands between her numbers, and maybe kissing each other now and then, as young people are liable to do, and Dave the Dude plays the chill for the Sixteen Hundred Club and everything seems to be all right. Naturally we are all very glad there is no more trouble over the proposition, because the best Dave can get is the worst of it in a jam with a newspaper guy.
Personally, I figure Dave will soon find himself another doll and forget all about Miss Billy Perry, because now that I take another peek at her, I can see where she is just about the same as any other tap-dancer, except that she is red-headed. Tap-dancers are generally blackheads, but I do not know why.
Moosh, the doorman at the Sixteen Hundred Club, tells me Miss Missouri Martin keeps plugging for Dave the Dude with Miss Billy Perry in a quiet way, because he says he hears Miss Missouri Martin make the following crack one night to her: “Well, I do not see any Simple Simon on your lean and linger.”
This is Miss Missouri Martin’s way of saying she sees no diamond on Miss Billy Perry’s finger, for Miss Missouri Martin is an old experienced doll, who figures if a guy loves a doll he will prove it with diamonds. Miss Missouri Martin has many diamonds herself, though how any guy can ever get himself heated up enough about Miss Missouri Martin to give her diamonds is more than I can see.
I am not a guy who goes around much, so I do not see Dave the Dude for a couple of weeks, but late one Sunday afternoon little Johnny McGowan, who is one of Dave’s men, comes and says to me like this: “What do you think? Dave grabs the scribe a little while ago and is taking him out for an airing!”
Well, Johnny is so excited it is some time before I can get him cooled out enough to explain. It seems that Dave the Dude gets his biggest car out of the garage and sends his driver, Wop Joe, over to the Item office where Waldo Winchester works, with a message that Miss Billy Perry wishes to see Waldo right away at Miss Missouri Martin’s apartment on Fifty-ninth Street.
Of course this message is nothing but the phonus bolonus, but Waldo drops in for it and gets in the car. Then Wop Joe drives him up to Miss Missouri Martin’s apartment, and who gets in the car there but Dave the Dude. And away they go.
Now this is very bad news indeed, because when Dave the Dude takes a guy out for an airing the guy very often does not come back. What happens to him I never ask, because the best a guy can get by asking questions in this man’s town is a bust in the nose.
But I am much worried over this proposition, because I like Dave the Dude, and I know that taking a newspaper guy like Waldo Winchester out for an airing is apt to cause talk, especially if he does not come back. The other guys that Dave the Dude takes out for airings do not mean much in particular, but here is a guy who may produce trouble, even if he is a sucker, on account of being connected with a newspaper.
I know enough about newspapers to know that by and by the editor or somebody will be around wishing to know where Waldo Winchester’s pieces about Broadway are, and if there are no pieces from Waldo Winchester, the editor will wish to know why. Finally it will get around to where other people will wish to know, and after a while many people will be running around saying: “Where is Waldo Winchester?”
And if enough people in this town get to running around saying where is So-and-so, it becomes a great mystery and the newspapers hop on the cops and the cops hop on everybody, and by and by there is so much heat in town that it is no place for a guy to be.
But what is to be done about this situation I do not know. Personally, it strikes me as very bad indeed, and while Johnny goes away to do a little telephoning, I am trying to think up someplace to go where people will see me, and remember afterwards that I am there in case it is necessary for them to remember.
Finally Johnny comes back, very excited, and says: “Hey, the Dude is up at the Woodcock Inn on the Pelham Parkway, and he is sending out the word for one and all to come at once. Good Time Charley Bernstein just gets the wire and tells me. Something is doing. The rest of the mob are on their way, so let us be moving.”
But here is an invitation which does not strike me as a good thing at all. The way I look at it, Dave the Dude is no company for a guy like me at this time. The chances are he either does something to Waldo Winchester already, or is getting ready to do something to him which I wish no part of.
Personally, I have nothing against newspaper guys, not even the ones who write pieces about Broadway. If Dave the Dude wishes to do something to Waldo Winchester, all right, but what is the sense of bringing outsiders into it? But the next thing I know, I am in Johnny McGowan’s roadster, and he is zipping along very fast indeed, paying practically no attention to traffic lights or anything else.
As we go busting out the Concourse, I get to thinking the situation over, and I figure that Dave the Dude probably keeps thinking about Miss Billy Perry, and drinking liquor such as they sell in the Chicken Club, until finally he blows his topper. The way I look at it, only a guy who is off his nut will think of taking a newspaper guy out for an airing over a doll, when dolls are a dime a dozen in this man’s town.
Still, I remember reading in the papers about a lot of different guys who are considered very sensible until they get tangled up with a doll, and maybe loving her, and the first thing anybody knows they hop out of windows, or shoot themselves, or somebody else, and I can see where even a guy like Dave the Dude may go daffy over a doll.
I can see that little Johnny McGowan is worried, too, but he does not say much, and we pull up in front of the Woodcock Inn in no time whatever, to find a lot of other cars there ahead of us, some of which I recognize as belonging to different parties.
The Woodcock Inn is what is called a roadhouse, and is run by Big Nig Skolsky, a very nice man indeed, and a friend of everybody’s. It stands back a piece off the Pelham Parkway and is a very pleasant place to go to, what with Nig having a good band and a floor show with a lot of fair-looking dolls, and everything else a man can wish for a good time. It gets a nice play from nice people, although Nig’s liquor is nothing extra.
Personally, I never go there much, because I do not care for roadhouses, but it is a great spot for Dave the Dude when he is pitching parties, or even when he is only drinking single-handed. There is a lot of racket in the joint as we drive up, and who comes out to meet us but Dave the Dude himself with a big hello. His face is very red, and he seems heated up no little, but he does not look like a guy who is meaning any harm to anybody, especially a newspaper guy.
“Come in, guys!” Dave the Dude yells. “Come right in!”
So we go in, and the place is full of people sitting at tables, or out on the floor dancing, and I see Miss Missouri Martin with all her diamonds hanging from her in different places, and Good Time Charley Bernstein, and Feet Samuels, and Tony Bertazzola, and Skeets Bolivar, and Nick the Greek, and Rochester Red, and a lot of other guys and dolls from around and about.
In fact, it looks as if everybody from all the joints on Broadway are present, including Miss Billy Perry, who is all dressed up in white and is lugging a big bundle of orchids and so forth, and who is giggling and smiling and shaking hands and going on generally. And finally I see Waldo Winchester, the scribe, sitting at a ringside table all by himself, but there is nothing wrong with him as far as I can see. I mean, he seems to be all in one piece so far.
“Dave,” I say to Dave the Dude, very quiet, “what is coming off here? You know a guy cannot be too careful what he does around this town, and I will hate to see you tangled up in anything right now.”
“Why,” Dave says, “what are you talking about? Nothing is coming off here but a wedding, and it is going to be the best wedding anybody on Broadway ever sees. We are waiting for the preacher now.”
“You mean somebody is going to be married?” I ask, being somewhat confused.
“Certainly,” Dave the Dude says. “What do you think? What is the idea of a wedding, anyway?”
“Who is going to be married?” I ask.
“Nobody but Billy and the scribe,” Dave says. “This is the greatest thing I ever do in my life. I run into Billy the other night and she is crying her eyes out because she loves this scribe and wishes to marry him, but it seems the scribe has nothing he can use for money. So I tell Billy to leave it to me, because you know I love her myself so much I wish to see her happy at all times, even if she has to marry to be that way.
“So I frame this wedding party, and after they are married I am going to stake them to a few G’s so they can get a good running start,” Dave says. “But I do not tell the scribe and I do not let Billy tell him as I wish it to be a big surprise to him. I kidnap him this afternoon and bring him out here and he is scared half to death thinking I am going to scrag him.
“In fact,” Dave says, “I never see a guy so scared. He is still so scared nothing seems to cheer him up. Go over and tell him to shake himself together, because nothing but happiness for him is coming off here.”
Well, I wish to say I am greatly relieved to think that Dave intends doing nothing worse to Waldo Winchester than getting him married up, so I go over to where Waldo is sitting. He certainly looks somewhat alarmed. He is all in a huddle with himself, and he has what you call a vacant stare in his eyes. I can see that he is indeed frightened, so I give him a jolly slap on the back and I say: “Congratulations, pal! Cheer up, the worst is yet to come!”
“You bet it is,” Waldo Winchester says, his voice so solemn I am greatly surprised.
“You are a fine-looking bridegroom,” I say. “You look as if you are at a funeral instead of a wedding. Why do you not laugh ha-ha, and maybe take a dram or two and go to cutting up some?”
“Mister,” says Waldo Winchester, “my wife is not going to care for me getting married to Miss Billy Perry.”
“Your wife?” I say, much astonished. “What is this you are speaking of? How can you have any wife except Miss Billy Perry? This is great foolishness.”
“I know,” Waldo says, very sad. “I know. But I got a wife just the same, and she is going to be very nervous when she hears about this. My wife is very strict with me. My wife does not allow me to go around marrying people. My wife is Lola Sapola, of the Rolling Sapolas, the acrobats, and I am married to her for five years. She is the strong lady who juggles the other four people in the act. My wife just gets back from a year’s tour of the Interstate time, and she is at the Marx Hotel right this minute. I am upset by this proposition.”
“Does Miss Billy Perry know about this wife?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “No. She thinks I am single-o.”
“But why do you not tell Dave the Dude you are already married when he brings you out here to marry you off to Miss Billy Perry?” I ask. “It seems to me a newspaper guy must know it is against the law for a guy to marry several different dolls unless he is a Turk, or some such.”
“Well,” Waldo says, “if I tell Dave the Dude I am married after taking his doll away from him, I am quite sure Dave will be very much excited, and maybe do something harmful to my health.”
Now there is much in what the guy says, to be sure. I am inclined to think, myself, that Dave will be somewhat disturbed when he learns of this situation, especially when Miss Billy Perry starts in being unhappy about it. But what is to be done I do not know, except maybe to let the wedding go on, and then when Waldo is out of reach of Dave, to put in a claim that he is insane, and that the marriage does not count. It is a sure thing I do not wish to be around when Dave the Dude hears Waldo is already married.
I am thinking that maybe I better take it on the lam out of here, when there is a great row at the door and I hear Dave the Dude yelling that the preacher arrives. He is a very nice-looking preacher, at that, though he seems somewhat surprised by the goings-on, especially when Miss Missouri Martin steps up and takes charge of him. Miss Missouri Martin tells him she is fond of preachers, and is quite used to them, because she is twice married by preachers, and twice by justices of the peace, and once by a ship’s captain at sea.
By this time one and all present, except maybe myself and Waldo Winchester, and the preacher and maybe Miss Billy Perry, are somewhat corned. Waldo is still sitting at his table looking very sad and saying “Yes” and “No” to Miss Billy Perry whenever she skips past him, for Miss Billy Perry is too much pleasured up with happiness to stay long in one spot.
Dave the Dude is more corned than anybody else, because he has two or three days’ running start on everybody. And when Dave the Dude is corned I wish to say that he is a very unreliable guy as to temper, and he is apt to explode right in your face any minute. But he seems to be getting a great bang out of the doings.
Well, by and by Nig Skolsky has the dance floor cleared, and then he moves out on the floor a sort of arch of very beautiful flowers. The idea seems to be that Miss Billy Perry and Waldo Winchester are to be married under this arch. I can see that Dave the Dude must put in several days planning this whole proposition, and it must cost him plenty of the old do-re-mi, especially as I see him showing Miss Missouri Martin a diamond ring as big as a cough drop.
“It is for the bride,” Dave the Dude says. “The poor loogan she is marrying will never have enough dough to buy her such a rock, and she always wishes a big one. I get it off a guy who brings it in from Los Angeles. I am going to give the bride away myself in person, so how do I act, Mizzoo? I want Billy to have everything according to the book.”
Well, while Miss Missouri Martin is trying to remember back to one of her weddings to tell him, I take another peek at Waldo Winchester to see how he is making out. I once see two guys go to the old warm squativoo up in Sing Sing, and I wish to say both are laughing heartily compared to Waldo Winchester at this moment.
Miss Billy Perry is sitting with him and the orchestra leader is calling his men dirty names because none of them can think of how “Oh, Promise Me” goes, when Dave the Dude yells: “Well, we are all set! Let the happy couple step forward!”
Miss Billy Perry bounces up and grabs Waldo Winchester by the arm and pulls him up out of his chair. After a peek at his face I am willing to lay six to five he does not make the arch. But he finally gets there with everybody laughing and clapping their hands, and the preacher comes forward, and Dave the Dude looks happier than I ever see him look before in his life as they all get together under the arch of flowers.
Well, all of a sudden there is a terrible racket at the front door of the Woodcock Inn, with some doll doing a lot of hollering in a deep voice that sounds like a man’s, and naturally everybody turns and looks that way. The doorman, a guy by the name of Slugsy Sachs, who is a very hard man indeed, seems to be trying to keep somebody out, but pretty soon there is a heavy bump and Slugsy Sachs falls down, and in comes a doll around four feet high and five feet wide.
In fact, I never see such a wide doll. She looks all hammered down. Her face is almost as wide as her shoulders, and makes me think of a great big full moon. She comes in bounding-like, and I can see that she is all churned up about something. As she bounces in, I hear a gurgle, and I look around to see Waldo Winchester slumping down to the floor, almost dragging Miss Billy Perry with him.
Well, the wide doll walks right up to the bunch under the arch and says in a large bass voice: “Which one is Dave the Dude?”
“I am Dave the Dude,” says Dave the Dude, stepping up. “What do you mean by busting in here like a walrus and gumming up our wedding?”
“So you are the guy who kidnaps my ever-loving husband to marry him off to this little red-headed pancake here, are you?” the wide doll says, looking at Dave the Dude, but pointing at Miss Billy Perry.
Well now, calling Miss Billy Perry a pancake to Dave the Dude is a very serious proposition, and Dave the Dude gets very angry. He is usually rather polite to dolls, but you can see he does not care for the wide doll’s manner whatever.
“Say, listen here,” Dave the Dude says, “you better take a walk before somebody clips you. You must be drunk,” he says. “Or daffy,” he says. “What are you talking about, anyway?”
“You will see what I am talking about,” the wide doll yells. “The guy on the floor there is my lawful husband. You probably frighten him to death, the poor dear. You kidnap him to marry this red-headed thing, and I am going to get you arrested as sure as my name is Lola Sapola, you simple-looking tramp!”
Naturally, everybody is greatly horrified at a doll using such language to Dave the Dude, because Dave is known to shoot guys for much less, but instead of doing something to the wide doll at once, Dave says: “What is this talk I hear? Who is married to who? Get out of here!” Dave says, grabbing the wide doll’s arm.
Well, she makes out as if she is going to slap Dave in the face with her left hand, and Dave naturally pulls his kisser out of the way. But instead of doing anything with her left, Lola Sapola suddenly drives her right fist smack-dab into Dave the Dude’s stomach, which naturally comes forward as his face goes back.
I wish to say I see many a body punch delivered in my life, but I never see a prettier one than this. What is more, Lola Sapola steps in with the punch, so there is plenty on it.
Now a guy who eats and drinks like Dave the Dude does cannot take them so good in the stomach, so Dave goes “oof,” and sits down very hard on the dance floor, and as he is sitting there he is fumbling in his pants pocket for the old equalizer, so everybody around tears for cover except Lola Sapola, and Miss Billy Perry, and Waldo Winchester.
But before he can get his pistol out, Lola Sapola reaches down and grabs Dave by the collar and hoists him to his feet. She lets go her hold on him, leaving Dave standing on his pins, but teetering around somewhat, and then she drives her right hand to Dave’s stomach a second time.
The punch drops Dave again, and Lola steps up to him as if she is going to give him the foot. But she only gathers up Waldo Winchester from off the floor and slings him across her shoulders like he is a sack of oats, and starts for the door. Dave the Dude sits up on the floor again, and by this time he has the old equalizer in his duke.
“Only for me being a gentleman I will fill you full of slugs,” he yells.
Lola Sapola never even looks back, because by this time she is petting Waldo Winchester’s head and calling him loving names and saying what a shame it is for bad characters like Dave the Dude to be abusing her precious one. It all sounds to me as if Lola Sapola thinks well of Waldo Winchester.
Well, after she gets out of sight, Dave the Dude gets up off the floor and stands there looking at Miss Billy Perry, who is out to break all crying records. The rest of us come out from under cover, including the preacher, and we are wondering how mad Dave the Dude is going to be about the wedding being ruined. But Dave the Dude seems only disappointed and sad.
“Billy,” he says to Miss Billy Perry, “I am mighty sorry you do not get your wedding. All I wish for is your happiness, but I do not believe you can ever be happy with this scribe if he also has to have his lion tamer around. As Cupid I am a total bust. This is the only nice thing I ever try to do in my whole life, and it is too bad it does not come off. Maybe if you wait until we can drown her, or something—”
“Dave,” says Miss Billy Perry, dropping so many tears that she seems to finally wash herself right into Dave the Dude’s arms, “I will never, never be happy with such a guy as Waldo Winchester. I can see now you are the only man for me.”
“Well, well, well,” Dave the Dude says, cheering right up. “Where is the preacher? Bring on the preacher and let us have our wedding anyway.”
I see Mr. and Mrs. Dave the Dude the other day, and they seem very happy. But you never can tell about married people, so of course I am never going to let on to Dave the Dude that I am the one who telephones Lola Sapola at the Marx Hotel, because maybe I do not do Dave any too much of a favor, at that.
A VERY HONORABLE GUY
Off and on I know Feet Samuels a matter of eight or ten years, up and down Broadway, and in and out, but I never have much truck with him because he is a guy I consider no dice. In fact, he does not mean a thing.
In the first place, Feet Samuels is generally broke, and there is no percentage in hanging around brokers. The way I look at it, you are not going to get anything off a guy who has not got anything. So while I am very sorry for brokers, and am always willing to hope that they get hold of something, I do not like to be around them. Long ago an old-timer who knows what he is talking about says to me:
“My boy,” he says, “always try to rub up against money, for if you rub up against money long enough, some of it may rub off on you.”
So in all the years I am around this town, I always try to keep in with the high shots and guys who carry these large coarse bank-notes around with them, and I stay away from small operators and chiselers and brokers. And Feet Samuels is one of the worst brokers in this town, and has been such as long as I know him.
He is a big heavy guy with several chins and very funny feet, which is why he is called Feet. These feet are extra large feet, even for a big guy, and Dave the Dude says Feet wears violin-cases for shoes. Of course this is not true, because Feet cannot get either of his feet in a violin-case, unless it is a case for a very large violin, such as a ’cello.
I see Feet one night in the Hot Box, which is a night club, dancing with a doll by the name of Hortense Hathaway, who is in Georgie White’s Scandals, and what is she doing but standing on Feet’s feet as if she is on sled runners, and Feet never knows it. He only thinks the old gondolas are a little extra heavy to shove around this night, because Hortense is no invalid. In fact, she is a good rangy welterweight.
She has blonde hair and plenty to say, and her square monicker is Annie O’Brien, and not Hortense Hathaway at all. Furthermore, she comes from Newark, which is in New Jersey, and her papa is a taxi jockey by the name of Skush O’Brien, and a very rough guy, at that, if anybody asks you. But of course the daughter of a taxi jockey is as good as anybody else for Georgie White’s Scandals as long as her shape is okay, and nobody ever hears any complaint from the customers about Hortense on this proposition.
She is what is called a show girl, and all she has to do is to walk around and about Georgie White’s stage with only a few light bandages on, and everybody considers her very beautiful, especially from the neck down, although personally I never care much for Hortense because she is very fresh to people. I often see her around the night clubs, and when she is in these deadfalls Hortense generally is wearing quite a number of diamond bracelets and fur wraps, and one thing and another, so I judge she is not doing bad for a doll from Newark, New Jersey.
Of course Feet Samuels never knows why so many other dolls besides Hortense are wishing to dance with him, but gets to thinking maybe it is because he has the old sex appeal, and he is very sore indeed when Henri, the head waiter at the Hot Box, asks him to please stay off the floor except for every tenth dance, because Feet’s feet take up so much room when he is on the floor that only two other dancers can work out at the same time, it being a very small floor.
I must tell you more about Feet’s feet, because they are very remarkable feet indeed. They go off at different directions under him, very sharp, so if you see Feet standing on a corner it is very difficult to tell which way he is going, because one foot will be headed one way, and the other foot the other way. In fact, guys around Mindy’s restaurant often make bets on the proposition as to which way Feet is headed when he is standing still.
What Feet Samuels does for a living is the best he can, which is the same thing many other guys in this town do for a living. He hustles some around the race tracks and crap games and prize fights, picking up a few bobs here and there as a runner for the bookmakers, or scalping bets, or steering suckers, but he is never really in the money in his whole life. He is always owing and always paying off, and I never see him but what he is troubled with the shorts as regards to dough.
The only good thing you can say about Feet Samuels is he is very honorable about his debts, and what he owes he pays when he can. Anybody will tell you this about Feet Samuels, although of course it is only what any hustler such as Feet must do if he wishes to protect his credit and keep in action. Still, you will be surprised how many guys forget to pay.
It is because Feet’s word is considered good at all times that he is nearly always able to raise a little dough, even off The Brain, and The Brain is not an easy guy for anybody to raise dough off of. In fact, The Brain is very tough about letting people raise dough off of him.
If anybody gets any dough off of The Brain he wishes to know right away what time they are going to pay it back, with certain interest, and if they say at five-thirty Tuesday morning, they better not make it five-thirty-one Tuesday morning, or The Brain will consider them very unreliable and never let them have any money again. And when a guy loses his credit with The Brain he is in a very tough spot indeed in this town, for The Brain is the only man who always has dough.
Furthermore, some very unusual things often happen to guys who get money off The Brain and fail to kick it back just when they promise, such as broken noses and sprained ankles and other injuries, for The Brain has people around him who seem to resent guys getting dough off of him and not kicking it back. Still, I know of The Brain letting some very surprising guys have dough, because he has a bug that he is a wonderful judge of guys’ characters, and that he is never wrong on them, although I must say that no guy who gets dough off of The Brain is more surprising than Feet Samuels.
The Brain’s right name is Armand Rosenthal, and he is called The Brain because he is so smart. He is well known to one and all in this town as a very large operator in gambling, and one thing and another, and nobody knows how much dough The Brain has, except that he must have plenty, because no matter how much dough is around, The Brain sooner or later gets hold of all of it. Someday I will tell you more about The Brain, but right now I wish to tell you about Feet Samuels.
It comes on a tough winter in New York, what with nearly all hands who have the price going to Miami and Havana and New Orleans, leaving the brokers behind. There is very little action of any kind in town with the high shots gone, and one night I run into Feet Samuels in Mindy’s, and he is very sad indeed. He asks me if I happen to have a finnif on me, but of course I am not giving finnifs to guys like Feet Samuels, and finally he offers to compromise with me for a deuce, so I can see things must be very bad with Feet for him to come down from five dollars to two.
“My rent is away overdue for the shovel and broom,” Feet says, “and I have a hard-hearted landlady who will not listen to reason. She says she will give me the wind if I do not lay something on the line at once. Things are never so bad with me,” Feet says, “and I am thinking of doing something very desperate.”
I cannot think of anything very desperate for Feet Samuels to do, except maybe go to work, and I know he is not going to do such a thing no matter what happens. In fact, in all the years I am around Broadway I never know any broker to get desperate enough to go to work.
I once hear Dave the Dude offer Feet Samuels a job riding rum between here and Philly at good wages, but Feet turns it down because he claims he cannot stand the open air, and anyway Feet says he hears riding rum is illegal and may land a guy in the pokey. So I know whatever Feet is going to do will be nothing difficult.
“The Brain is still in town,” I say to Feet. “Why do you not put the lug on him? You stand okay with him.”
“There is the big trouble,” Feet says. “I owe The Brain a C note already, and I am supposed to pay him back by four o’clock Monday morning, and where I am going to get a hundred dollars I do not know, to say nothing of the other ten I must give him for interest.”
“What are you figuring on doing?” I ask, for it is now a Thursday, and I can see Feet has very little time to get together such a sum.
“I am figuring on scragging myself,” Feet says, very sad. “What good am I to anybody? I have no family and no friends, and the world is packing enough weight without me. Yes, I think I will scrag myself.”
“It is against the law to commit suicide in this man’s town,” I say, “although what the law can do to a guy who commits suicide I am never able to figure out.”
“I do not care,” Feet says. “I am sick and tired of it all. I am especially sick and tired of being broke. I never have more than a few quarters to rub together in my pants pocket. Everything I try turns out wrong. The only thing that keeps me from scragging myself at once is the C note I owe The Brain, because I do not wish to have him going around after I am dead and gone saying I am no good. And the toughest thing of all,” Feet says, “is I am in love. I am in love with Hortense.”
“Hortense?” I say, very much astonished indeed. “Why, Hortense is nothing but a big—”
“Stop!” Feet says. “Stop right here! I will not have her called a big boloney or whatever else big you are going to call her, because I love her. I cannot live without her. In fact,” Feet says, “I do not wish to live without her.”
“Well,” I say, “what does Hortense think about you loving her?”
“She does not know it,” Feet says. “I am ashamed to tell her, because naturally if I tell her I love her, Hortense will expect me to buy her some diamond bracelets, and naturally I cannot do this. But I think she likes me more than somewhat, because she looks at me in a certain way. But,” Feet says, “there is some other guy who likes her also, and who is buying her diamond bracelets and what goes with them, which makes it very tough on me. I do not know who the guy is, and I do not think Hortense cares for him so much, but naturally any doll must give serious consideration to a guy who can buy her diamond bracelets. So I guess there is nothing for me to do but scrag myself.”
Naturally I do not take Feet Samuels serious, and I forget about his troubles at once, because I figure he will wiggle out some way, but the next night he comes into Mindy’s all pleasured up, and I figure he must make a scratch somewhere, for he is walking like a man with about sixty-five dollars on him.
But it seems Feet only has an idea, and very few ideas are worth sixty-five dollars.
“I am laying in bed thinking this afternoon,” Feet says, “and I get to thinking how I can raise enough dough to pay off The Brain, and maybe a few other guys, and my landlady, and leave a few bobs over to help bury me. I am going to sell my body.”
Well, naturally I am somewhat bewildered by this statement, so I ask Feet to explain, and here is his idea: He is going to find some doctor who wishes a dead body and sell his body to this doctor for as much as he can get, his body to be delivered after Feet scrags himself, which is to be within a certain time.
“I understand,” Feet says, “that these croakers are always looking for bodies to practice on, and that good bodies are not easy to get nowadays.”
“How much do you figure your body is worth?” I ask.
“Well,” Feet says, “a body as big as mine ought to be worth at least a G.”
“Feet,” I say, “this all sounds most gruesome to me. Personally I do not know much about such a proposition, but I do not believe if doctors buy bodies at all that they buy them by the pound. And I do not believe you can get a thousand dollars for your body, especially while you are still alive, because how does a doctor know if you will deliver your body to him?”
“Why,” Feet says, very indignant, “everybody knows I pay what I owe. I can give The Brain for reference, and he will okay me with anybody for keeping my word.”
Well, it seems to me that there is very little sense to what Feet Samuels is talking about, and anyway I figure that maybe he blows his topper, which is what often happens to brokers, so I pay no more attention to him. But on Monday morning, just before four o’clock, I am in Mindy’s, and what happens but in walks Feet with a handful of money, looking much pleased.
The Brain is also there at the table where he always sits facing the door so nobody can pop in on him without him seeing them first, because there are many people in this town that The Brain likes to see first if they are coming in where he is. Feet steps up to the table and lays a C note in front of The Brain and also a sawbuck, and The Brain looks up at the clock and smiles and says:
“Okay, Feet, you are on time.”
It is very unusual for The Brain to smile about anything, but afterwards I hear he wins two C’s off of Manny Mandelbaum, who bets him Feet will not pay off on time, so The Brain has a smile coming.
“By the way, Feet,” The Brain says, “some doctor calls me up today and asks me if your word is good, and you may be glad to know I tell him you are one hundred per cent. I put the okay on you because I know you never fail to deliver on a promise. Are you sick, or something?”
“No,” Feet says, “I am not sick. I just have a little business deal on with the guy. Thanks for the okay.”
Then he comes over to the table where I am sitting, and I can see he still has money left in his duke. Naturally I am anxious to know where he makes the scratch, and by and by he tells me.
“I put over the proposition I am telling you about,” Feet says. “I sell my body to a doctor over on Park Avenue by the name of Bodeeker, but I do not get a G for it as I expect. It seems bodies are not worth much right now because there are so many on the market, but Doc Bodeeker gives me four C’s on thirty days’ delivery.
“I never know it is so much trouble selling a body before,” Feet says. “Three doctors call the cops on me when I proposition them, thinking I am daffy, but Doc Bodeeker is a nice old guy and is glad to do business with me, especially when I give The Brain as reference. Doc Bodeeker says he is looking for a head shaped just like mine for years, because it seems he is a shark on heads. But,” Feet says, “I got to figure out some way of scragging myself besides jumping out a window, like I plan, because Doc Bodeeker does not wish my head mussed up.”
“Well,” I say, “this is certainly most ghastly to me and does not sound legitimate. Does The Brain know you sell your body?”
“No,” Feet says, “Doc Bodeeker only asks him over the phone if my word is good, and does not tell him why he wishes to know, but he is satisfied with The Brain’s okay. Now I am going to pay my landlady, and take up a few other markers here and there, and feed myself up good until it is time to leave this bad old world behind.”
But it seems Feet Samuels does not go to pay his landlady right away. Where he goes is to Johnny Crackow’s crap game downtown, which is a crap game with a five-hundred-dollar limit where the high shots seldom go, but where there is always some action for a small operator. And as Feet walks into the joint it seems that Big Nig is trying to make four with the dice, and everybody knows that four is a hard point for Big Nig, or anybody else, to make.
So Feet Samuels looks on a while watching Big Nig trying to make four, and a guy by the name of Whitey offers to take two to one for a C note that Big Nig makes this four, which is certainly more confidence than I will ever have in Big Nig. Naturally Feet hauls out a couple of his C notes at once, as anybody must do who has a couple of C notes, and bets Whitey two hundred to a hundred that Big Nig does not make the four. And right away Big Nig outs with a seven, so Feet wins the bet.
Well, to make a long story short, Feet stands there for some time betting guys that other guys will not make four, or whatever it is they are trying to make with the dice, and the first thing anybody knows Feet Samuels is six G’s winner, and has the crap game all crippled up. I see him the next night up in the Hot Box, and this big first baseman, Hortense, is with him, sliding around on Feet’s feet, and a blind man can see that she has on at least three more diamond bracelets than ever before.
A night or two later I hear of Feet beating Long George McCormack, a high shot from Los Angeles, out of eighteen G’s playing a card game that is called low ball, and Feet Samuels has no more license to beat a guy like Long George playing low ball than I have to lick Jack Dempsey. But when a guy finally gets his rushes in gambling nothing can stop him for a while; and this is the way it is with Feet. Every night you hear of him winning plenty of dough at this or that.
He comes into Mindy’s one morning, and naturally I move over to his table at once, because Feet is now in the money and is a guy anybody can associate with freely. I am just about to ask him how things are going with him, although I know they are going pretty good when in pops a fierce-looking old guy with his face all covered with gray whiskers that stick out every which way, and whose eyes peek out of these whiskers very wild indeed. Feet turns pale as he sees the guy, but nods at him, and the guy nods back and goes out.
“Who is the Whiskers?” I ask Feet. “He is in here the other morning looking around, and he makes people very nervous because nobody can figure who he is or what his dodge may be.”
“It is old Doc Bodeeker,” Feet says. “He is around checking up on me to make sure I am still in town. Say, I am in a very hot spot one way and another.”
“What are you worrying about?” I ask. “You got plenty of dough and about two weeks left to enjoy yourself before this Doc Bodeeker forecloses on you.”
“I know,” Feet says, very sad. “But now I get this dough things do not look as tough to me as formerly, and I am very sorry I make the deal with the doctor. Especially,” Feet says, “on account of Hortense.”
“What about Hortense?” I ask.
“I think she is commencing to love me since I am able to buy her more diamond bracelets than the other guy,” Feet says. “If it is not for this thing hanging over me, I will ask her to marry me, and maybe she will do it, at that.”
“Well, then,” I say, “why do you not to go old Whiskers and pay him his dough back, and tell him you change your mind about selling your body, although of course if it is not for Whiskers’s buying your body you will not have all this dough.”
“I do go to him,” Feet says, and I can see there are big tears in his eyes. “But he says he will not cancel the deal. He says he will not take the money back; what he wants is my body, because I have such a funny-shaped head. I offer him four times what he pays me, but he will not take it. He says my body must be delivered to him promptly on March first.”
“Does Hortense know about this deal?” I ask.
“Oh, no, no!” Feet says. “And I will never tell her, because she will think I am crazy, and Hortense does not care for crazy guys. In fact, she is always complaining about the other guy who buys her the diamond bracelets, claiming he is a little crazy, and if she thinks I am the same way the chances are she will give me the breeze.”
Now this is a situation indeed, but what to do about it I do not know. I put the proposition up to a lawyer friend of mine the next day, and he says he does not believe the deal will hold good in court, but of course I know Feet Samuels does not wish to go to court, because the last time Feet goes to court he is held as a material witness and is in the Tombs ten days.
The lawyer says Feet can run away, but personally I consider this a very dishonorable idea after The Brain putting the okay on Feet with old Doc Bodeeker, and anyway I can see Feet is not going to do such a thing as long as Hortense is around. I can see that one hair of her head is stronger than the Atlantic cable with Feet Samuels.
A week slides by, and I do not see so much of Feet, but I hear of him murdering crap games and short card players, and winning plenty, and also going around the night clubs with Hortense, who finally has so many bracelets there is no more room on her arms, and she puts a few of them on her ankles, which are not bad ankles to look at, at that, with or without bracelets.
Then goes another week, and it just happens I am standing in front of Mindy’s about four-thirty one morning and thinking that Feet’s time must be up and wondering how he makes out with old Doc Bodeeker, when all of a sudden I hear a ploppity-plop coming up Broadway, and what do I see but Feet Samuels running so fast he is passing taxis that are going thirty-five miles an hour like they are standing still. He is certainly stepping along.
There are no traffic lights and not much traffic at such an hour in the morning, and Feet passes me in a terrible hurry. And about twenty yards behind him comes an old guy with gray whiskers, and I can see it is nobody but Doc Bodeeker. What is more, he has a big long knife in one hand, and he seems to be reaching for Feet at every jump with the knife.
Well, this seems to me a most surprising spectacle, and I follow them to see what comes of it, because I can see at once that Doc Bodeeker is trying to collect Feet’s body himself. But I am not much of a runner, and they are out of my sight in no time, and only that I am able to follow them by ear through Feet’s feet going ploppity-plop I will ever trail them.
They turn east onto Fifty-fourth Street off Broadway, and when I finally reach the corner I see a crowd halfway down the block in front of the Hot Box, and I know this crowd has something to do with Feet and Doc Bodeeker even before I get to the door to find that Feet goes on in while Doc Bodeeker is arguing with Soldier Sweeney, the doorman, because as Feet passes the Soldier he tells the Soldier not to let the guy who is chasing him in. And the Soldier, being a good friend of Feet’s, is standing the doc off.
Well, it seems that Hortense is in the Hot Box waiting for Feet, and naturally she is much surprised to see him come in all out of breath, and so is everybody else in the joint, including Henri, the head waiter, who afterwards tells me what comes off there, because you see I am out in front.
“A crazy man is chasing me with a butcher knife,” Feet says to Hortense. “If he gets inside I am a goner. He is down at the door trying to get in.”
Now I will say one thing for Hortense, and this is she has plenty of nerve, but of course you will expect a daughter of Skush O’Brien to have plenty of nerve. Nobody ever has more moxie than Skush. Henri, the head waiter, tells me that Hortense does not get excited, but says she will just have a little peek at the guy who is chasing Feet.
The Hot Box is over a garage, and the kitchen windows look down onto Fifty-fourth Street, and while Doc Bodeeker is arguing with Soldier Sweeney, I hear a window lift, and who looks out but Hortense. She takes one squint and yanks her head in quick, and Henri tells me afterwards she shrieks:
“My Lord, Feet! This is the same daffy old guy who sends me all the bracelets, and who wishes to marry me!”
“And he is the guy I sell my body to,” Feet says, and then he tells Hortense the story of his deal with Doc Bodeeker.
“It is all for you, Horty,” Feet says, although of course this is nothing but a big lie, because it is all for The Brain in the beginning. “I love you, and I only wish to get a little dough to show you a good time before I die. If it is not for this deal I will ask you to be my ever-loving wife.”
Well, what happens but Hortense plunges right into Feet’s arms, and gives him a big kiss on his ugly mush, and says to him like this:
“I love you too, Feet, because nobody ever makes such a sacrifice as to hock their body for me. Never mind the deal. I will marry you at once, only we must first get rid of this daffy old guy downstairs.”
Then Hortense peeks out of the window again and hollers down at old Doc Bodeeker. “Go away,” she says. “Go away, or I will chuck a moth in your whiskers, you old fool.”
But the sight of her only seems to make old Doc Bodeeker a little wilder than somewhat, and he starts struggling with Soldier Sweeney very ferocious, so the Soldier takes the knife away from the doc and throws it away before somebody gets hurt with it.
Now it seems Hortense looks around the kitchen for something to chuck out the window at old Doc Bodeeker, and all she sees is a nice new ham which the chef just lays out on the table to slice up for ham sandwiches. This ham is a very large ham, such as will last the Hot Box a month, for they slice the ham in their ham sandwiches very, very thin up at the Hot Box. Anyway, Hortense grabs up the ham and runs to the window with it and gives it a heave without even stopping to take aim.
Well, this ham hits the poor old Doc Bodeeker kerbowie smack-dab on the noggin. The doc does not fall down, but he commences staggering around with his legs bending under him like he is drunk.
I wish to help him, because I feel sorry for a guy in such a spot as this, and what is more I consider it a dirty trick for a doll such as Hortense to slug anybody with a ham.
Well, I take charge of the old doc and lead him back down Broadway and into Mindy’s, where I set him down and get him a cup of coffee and a Bismarck herring to revive him, while quite a number of citizens gather about him very sympathetic.
“My friends,” the old doc says finally, looking around, “you see in me a broken-hearted man. I am not a crack-pot, although of course my relatives may give you an argument on this proposition. I am in love with Hortense. I am in love with her from the night I first see her playing the part of a sunflower in Scandals. I wish to marry her, as I am a widower of long standing, but somehow the idea of me marrying anybody never appeals to my sons and daughters.
“In fact,” the doc says, dropping his voice to a whisper, “sometimes they even talk of locking me up when I wish to marry somebody. So naturally I never tell them about Hortense, because I fear they may try to discourage me. But I am deeply in love with her and send her many beautiful presents, although I am not able to see her often on account of my relatives. Then I find out Hortense is carrying on with this Feet Samuels.
“I am desperately jealous,” the doc says, “but I do not know what to do. Finally Fate sends this Feet to me offering to sell his body. Of course, I am not practicing for years, but I keep an office on Park Avenue just for old times’ sake, and it is to this office he comes. At first I think he is crazy, but he refers me to Mr. Armand Rosenthal, the big sporting man, who assures me that Feet Samuels is all right.
“The idea strikes me that if I make a deal with Feet Samuels for his body as he proposes, he will wait until the time comes to pay his obligation and run away, and,” the doc says, “I will never be troubled by his rivalry for the affections of Hortense again. But he does not depart. I do not reckon on the holding power of love.
“Finally in a jealous frenzy I take after him with a knife, figuring to scare him out of town. But it is too late. I can see how Hortense loves him in return, or she will not drop a scuttle of coal on me in his defense as she does.
“Yes, gentlemen,” the old doc says, “I am broken-hearted. I also seem to have a large lump on my head. Besides, Hortense has all my presents, and Feet Samuels has my money, so I get the worst of it all around. I only hope and trust that my daughter Eloise, who is Mrs. Sidney Simmons Bragdon, does not hear of this, or she may be as mad as she is the time I wish to marry the beautiful cigarette girl in Jimmy Kelley’s.”
Here Doc Bodeeker seems all busted up by his feelings and starts to shed tears, and everybody is feeling very sorry for him indeed, when up steps The Brain, who is taking everything in.
“Do not worry about your presents and your dough,” The Brain says. “I will make everything good, because I am the guy who okays Feet Samuels with you. I am wrong on a guy for the first time in my life, and I must pay, but Feet Samuels will be very, very sorry when I find him. Of course, I do not figure on a doll in the case, and this always makes quite a difference, so I am really not a hundred per cent wrong on the guy, at that.
“But,” The Brain says, in a very loud voice so everybody can hear, “Feet Samuels is nothing but a dirty welsher for not turning in his body to you as per agreement, and as long as he lives he will never get another dollar or another okay off of me, or anybody I know. His credit is ruined forever on Broadway.”
But I judge that Feet and Hortense do not care. The last time I hear of them they are away over in New Jersey where not even The Brain’s guys dast to bother them on account of Skush O’Brien, and I understand they are raising chickens and children right and left, and that all of Hortense’s bracelets are now in Newark municipal bonds, which I am told are not bad bonds, at that.
MADAME LA GIMP
One night I am passing the corner of Fiftieth Street and Broadway, and what do I see but Dave the Dude standing in a doorway talking to a busted-down old Spanish doll by the name of Madame La Gimp. Or rather Madame La Gimp is talking to Dave the Dude, and what is more he is listening to her, because I can hear him say yes, yes, as he always does when he is really listening to anybody, which is very seldom.
Now this is a most surprising sight to me, because Madame La Gimp is not such an old doll as anybody will wish to listen to, especially Dave the Dude. In fact, she is nothing but an old hay-bag, and generally somewhat ginned up. For fifteen years, or maybe sixteen, I see Madame La Gimp up and down Broadway, or sliding along through the Forties, sometimes selling newspapers, and sometimes selling flowers, and in all these years I seldom see her but what she seems to have about half a heat on from drinking gin.
Of course, nobody ever takes the newspapers she sells, even after they buy them off of her, because they are generally yesterday’s papers, and sometimes last week’s, and nobody ever wants her flowers, even after they pay her for them, because they are flowers such as she gets off an undertaker over on Tenth Avenue, and they are very tired flowers indeed.
Personally, I consider Madame La Gimp nothing but an old pest, but kind-hearted guys like Dave the Dude always stake her to a few pieces of silver when she comes shuffling along putting on the moan about her tough luck. She walks with a gimp in one leg, which is why she is called Madame La Gimp, and years ago I hear somebody say Madame La Gimp is once a Spanish dancer, and a big shot on Broadway, but that she meets up with an accident which puts her out of the dancing dodge, and that a busted romance makes her become a gin-head.
I remember somebody telling me once that Madame La Gimp is quite a beauty in her day, and has her own servants, and all this and that, but I always hear the same thing about every bum on Broadway, male and female, including some I know are bums, in spades, right from taw, so I do not pay any attention to these stories.
Still, I am willing to allow that maybe Madame La Gimp is once a fair looker, at that, and the chances are has a fair shape, because once or twice I see her when she is not ginned up, and has her hair combed, and she is not so bad-looking, although even then if you put her in a claiming race I do not think there is any danger of anybody claiming her out of it.
Mostly she is wearing raggedy clothes, and busted shoes, and her gray hair is generally hanging down her face, and when I say she is maybe fifty years old I am giving her plenty the best of it. Although she is Spanish, Madame La Gimp talks good English, and in fact she can cuss in English as good as anybody I ever hear, barring Dave the Dude.
Well, anyway, when Dave the Dude sees me as he is listening to Madame La Gimp, he motions me to wait, so I wait until she finally gets through gabbing to him and goes gimping away. Then Dave the Dude comes over to me looking much worried.
“This is quite a situation,” Dave says. “The old doll is in a tough spot. It seems that she once has a baby which she calls by the name of Eulalie, being it is a girl baby, and she ships this baby off to her sister in a little town in Spain to raise up, because Madame La Gimp figures a baby is not apt to get much raising-up off of her as long as she is on Broadway. Well, this baby is on her way here. In fact,” Dave says, “she will land next Saturday and here it is Wednesday already.”
“Where is the baby’s papa?” I ask Dave the Dude.
“Well,” Dave says, “I do not ask Madame La Gimp this, because I do not consider it a fair question. A guy who goes around this town asking where babies’ papas are, or even who they are, is apt to get the name of being nosy. Anyway, this has nothing whatever to do with the proposition, which is that Madame La Gimp’s baby, Eulalie, is arriving here.
“Now,” Dave says, “it seems that Madame La Gimp’s baby, being now eighteen years old, is engaged to marry the son of a very proud old Spanish nobleman who lives in this little town in Spain, and it also seems that the very proud old Spanish nobleman, and his ever-loving wife, and the son, and Madame La Gimp’s sister, are all with the baby. They are making a tour of the whole world, and will stop over here a couple of days just to see Madame La Gimp.”
“It is commencing to sound to me like a movie such as a guy is apt to see at a midnight show,” I say.
“Wait a minute,” Dave says, getting impatient. “You are too gabby to suit me. Now it seems that the proud old Spanish nobleman does not wish his son to marry any lob, and one reason he is coming here is to look over Madame La Gimp, and see that she is okay. He thinks that Madame La Gimp’s baby’s own papa is dead, and that Madame La Gimp is now married to one of the richest and most aristocratic guys in America.”
“How does the proud old Spanish nobleman get such an idea as this?” I ask. “It is a sure thing he never sees Madame La Gimp, or even a photograph of her as she is at present.”
“I will tell you how,” Dave the Dude says. “It seems Madame La Gimp gives her baby the idea that such is the case in her letters to her. It seems Madame La Gimp does a little scrubbing business around a swell apartment hotel on Park Avenue that is called the Marberry, and she cops stationery there and writes her baby in Spain on this stationery, saying this is where she lives, and how rich and aristocratic her husband is. And what is more, Madame La Gimp has letters from her baby sent to her care of the hotel and gets them out of the employees’ mail.”
“Why,” I say, “Madame La Gimp is nothing but an old fraud to deceive people in this manner, especially a proud old Spanish nobleman. And,” I say, “this proud old Spanish nobleman must be something of a chump to believe a mother has plenty of dough, although of course I do not know just how smart a proud old Spanish nobleman can be.”
“Well,” Dave says, “Madame La Gimp tells me the thing that makes the biggest hit of all with the proud old Spanish nobleman is that she keeps her baby in Spain all these years because she wishes her raised up a true Spanish baby in every respect until she is old enough to know what time it is. But I judge the proud old Spanish nobleman is none too bright, at that,” Dave says, “because Madame La Gimp tells me he always lives in his little town which does not even have running water in the bathrooms.
“But what I am getting at is this,” Dave says. “We must have Madame La Gimp in a swell apartment in the Marberry with a rich and aristocratic guy for a husband by the time her baby gets here, because if the proud old Spanish nobleman finds out Madame La Gimp is nothing but a bum, it is a hundred to one he will cancel his son’s engagement to Madame La Gimp’s baby and break a lot of people’s hearts, including his son’s.
“Madame La Gimp tells me her baby is daffy about the young guy, and he is daffy about her, and there are enough broken hearts in this town as it is. I know I will get the apartment, so you go and bring me Judge Henry G. Blake for a rich and aristocratic husband, or anyway for a husband.”
Well, I know Dave the Dude to do many a daffy thing, but never a thing as daffy as this. But I know there is no use arguing with him when he gets an idea, because if you argue with Dave the Dude too much he is apt to reach over and lay his Sunday punch on your snoot, and no argument is worth a punch on the snoot, especially from Dave the Dude.
So I go out looking for Judge Henry G. Blake to be Madame La Gimp’s husband, although I am not so sure Judge Henry G. Blake will care to be anybody’s husband, and especially Madame La Gimp’s after he gets a load of her, for Judge Henry G. Blake is kind of a classy old guy.
To look at Judge Henry G. Blake, with his gray hair, and his nose glasses, and his stomach, you will think he is very important people indeed. Of course, Judge Henry G. Blake is not a judge, and never is a judge, but they call him Judge because he looks like a judge, and talks slow, and puts in many long words, which very few people understand.
They tell me Judge Blake once has plenty of dough, and is quite a guy on Wall Street, and a high shot along Broadway, but he misses a few guesses at the market, and winds up without much dough, as guys generally do who miss guesses at the market. What Judge Henry G. Blake does for a living at this time nobody knows, because he does nothing much whatever, and yet he seems to be a producer in a small way at all times.
Now and then he makes a trip across the ocean with such as Little Manuel, and other guys who ride the tubs, and sits in with them on games of bridge, and one thing and another, when they need him. Very often when he is riding the tubs, Little Manuel runs into some guy he cannot cheat, so he has to call in Judge Henry G. Blake to outplay the guy on the level, although of course Little Manuel will much rather get a guy’s dough by cheating him than by outplaying him on the level. Why this is, I do not know, but this is the way Little Manuel is.
Anyway, you cannot say Judge Henry G. Blake is a bum, especially as he wears good clothes, with a wing collar, and a derby hat, and most people consider him a very nice old man. Personally I never catch the judge out of line on any proposition whatever, and he always says hello to me, very pleasant.
It takes me several hours to find Judge Henry G. Blake, but finally I locate him in Derle’s billiards-room playing a game of pool with a guy from Providence, Rhode Island. It seems the judge is playing the guy from Providence for five cents a ball, and the judge is about thirteen balls behind when I step into the joint, because naturally at five cents a ball the judge wishes the guy from Providence to win, so as to encourage him to play for maybe twenty-five cents a ball, the judge being very cute this way.
Well, when I step in I see the judge miss a shot anybody can make blindfolded, but as soon as I give him the office I wish to speak to him, the judge hauls off and belts in every ball on the table, bingity-bing, the last shot being a bank that will make Al de Oro stop and think, because when it comes to pool, the old judge is just naturally a curly wolf.
Afterwards he tells me he is very sorry I make him hurry up this way, because of course after the last shot he is never going to get the guy from Providence to play him pool even for fun, and the judge tells me the guy sizes up as a right good thing, at that.
Now Judge Henry G. Blake is not so excited when I tell him what Dave the Dude wishes to see him about, but naturally he is willing to do anything for Dave, because he knows that guys who are not willing to do things for Dave the Dude often have bad luck. The judge tells me that he is afraid he will not make much of a husband because he tries it before several times on his own hook and is always a bust, but as long as this time it is not to be anything serious, he will tackle it. Anyway, Judge Henry G. Blake says, being aristocratic will come natural to him.
Well, when Dave the Dude starts out on any proposition, he is a wonder for fast working. The first thing he does is to turn Madame La Gimp over to Miss Billy Perry, who is now Dave’s ever-loving wife which he takes out of tap-dancing in Miss Missouri Martin’s Sixteen Hundred Club, and Miss Billy Perry calls in Miss Missouri Martin to help.
This is water on Miss Missouri Martin’s wheel, because if there is anything she loves it is to stick her nose in other people’s business, no matter what it is, but she is quite a help at that, although at first they have a tough time keeping her from telling Waldo Winchester, the scribe, about the whole cat-hop, so he will put a story in the Morning Item about it, with Miss Missouri Martin’s name in it. Miss Missouri Martin does not believe in ever overlooking any publicity bets on the layout.
Anyway, it seems that between them Miss Billy Perry and Miss Missouri Martin get Madame La Gimp dolled up in a lot of new clothes, and run her through one of these beauty joints until she comes out very much changed indeed. Afterwards I hear Miss Billy Perry and Miss Missouri Martin have quite a few words, because Miss Missouri Martin wishes to paint Madame La Gimp’s hair the same color as her own, which is a high yellow, and buy her the same kind of dresses which Miss Missouri Martin wears herself, and Miss Missouri Martin gets much insulted when Miss Billy Perry says no, they are trying to dress Madame La Gimp to look like a lady.
They tell me Miss Missouri Martin thinks some of putting the slug on Miss Billy Perry for this crack, but happens to remember just in time that Miss Billy Perry is now Dave the Dude’s ever-loving wife, and that nobody in this town can put the slug on Dave’s ever-loving wife, except maybe Dave himself.
Now the next thing anybody knows, Madame La Gimp is in a swell eight- or nine-room apartment in the Marberry, and the way this comes about is as follows: It seems that one of Dave the Dude’s most important champagne customers is a guy by the name of Rodney B. Emerson, who owns the apartment, but who is at his summer home in Newport, with his family, or anyway with his ever-loving wife.
This Rodney B. Emerson is quite a guy along Broadway, and a great hand for spending dough and looking for laughs, and he is very popular with the mob. Furthermore, he is obliged to Dave the Dude, because Dave sells him good champagne when most guys are trying to hand him the old phonus bolonus, and naturally Rodney B. Emerson appreciates this kind treatment.
He is a short, fat guy, with a round, red face, and a big laugh, and the kind of a guy Dave the Dude can call up at his home in Newport and explain the situation and ask for the loan of the apartment, which Dave does.
Well, it seems Rodney B. Emerson gets a big bang out of the idea, and he says to Dave the Dude like this:
“You not only can have the apartment, Dave, but I will come over and help you out. It will save a lot of explaining around the Marberry if I am there.”
So he hops right over from Newport, and joins in with Dave the Dude, and I wish to say Rodney B. Emerson will always be kindly remembered by one and all for his co-operation, and nobody will ever again try to hand him the phonus bolonus when he is buying champagne, even if he is not buying it off of Dave the Dude.
Well, it is coming on Saturday and the boat from Spain is due, so Dave the Dude hires a big town car, and puts his own driver, Wop Sam, on it, as he does not wish any strange driver tipping off anybody that it is a hired car. Miss Missouri Martin is anxious to go to the boat with Madame La Gimp, and take her jazz band, the Hi Hi Boys, from her Sixteen Hundred Club with her to make it a real welcome, but nobody thinks much of this idea. Only Madame La Gimp and her husband, Judge Henry G. Blake, and Miss Billy Perry go, though the judge holds out for some time for Little Manuel, because Judge Blake says he wishes somebody around to tip him off in case there are any bad cracks made about him as a husband in Spanish, and Little Manuel is very Spanish.
The morning they go to meet the boat is the first time Judge Henry G. Blake gets a load of his ever-loving wife, Madame La Gimp, and by this time Miss Billy Perry and Miss Missouri Martin give Madame La Gimp such a going-over that she is by no means the worst looker in the world. In fact, she looks first-rate, especially as she is off gin and says she is off it for good.
Judge Henry G. Blake is really quite surprised by her looks, as he figures all along she will turn out to be a crow. In fact, Judge Blake hurls a couple of shots into himself to nerve himself for the ordeal, as he explains it, before he appears to go to the boat. Between these shots, and the nice clothes, and the good cleaning-up Miss Billy Perry and Miss Missouri Martin give Madame La Gimp, she is really a pleasant sight to the judge.
They tell me the meeting at the dock between Madame La Gimp and her baby is very affecting indeed, and when the proud old Spanish nobleman and his wife, and their son, and Madame La Gimp’s sister, all go into action, too, there are enough tears around there to float all the battleships we once sink for Spain. Even Miss Billy Perry and Judge Henry G. Blake do some first-class crying, although the chances are the judge is worked up to the crying more by the shots he takes for his courage than by the meeting.
Still, I hear the old judge does himself proud, with his kissing Madame La Gimp’s baby plenty, and duking the proud old Spanish nobleman, and his wife, and son, and giving Madame La Gimp’s sister a good strong hug that squeezes her tongue out.
It turns out that the proud old Spanish nobleman has white sideburns, and is entitled Conde de Something, so his ever-loving wife is the Condesa, and the son is a very nice-looking quiet young guy any way you take him, who blushes every time anybody looks at him. As for Madame La Gimp’s baby, she is as pretty as they come, and many guys are sorry they do not get Judge Henry G. Blake’s job as stepfather, because he is able to take a kiss at Madame La Gimp’s baby on what seems to be very small excuse. I never see a nicer-looking young couple, and anybody can see they are very fond of each other indeed.
Madame La Gimp’s sister is not such a doll as I will wish to have sawed off on me, and is up in the paints as regards to age, but she is also very quiet. None of the bunch talk any English, so Miss Billy Perry and Judge Henry G. Blake are pretty much outsiders on the way uptown. Anyway, the judge takes the wind as soon as they reach the Marberry, because the judge is now getting a little tired of being a husband. He says he has to take a trip out to Pittsburgh to buy four or five coal mines, but will be back the next day.
Well, it seems to me that everything is going perfect so far, and that it is good judgment to let it lay as it is, but nothing will do Dave the Dude but to have a reception the following night. I advise Dave the Dude against this idea, because I am afraid something will happen to spoil the whole cat-hop, but he will not listen to me, especially as Rodney B. Emerson is now in town and is a strong booster for the party, as he wishes to drink of some of the good champagne he has planted in his apartment.
Furthermore, Miss Billy Perry and Miss Missouri Martin are very indignant at me when they hear about my advice, as it seems they both buy new dresses out of Dave the Dude’s bank roll when they are dressing up Madame La Gimp, and they wish to spring these dresses somewhere where they can be seen. So the party is on.
I get to the Marberry around nine o’clock and who opens the door of Madame La Gimp’s apartment for me but Moosh, the doorman from Miss Missouri Martin’s Sixteen Hundred Club. Furthermore, he is in his Sixteen Hundred Club uniform, except he has a clean shave. I wish Moosh a hello, and he never raps to me but only bows, and takes my hat.
The next guy I see is Rodney B. Emerson in evening clothes, and the minute he sees me he yells out, “Mister O. O. McIntyre.” Well, of course, I am not Mister O. O. McIntyre, and never put myself away as Mister O. O. McIntyre, and furthermore there is no resemblance whatever between Mister O. O. McIntyre and me, because I am a fairly good-looking guy, and I start to give Rodney B. Emerson an argument, when he whispers to me like this:
“Listen,” he whispers, “we must have big names at this affair, so as to impress these people. The chances are they read the newspapers back there in Spain, and we must let them meet the folks they read about, so they will see Madame La Gimp is a real big shot to get such names to a party.”
Then he takes me by the arm and leads me to a group of people in a corner of the room, which is about the size of the Grand Central waiting-room.
“Mister O. O. McIntyre, the big writer!” Rodney B. Emerson says, and the next thing I know I am shaking hands with Mr. and Mrs. Conde, and their son, and with Madame La Gimp and her baby, and Madame La Gimp’s sister, and finally with Judge Henry G. Blake, who has on a swallowtail coat, and does not give me much of a tumble. I figure the chances are Judge Henry G. Blake is getting a swelled head already, not to tumble up a guy who helps him get his job, but even at that I wish to say the old judge looks immense in his swallowtail coat, bowing and giving one and all the castor-oil smile.
Madame La Gimp is in a low-neck black dress and is wearing a lot of Miss Missouri Martin’s diamonds, such as rings and bracelets, which Miss Missouri Martin insists on hanging on her, although I hear afterwards that Miss Missouri Martin has Johnny Brannigan, the plain-clothes copper, watching these diamonds. I wonder at the time why Johnny is there, but figure it is because he is a friend of Dave the Dude’s. Miss Missouri Martin is no sucker, even if she is kind-hearted.
Anybody looking at Madame La Gimp will bet you all the coffee in Java that she never lives in a cellar over on Tenth Avenue, and drinks plenty of gin in her day. She has her gray hair piled up high on her head, with a big Spanish comb in it, and she reminds me of a picture I see somewhere, but I do not remember just where. And her baby, Eulalie, in a white dress is about as pretty a little doll as you will wish to see, and nobody can blame Judge Henry G. Blake for copping a kiss off of her now and then.
Well, pretty soon I hear Rodney B. Emerson bawling, “Mister Willie K. Vanderbilt,” and in comes nobody but Big Nig, and Rodney B. Emerson leads him over to the group and introduces him.
Little Manuel is standing alongside Judge Henry G. Blake, and he explains in Spanish to Mr. and Mrs. Conde and the others that “Willie K. Vanderbilt” is a very large millionaire, and Mr. and Mrs. Conde seem much interested, anyway, though naturally Madame La Gimp and Judge Henry G. Blake are jerry to Big Nig, while Madame La Gimp’s baby and the young guy are interested in nobody but each other.
Then I hear, “Mister Al Jolson,” and in comes nobody but Tony Bertazzola, from the Chicken Club, who looks about as much like Al as I do like O. O. McIntyre, which is not at all. Next comes “the Very Reverend John Roach Straton,” who seems to be Skeets Bolivar to me, then “the Honorable Mayor James J. Walker,” and who is it but Good Time Charley Bernstein.
“Mister Otto H. Kahn,” turns out to be Rochester Red, and “Mister Heywood Broun” is Nick the Greek, who asks me privately who Heywood Broun is, and gets very sore at Rodney B. Emerson when I describe Heywood Broun to him.
Finally there is quite a commotion at the door, and Rodney B. Emerson announces, “Mister Herbert Bayard Swope,” in an extra loud voice which makes everybody look around, but it is nobody but the Pale Face Kid. He gets me to one side, too, and wishes to know who Herbert Bayard Swope is, and when I explain to him, the Pale Face Kid gets so swelled up he will not speak to Death House Donegan, who is only “Mister William Muldoon.”
Well, it seems to me they are getting too strong when they announce, “Vice-President of the United States, the Honorable Charles Curtis,” and in pops Guinea Mike, and I say as much to Dave the Dude, who is running around every which way looking after things, but he only says, “Well, if you do not know it is Guinea Mike, will you know it is not Vice-President Curtis?”
But it seems to me all this is most disrespectful to our leading citizens, especially when Rodney B. Emerson calls, “The Honorable Police Commissioner, Mister Grover A. Whalen,” and in pops Wild William Wilkins, who is a very hot man at this time, being wanted in several spots for different raps. Dave the Dude takes personal charge of Wild William and removes a rod from his pants pocket, because none of the guests are supposed to come rodded up, this being strictly a social matter.
I watch Mr. and Mrs. Conde, and I do not see that these names are making any impression on them, and I afterwards find out that they never get any newspapers in their town in Spain except a little local bladder which only prints the home news. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Conde seem somewhat bored, although Mr. Conde cheers up no little and looks interested when a lot of dolls drift in. They are mainly dolls from Miss Missouri Martin’s Sixteen Hundred Club, and the Hot Box, but Rodney B. Emerson introduces them as “Sophie Tucker,” and “Theda Bara,” and “Jeanne Eagels,” and “Helen Morgan,” and “Aunt Jemima,” and one thing and another.
Well, pretty soon in comes Miss Missouri Martin’s jazz band, the Hi Hi Boys, and the party commences getting up steam, especially when Dave the Dude gets Rodney B. Emerson to breaking out the old grape. By and by there is dancing going on, and a good time is being had by one and all, including Mr. and Mrs. Conde. In fact, after Mr. Conde gets a couple of jolts of the old grape, he turns out to be a pretty nice old skate, even if nobody can understand what he is talking about.
As for Judge Henry G. Blake, he is full of speed indeed. By this time anybody can see that the judge is commencing to believe that all this is on the level and that he is really entertaining celebrities in his own home. You put a quart of good grape inside the old judge and he will believe anything. He soon dances himself plumb out of wind, and then I notice he is hanging around Madame La Gimp a lot.
Along about midnight, Dave the Dude has to go out into the kitchen and settle a battle there over a crap game, but otherwise everything is very peaceful. It seems that “Herbert Bayard Swope,” “Vice-President Curtis,” and “Grover Whalen” get a little game going, when “the Reverend John Roach Straton” steps up and cleans them in four passes, but it seems they soon discover that “the Reverend John Roach Straton” is using tops on them, which are very dishonest dice, and so they put the slug on “the Reverend John Roach Straton” and Dave the Dude has to split them out.
By and by I figure on taking the wind, and I look for Mr. and Mrs. Conde to tell them good night, but Mr. Conde and Miss Missouri Martin are still dancing, and Miss Missouri Martin is pouring conversation into Mr. Conde’s ear by the bucketful, and while Mr. Conde does not savvy a word she says, this makes no difference to Miss Missouri Martin. Let Miss Missouri Martin do all the talking, and she does not care a whoop if anybody understands her.
Mrs. Conde is over in a corner with “Herbert Bayard Swope,” or the Pale Face Kid, who is trying to find out from her by using hog Latin and signs on her if there is any chance for a good twenty-one dealer in Spain, and of course Mrs. Conde is not able to make heads or tails of what he means, so I hunt up Madame La Gimp.
She is sitting in a darkish corner off by herself and I really do not see Judge Henry G. Blake leaning over her until I am almost on top of them, so I cannot help hearing what the judge is saying.
“I am wondering for two days,” he says, “if by any chance you remember me. Do you know who I am?”
“I remember you,” Madame La Gimp says. “I remember you—oh, so very well, Henry. How can I forget you? But I have no idea you recognize me after all these years.”
“Twenty of them now,” Judge Henry G. Blake says. “You are beautiful then. You are still beautiful.”
Well, I can see the old grape is working first-class on Judge Henry G. Blake to make such remarks as this, although at that, in the half-light with the smile on her face, Madame La Gimp is not so bad. Still, give me them carrying a little less weight for age.
“Well, it is all your fault,” Judge Henry G. Blake says. “You go and marry that chile con carne guy, and look what happens!”
I can see there is no sense in me horning in on Madame La Gimp and Judge Henry G. Blake while they are cutting up old touches in this manner, so I think I will just say good-bye to the young people and let it go at that, but while I am looking for Madame La Gimp’s baby, and her guy, I run into Dave the Dude.
“You will not find them here,” Dave says. “By this time they are being married over at Saint Malachy’s with my ever-loving wife and Big Nig standing up with them. We get the license for them yesterday afternoon. Can you imagine a couple of young saps wishing to wait until they go plumb around the world before getting married?”
Well, of course, this elopement creates much excitement for a few minutes, but by Monday Mr. and Mrs. Conde and the young folks and Madame La Gimp’s sister take a train for California to keep on going around the world, leaving us nothing to talk about but about old Judge Henry G. Blake and Madame La Gimp getting themselves married, too, and going to Detroit where Judge Henry G. Blake claims he has a brother in the plumbing business who will give him a job, although personally I think Judge Henry G. Blake figures to do a little booting on his own hook in and out of Canada. It is not like Judge Henry G. Blake to tie himself up to the plumbing business.
So there is nothing more to the story, except that Dave the Dude is around a few days later with a big sheet of paper in his duke and very, very indignant.
“If every single article listed here is not kicked back to the owners of the different joints in the Marberry that they are taken from by next Tuesday night, I will bust a lot of noses around this town,” Dave says. “I am greatly mortified by such happenings at my social affairs, and everything must be returned at once. Especially,” Dave says, “the baby grand piano that is removed from Apartment 9-D.”
Waldo Winchester, the newspaper scribe, is saying to me the other night up in the Hot Box that it is a very great shame that there are no dolls around such as in the old days to make good stories for the newspapers by knocking off guys right and left, because it seems that newspaper scribes consider a doll knocking off a guy very fine news indeed, especially if the doll or the guy belongs to the best people.
Then Waldo Winchester tells me about a doll by the name of Lorelei who hangs out in the Rhine River some time ago and stools sailors up to the rocks to get them wrecked, which I consider a dirty trick, although Waldo does not seem to make so much of it. Furthermore, he speaks of another doll by the name of Circe, who is quite a hand for luring guys to destruction, and by the time Waldo gets to Circe he is crying because there are no more dolls like her around to furnish news for the papers.
But of course the real reason Waldo is crying is not because he is so sorry about Circe. It is because he is full of the liquor they sell in the Hot Box, which is liquor that is apt to make anybody bust out crying on a very short notice. In fact, they sell the cryingest liquor in town up in the Hot Box.
Well, I get to thinking over these dolls Waldo Winchester speaks of, and, thinks I, the chances are Dolores Dark connects up with one of them away back yonder, and maybe with all of them for all I know, Dolores Dark being the name of a doll I meet when I am in Atlantic City with Dave the Dude the time of the big peace conference.
Afterwards I hear she is called Dark Dolores in some spots on account of her complexion, but her name is really the other way around. But first I will explain how it is I am in Atlantic City with Dave the Dude the time of the big peace conference as follows:
One afternoon I am walking along Broadway thinking of not much, when I come on Dave the Dude just getting in a taxicab with a suitcase in his duke, and the next thing I know Dave is jerking me into the cab and telling the jockey to go to the Penn Station. This is how I come to be in Atlantic City the time of the big peace conference, although, of course, I have nothing to do with the peace conference, and am only with Dave the Dude to keep him company.
I am a guy who is never too busy to keep people company, and Dave the Dude is a guy who just naturally loves company. In fact, he hates to go anywhere, or be anywhere, by himself, and the reason is because when he is by himself Dave the Dude has nobody to nod him yes, and if there is one thing Dave is very, very fond of, it is to have somebody to nod him yes. Why it is that Dave the Dude does not have Big Nig with him I do not know, for Big Nig is Dave’s regular nod-guy.
But I am better than a raw hand myself at nodding. In fact, I am probably as good a nod-guy as there is in this town, where there must be three million nod-guys, and why not, because the way I look at it, it is no bother whatever to nod a guy. In fact, it saves a lot of conversation.
Anyway, there I am in Atlantic City the time of the big peace conference, although I wish to say right now that if I know in advance who is going to be at this peace conference, or that there is going to be any peace conference, I will never be anywhere near Atlantic City, because the parties mixed up in it are no kind of associates for a nervous guy like me.
It seems this peace conference is between certain citizens of St. Louis, such as Black Mike Marrio, Benny the Blond Jew, and Scoodles Shea, who all have different mobs in St. Louis, and who are all ripping and tearing each other for a couple of years over such provisions as to who shall have what in the way of business privileges of one kind and another, including alky, and liquor, and gambling.
From what I hear there is plenty of shooting going on between these mobs, and guys getting topped right and left. Also there is much heaving of bombs, and all this and that, until finally the only people making any dough in the town are the undertakers, and it seems there is no chance of anybody cutting in on the undertakers, though Scoodles Shea tries.
Well, Scoodles, who is a pretty smart guy, and who is once in the war in France, finally remembers that when all the big nations get broke, and sick and tired of fighting, they hold a peace conference and straighten things out, so he sends word to Black Mike and Benny the Blond Jew that maybe it will be a good idea if they do the same thing, because half their guys are killed anyway, and trade is strictly on the bum.
It seems Black Mike and Benny think very well of this proposition, and are willing to meet Scoodles in a peace conference, but Scoodles, who is a very suspicious character, asks where they will hold this conference. He says he does not wish to hold any conference with Black Mike and Benny in St. Louis, except maybe in his own cellar, because he does not know of any other place in St. Louis where he will be safe from being guzzled by some of Black Mike’s or Benny’s guys, and he says he does not suppose Black Mike and Benny will care to go into his cellar with him.
So Scoodles Shea finally asks how about Atlantic City, and it seems this is agreeable to Black Mike because he has a cousin in Atlantic City by the name of Pisano that he does not see since they leave the old country.
Benny the Blond Jew says any place is okay with him as long as it is not in the State of Missouri, because he says, he does not care to be seen anywhere in the State of Missouri with Black Mike and Scoodles, as it will be a knock to his reputation.
This seems to sound somewhat insulting, and almost busts up the peace conference before it starts, but finally Benny withdraws the bad crack, and says he does not mean the State of Missouri, but only St. Louis, so the negotiations proceed, and they settle on Atlantic City as the spot.
Then Black Mike says some outside guy must sit in with them as a sort of umpire, and help them iron out their arguments, and Benny says he will take President Hoover, Colonel Lindbergh, or Chief Justice Taft. Now of course this is great foolishness to think they can get any one of these parties, because the chances are President Hoover, Colonel Lindbergh, and Chief Justice Taft are too busy with other things to bother about ironing out a mob war in St. Louis.
So finally Scoodles Shea suggests Dave the Dude. Both Black Mike and Benny say Dave is okay, though Benny holds out for some time for at least Chief Justice Taft. So Dave the Dude is asked to act as umpire for the St. Louis guys, and he is glad to do same, for Dave often steps into towns where guys are battling and straightens them out, and sometimes they do not start battling again for several weeks after he leaves town.
You see, Dave the Dude is friendly with everybody everywhere, and is known to one and all as a right guy, and one who always gives everybody a square rattle in propositions of this kind. Furthermore, it is a pleasure for Dave to straighten guys out in other towns, because the battling tangles up his own business interests in spots such as St. Louis.
Now it seems that on their way to the station to catch a train for Atlantic City, Scoodles Shea and Black Mike and Benny decide to call on a young guy by the name of Frankie Farrone, who bobs up all of a sudden in St. Louis with plenty of nerve, and who is causing them no little bother one way and another.
In fact, it seems that this Frankie Farrone is as good a reason as any other why Scoodles and Black Mike and Benny are willing to hold a peace conference, because Frankie Farrone is nobody’s friend in particular and he is biting into all three wherever he can, showing no respect whatever to old-established guys.
It looks as if Frankie Farrone will sooner or later take the town away from them if they let him go far enough, and while each one of the three tries at different times to make a connection with him, it seems he is just naturally a lone wolf, and wishes no part of any of them. In fact, somebody hears Frankie Farrone say he expects to make Scoodles Shea and Black Mike and Benny jump out of a window before he is through with them, but whether he means one window or three different windows he does not say.
So there is really nothing to be done about Frankie Farrone but to call on him, especially as the three are now together, because the police pay no attention to his threats and make no move to protect Scoodles and Black Mike and Benny, the law being very careless in St. Louis at this time.
Of course, Frankie Farrone has no idea Scoodles and Black Mike and Benny are friendly with each other, and he is probably very much surprised when they drop in on him on their way to the station. In fact, I hear there is a surprised look still on his face when they pick him up later.
He is sitting in a speakeasy reading about the Cardinals losing another game to the Giants when Scoodles Shea comes in the front door, and Black Mike comes in the back door, and Benny the Blond Jew slides in through a side entrance, it being claimed afterwards that they know the owner of the joint and get him to fix it for them so they will have no bother about dropping in on Frankie Farrone sort of unexpected like.
Well, anyway the next thing Frankie Farrone knows he has four slugs in him, one from Scoodles Shea, one from Benny, and two from Black Mike, who seems to be more liberal than the others. The chances are they will put more slugs in him, only they leave their taxi a block away with the engine running and they know the St. Louis taxi jockeys are terrible for jumping the meter on guys who keep them waiting.
So they go on to catch their train, and they are all at the Ritz Hotel in Atlantic City when Dave the Dude and I get there, and they have a nice lay-out of rooms looking out over the ocean, for these are high-class guys in every respect, and very good spenders.
They are sitting around a table with their coats off playing pinocle and drinking liquor when Dave and I show up, and right away Black Mike says: “Hello, Dave! Where do we find the tomatoes?”
I can see at once that this Black Mike is a guy who has little bringing up, or he will not speak of dolls as tomatoes, although, of course, different guys have different names for dolls, such as broads, and pancakes, and cookies, and tomatoes, which I claim are not respectful.
This Black Mike is a Guinea, and not a bad-looking Guinea at that, except for a big scar on one cheek.
Benny the Blond Jew is a tall, pale guy, with soft, light-colored hair and blue eyes, and if I do not happen to know that he personally knocks off about nine guys I will consider him as harmless a looking guy as I ever see. Scoodles Shea is a big, red-headed muzzler with a lot of freckles and a big grin all over his kisser.
They are all maybe thirty-odd, and wear colored silk shirts with soft collars fastened with gold pins, and Black Mike and Scoodles Shea are wearing diamond rings and wrist-watches. Unless you know who they are, you will never figure them to be gorills, even from St. Louis, although at the same time the chances are you will not figure them to be altar boys unless you are very simpleminded.
They seem to be getting along first-rate together, which is not surprising, because it will be considered very bad taste indeed for guys such as these from one town to go into another town and start up any heat. It will be regarded as showing no respect whatever for the local citizens.
Anyway, Atlantic City is never considered a spot for anything but pleasure, and even guys from Philly who may be mad at each other, and who meet up in Atlantic City, generally wait until they get outside the city limits before taking up any arguments.
Well, it seems that not only Black Mike wishes to meet up with some dolls, but Scoodles Shea and Benny are also thinking of such, because the first two things guys away from home think of are liquor and dolls, although personally I never give these matters much of a tumble.
Furthermore, I can see that Dave the Dude is not so anxious about them as you will expect, because Dave is now married to Miss Billy Perry, and if Miss Billy Perry hears that Dave is having any truck with liquor and dolls, especially dolls, it is apt to cause gossip around his house.
But Dave figures he is a sort of host in this territory, because the others are strangers to Atlantic City, and important people where they come from, so we go down to Joe Goss’s joint, which is a big cabaret just off the Boardwalk, and in no time there are half a dozen dolls of different shapes and sizes from Joe Goss’s chorus, and also several of Joe Goss’s hostesses, for Joe Goss gets many tired business men from New York among his customers, and there is nothing a tired business man from New York appreciates more than a lively hostess. Furthermore, Joe Goss himself is sitting with us as a mark of respect to Dave the Dude.
Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny are talking with the dolls and dancing with them now and then, and a good time is being had by one and all, as far as I can see, including Dave the Dude after he gets a couple of slams of Joe Goss’s liquor in him and commences to forget about Miss Billy Perry. In fact, Dave so far forgets about Miss Billy Perry that he gets out on the floor with one of the dolls, and dances some, which shows you what a couple of slams of Joe Goss’s liquor will do to a guy.
Most of the dolls are just such dolls as you will find in a cabaret, but there is one among them who seems to be a hostess, and whose name seems to be Dolores, and who is a lily for looks. It is afterwards that I find out her other name is Dark, and it is Dave the Dude who afterwards finds out that she is called Dark Dolores in spots.
She is about as good a looker as a guy will wish to clap an eye on. She’s tall and limber, like a buggy whip, and she has hair as black as the ace of spades, and maybe blacker, and all smooth and shiny. Her eyes are black and as big as doughnuts, and she has a look in them that somehow makes me think she may know more than she lets on, which I afterwards find out is very true indeed.
She does not have much to say, and I notice she does not drink, and does not seem to be so friendly with the other dolls, so I figure her a fresh-laid one around there, especially as Joe Goss himself does not act as familiar towards her as he does towards most of his dolls, although I can see him give her many a nasty look on account of her passing up drinks.
In fact, nobody gives her much of a tumble at all at first, because guys generally like gabby dolls in situations such as this. But finally I notice that Benny the Blond Jew is taking his peeks at her, and I figure it is because he has better judgment than the others, although I do not understand how Dave the Dude can overlook such a bet, because no better judge of dolls ever lives than Dave the Dude.
But even Benny does not talk to Dolores or offer to dance with her, and at one time when Joe Goss is in another part of the joint chilling a beef from some customer about a check, or maybe about the liquor, which calls for at least a mild beef, and the others are out on the floor dancing, Dolores and I are left alone at the table.
We sit there quite a spell with plenty of silence between us, because I am never much of a hand to chew the fat with dolls, but finally, not because I wish to know or care a whoop, but just to make small talk, I ask her how long she is in Atlantic City.
“I get here this afternoon, and go to work for Mr. Goss just this very night,” she says. “I am from Detroit.”
Now I do not ask her where she is from, and her sticking in this information makes me commence to think that maybe she is a gabby doll after all, but she dries up and does not say anything else until the others come back to the table.
Now Benny the Blond Jew moves into a chair alongside Dolores, and I hear him say:
“Are you ever in St. Louis? Your face is very familiar to me.”
“No,” she says. “I am from Cleveland. I am never in St. Louis in my life.”
“Well,” Benny says, “you look like somebody I see before in St. Louis. It is very strange, because I cannot believe it possible for there to be more than one wonderful beautiful doll like you.”
I can see Benny is there with the old stuff when it comes to carrying on a social conversation, but I am wondering how it comes this Dolores is from Detroit with me and from Cleveland with him. Still, I know a thousand dolls who cannot remember offhand where they are from if you ask them quick.
By and by Scoodles Shea and Black Mike notice Benny is all tangled in conversation with Dolores, which makes them take a second peek at her, and by this time they are peeking through plenty of Joe Goss’s liquor, which probably makes her look ten times more beautiful than she really is. And I wish to say that any doll ten times more beautiful than Dolores is nothing but a dream.
Anyway, before long Dolores is getting much attention from Black Mike and Scoodles, as well as Benny, and the rest of the dolls finally take the wind, because nobody is giving them a tumble anymore. And even Dave the Dude begins taking dead aim at Dolores until I remind him that he must call up Miss Billy Perry, so he spends the next half-hour in a phone booth explaining to Miss Billy Perry that he is in his hotel in the hay, and that he loves her very dearly.
Well, we are in Joe Goss’s joint until five o’clock a.m., with Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny talking to Dolores and taking turns dancing with her, and Dave the Dude is plumb wore out, especially as Miss Billy Perry tells him she knows he is a liar and a bum, as she can hear an orchestra playing “I Get So Blue When It Rains,” and for him to just wait until she sees him. Then we take Dolores and go to Childs’s restaurant on the Boardwalk and have some coffee, and finally all hands escort her to a little fleabag on North Carolina Avenue where she says she is stopping.
“What are you doing this afternoon, beautiful one?” asks Benny the Blond Jew as we are telling her good night, even though it is morning, and at this crack Black Mike and Scoodles Shea look at Benny, very, very cross.
“I am going bathing in front of the Ritz,” she says. “Do some of you boys wish to come along with me?”
Well, it seems that Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny all think this is a wonderful idea, but it does not go so big with Dave the Dude or me. In fact, by this time, Dave the Dude and me are pretty sick of Dolores.
“Anyway,” Dave says, “we must start our conference this afternoon and get through with it, because my ever-loving doll is already steaming, and I have plenty of business to look after in New York.”
But the conference does not start this afternoon, or the next night, or the next day, or the next day following, because in the afternoons Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny are in the ocean with Dolores and at night they are in Joe Goss’s joint, and in between they are taking her riding in rolling chairs on the Boardwalk, or feeding her around the different hotels.
No one guy is ever alone with her as far as I can see, except when she is dancing with one in Joe Goss’s joint, and about the third night they are so jealous of each other they all try to dance with her at once.
Well, naturally even Joe Goss complains about this because it makes confusion on his dance floor, and looks unusual. So Dolores settles the proposition, by not dancing with anybody, and I figure this is a good break for her, as no doll’s dogs can stand all the dancing Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny wish to do.
The biggest rolling chair on the Boardwalk only takes in three guys or two guys and one doll, or, what is much better, one guy and two dolls, so when Dolores is in a rolling chair with a guy sitting on each side of her the other walks alongside the chair, which is a peculiar sight indeed.
How they decide the guy who walks I never know, but I suppose Dolores fixes it. When she is in bathing in the ocean, Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny all stick so close to her that she is really quite crowded at times.
I doubt if even Waldo Winchester, the scribe, who hears of a lot of things, ever hears of such a situation as this with three guys all daffy over the same doll, and guys who do not think any too well of each other to begin with. I can see they are getting more and more hostile towards each other over her, but when they are not with Dolores they stick close to each other for fear one will cop a sneak, and get her to himself.
I am very puzzled, because Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny do not get their rods out and start a shooting match among themselves over her, but I find that Dave the Dude makes them turn in their rods to him the second day because he does not care to have them doing any target practice around Atlantic City.
So they cannot start a shooting match among themselves if they wish, and the reason they do not put the slug on each other is because Dolores tells them she hates tough guys who go around putting the slug on people. So they are gentlemen, bar a few bad cracks passing among them now and then.
Well, it comes on a Friday, and there we are in Atlantic City since a Monday and nothing stirring on the peace conference as yet, and Dave the Dude is very much disgusted indeed.
All night Friday and into Saturday morning we are in Joe Goss’s, and personally I can think of many other places I will rather be. To begin with, I never care to be around gorills when they are drinking, and when you take gorills who are drinking and get them all crazy about the same doll, they are apt to turn out to be no gentlemen any minute.
I do not know who it is who suggests a daybreak swimming party, because I am half asleep, and so is Dave the Dude, but I hear afterwards it is Dolores. Anyway, the next thing anybody knows we are out on the beach, and Dolores and Black Mike and Scoodles Shea and Benny the Blond Jew are in their bathing suits and the dawn is touching up the old ocean very beautiful.
Of course, Dave the Dude and me are not in bathing suits, because in the first place neither of us is any hand for going in bathing, and in the second place, if we are going in bathing, we will not go in bathing at such an hour. Furthermore, as far as I am personally concerned, I hope I am never in a bathing suit if I will look no better in it than Black Mike, while Scoodles Shea is no Gene Tunney in regards to shape. Benny the Blond Jew is the only one who looks human, and I do not give him more than sixty-five points.
Dave the Dude and me stand around watching them, and mostly we are watching Dolores. She is in a red bathing suit with a red rubber cap over her black hair, and while most dolls in bathing suits hurt my eyes, she is still beautiful. I will always claim she is the most beautiful thing I ever see, bar Blue Larkspur, and of course Blue Larkspur is a racehorse and not a doll. I am very glad that Miss Billy Perry is not present to see the look in Dave the Dude’s eyes as he watches Dolores in her bathing suit, for Miss Billy Perry is quick to take offense.
When she is in the water Dolores slides around like a big beautiful red fish. You can see she loves it. The chances are I can swim better on my back than Black Mike or Scoodles Shea can on their stomachs, and Benny the Blond Jew is no Gertrude Ederle, but of course, I am allowing for them being well loaded with Joe Goss’s liquor, and a load of Joe Goss’s liquor is not apt to float well anywhere.
Well, after they paddle around in the ocean awhile, Dolores and her three Romeos lay out on the sand, and Dave the Dude and me are just figuring on going to bed, when all of a sudden we see Dolores jump up and start running for the ocean with Black Mike and Benny head-and-head just behind her, and Scoodles Shea half a length back.
She tears into the water, kicking it every which way until she gets to where it is deep, when she starts to swim, heading for the open sea. Black Mike and Scoodles Shea and Benny the Blond Jew are paddling after her like blazes. We can see it is some kind of a chase, and we stand watching it. We can see Dolores’s little red cap bouncing along over the water like a rubber ball on a sidewalk, with Black Mike and Scoodles and Benny staggering along behind her, for Joe Goss’s liquor will make a guy stagger on land or sea.
She is away ahead of them at first, but then she seems to pull up and let them get closer to her. When Black Mike, who is leading the other two, gets within maybe fifty yards of her, the red cap bounces away again, always going farther out. It strikes me that Dolores is sort of swimming in wide circles, now half turning as if coming back to the beach, and then taking a swing that carries her seaward again.
When I come to think it over afterwards, I can see that when you are watching her it does not look as if she is swimming away from the beach, and yet all the time she is getting away from it.
Top Customer Reviews
Right from the start, when he was under 30, Runyon could write a good running story, although he was nearly 50 before he began writing fiction regularly. He seems to have found his Broadway voice right off the bat when he began writing the Guys and Dolls stories in 1929. Although he ground out nearly a story a month for Collier's, the quality remained high. He never seems to have rushed or to have tossed one off.
But as this collection shows, something dark happened to Runyon's fiction as time went by. It is sometimes claimed that a thoughtful editor's selection can change the way readers value a writer. This supposedly happened when the Viking Portable Faulkner rescued William Faulkner from relegation to a place as an oddball failure.
It is not stated who made the selections in this 2008 collection, the latest of many, but presumably Professor Daniel Schwartz had a big hand in it. I cannot say I think much of his commentary, which sounds at times as if he didn't read the stories. At least, while I hear the Yiddish slang in the Broadway stories, I don't hear the Italian that Schwartz says is so prevalent. Some of his other comments seem equally off base.
However, by arranging the Broadway stories in order of publication (for the practical reason that the characters recur and need to be properly introduced, he says), and by including very early stories, it becomes obvious that Runyon's plots got more violent over time.
Many, perhaps most of his stories were reworkings of news events -- the shootings of gamblers, kidnappings etc.Read more ›
Even so, it's got a good, solid selection of them, and is a good selection for someone who wants to get acquainted with the unique voice of Damon Runyon. His unique style has become so iconic in its way that I've seen it used (in, among other places, the comic book _Wolff and Byrd: Counselors of the Macabre_) to indicate that the speaker is an underworld type.
Apart from missing at least a few stories, the only other nit I can find to pick is that the typeface is smaller and finer than I care for. But that's just me.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great stories by a great storyteller. Exactly as I expected.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Description was vague...was looking for an actual script, need one desperately!Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
My husband likes this book that I purchased for him, however it was not packaged well at all and the cover was beat up and torn due to it sliding around in the package with no... Read morePublished on April 27, 2014 by Rose