The Broadway Anthology
EDWARD L. BERNAYS SAMUEL HOFFENSTEIN WALTER J. KINGSLEY MURDOCK PEMBERTON
NEW YORK DUFFIELD & COMPANY 1917
Copyright, 1917 BY DUFFIELD & COMPANY
VAIL-BALLOU COMPANY BINGHAMTON AND NEW YORK
Acknowledgment is due to the New York Evening Post, Sun, Times, Tribune, the Boston Transcript and the Wilmarth Publishing Company for their kind permission to reprint some of the matter in this volume.
EDWARD L. BERNAYS
ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN THE BARITONE PATRIOTISM THE PILLOW CASES BETTER INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS THE PRIMA DONNA PRESS STORIES THE DISTRIBUTION OF CREDIT TEARS PHOTOGRAPHS
THE THEATRE SCRUBWOMAN DREAMS A DREAM THE STRANGE CASE OF THE MUSICAL COMEDY STAR THE STAR IS WAITING TO SEE THE MANAGER THE JESTER IN A CAFE TO A CABARET SINGER IN THE THEATRE
WALTER J. KINGSLEY
LO, THE PRESS AGENT FIRST NIGHTS THE DRAMATIST TYPES GEORGE M. COHAN DAVID BELASCO LO, THE HEADLINER
THE SCREEN BROADWAY—NIGHT MATINEE PAVLOWA THE OLD CHORUS MAN BLUCH LANDOLF'S TALE PRE-EMINENCE
EDWARD L. BERNAYS
ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN
He was a burly Dutch tenor, And I patiently trailed him in his waking and sleeping hours That I might not lose a story,— But his life was commonplace and unimaginative— Air raids and abdications kept his activities, (A game of bridge yesterday, a ride to Tarrytown), Out of the papers. I watchfully waited, Yearning a coup that would place him on the Musical map. A coup, such as kissing a Marshal Joffre, Aeroplaning over the bay, Diving with Annette Kellerman. Then for three days I quit the city To get a simple contralto into the western papers. Returning I entered my office; the phone jangled. The burly tenor was tearfully sobbing and moaning over the wire; Tremor and emotion choked his throat. This was his ominous message: A taxicab accident almost had killed him two and one half days ago; He had escaped with his body and orchid-lined voice— And not a line in the mornings or evenings! What could I do about it? Accidents will happen.
He was a wonderful Metropolitan singer. His name had been blazoned over these United States, And in Europe it was as well known. Records of him could be bought in the smallest hamlet; Nothing but praise had been shed upon the glory of his name. In May he was scheduled to sing in Chicago At a festival where thousands were to foregather To do praise to him and his voice. Two days before he left, he came to his manager's office With a sickly expression all over his rotund face And a deathly gasp in his voice. One thought he needed a doctor, Or the first aid of some Red Cross nurses. He was ushered into the private office To find out his trouble. This was his lament in short; A friend, in the hurry of the moment, Had procured tickets for him on the Twentieth Century Which demanded an extra fare of six dollars,— And he wanted to ride on the cheapest train. So we got him tickets on another road Which takes thirty six hours to Chicago and perhaps more, And the great singer, whose name has been blazoned over these United States And was as well known in Europe, Walked out contented and smiling like a young boy.
The patriotic orchestra of eighty five men Was keyed to an extraordinary patriotic pitch For these were patriotic concerts, Supported by the leading patriots of the town, (Including a Bulgarian merchant, an Austrian physician and a German lawyer), And all the musicians were getting union wages—and in the summer at that. So they were patriotic too. The Welsh conductor was also patriotic, For his name on the program was larger than that of the date or the hall, But when the manager asked him to play a number Designated as "Dixie," He disposed of it shortly with the words: "It is too trivial—that music." And, instead, he played a lullaby by an unknown Welsh composer,— (Because he was a Welshman).... The audience left after the concert was over And complimented itself individually and collectively on "doing its bit" By attending and listening to these patriotic concerts.
THE PILLOW CASES
The train was due to arrive at eleven that night, But owing to the usual delay it did not arrive until one. The reporters of the leading dailies Were still waiting grouchily on the station platform for the great star. For weeks his name had blotted out every bare wall, And the date sheets of his coming had reddened the horizon. Now he steps off the train, tired and disgruntled. What cares he for the praise of the public and their prophets Awaiting him impatiently at the station? It's a bed he wants—any bed will do; The quicker he gets it, the better for the song on the morrow. But in cooking the news for the public One a.m. is the same thing as noon day. So they rushed the star with these questions: "Not conscripted yet?..." "How do you like this town?..." "Will you give any encores tomorrow?..." "When will the war end?..." Ruthlessly he plowed through them, Like a British tank at Messines. The tenor wanted a bed, But Lesville wanted a story.... On the platform patiently nestled were twenty six pieces of luggage, Twenty six pieces of luggage, containing more than their content, Twenty six pieces of luggage would get him the story, he had not given himself. Craftily, one lured the reporters to look on this bulging baggage, "Pillows and pillows and pillow...." was whispered, "Tonight he will sleep on them." Vulture-like swooped down the porters, Bearing them off to the taxis. Next morning the papers carried the story: "Singer Transports His Own Bedding," But the artist slept soundly on Ostermoors that night. The baggage held scores for the orchestra.
BETTER INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
He was the head of a large real estate firm, And his avocation was seeking the good in a Better Industrial Relations Society. They were going to have an exhibit in their church building, At which it was to be proved That giving a gold watch for an invention That made millions for the factory owner Was worthwhile. But they needed a press agent To let the world and themselves Know that what they were doing was good. I was chosen for the work, But the head of the large real estate firm Thought that half a column a day was too little To record the fact that a cash register company In which he owned stock Had presented a medal to an employee who had remained with them At the same salary for fifteen years. So he had me fired. And the Better Industrial Relations Exhibit was a great success. And many of the morning and evening newspapers Ran editorials about it.
THE PRIMA DONNA
She had been interviewed at all possible times,— And sometimes the interviews came at impossible ones; But it did not matter to her As long as the stories were printed and her name was spelt correctly. So we sent a photographer to the hotel one day To take pictures of her in her drawing room. He was an ungentle photographer Who had been accustomed to take pictures of young women Coming into the harbor on shipboard, and no photograph was complete Without limbs being crossed or suchwise. But she did not mind even that, If the pictures were published the next day. He took a great number of her in her salon, And departed happy at the day's bagging. A great international disturbance reduced all the white space available And no photographs were printed the next day Of the prima donna. And when I met her at rehearsal, she said very shortly: "Je vous ne parle plus" and looked at me harshly. Was I to blame for the international situation?
Though bandsmen's notes from the street below resound, And the voices of jubilant masses proclaim a glorious holiday, I painstakingly pick out words on the typewriter, By fits and starts, thinking up a story about the great Metropolitan tenor. The typewriter keys now hold no rhythmic tingle. But the local manager in Iowa wants the story. He has engaged the great tenor for a date next March When the Tuesday musicale ladies give their annual benefit for the Shriners. He wants the concert to be such a success, That his Iowan town will henceforth be in the foreground Of Iowan towns, as far as music is concerned. So he has wired in for this tale about the singer, A story about his wife and baby, and what the baby eats per diem. And though the call is to the street below, Where jubilant masses proclaim the holiday, I must finish the story about the tenor's wife and baby To put the Iowan town in the foreground, as far as music is concerned.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF CREDIT
The Irish prize play had come back to Broadway. Where to put the credit? On the astute manager Who saw in it A year of Broadway, two of stock, eternity in the movies; Or the League of Public Spirited Women Banded together to uplift the Drama— That was the question stirring dramatic circles and the public. It had failed in its first run of three weeks at an uptown theatre Miserably, Despite glowing reviews in all the dailies. But this come-back At a Broadway theatre, with electric lights, and transient crowds That would save it— Was the universal verdict. During the first week there was a tremendous fight Between the two factions for the Distribution of credit, and some critics said The League of Public Spirited Women was responsible For bringing the play back, because they had bulletined it, And others said it was the astute manager. But no audience came to the play after the second week. And it went to the storehouse. No one fought any longer for The distribution of credit.
Beads of perspiration on a hot summer's afternoon, A hurry call from the Ritz, Thoughts of plastering the city in half an hour, With twenty-four sheets and large heralds, And a page or two in all the dailies.... She sat in a sumptuous suite at the Ritz, Discussing with her husband, Who had just returned from the beagles in South Carolina Her new pet charity; And she had called me in at this very moment, Because she had struck a snag. This was her charity: She related with tears in her eyes, What was she to do about it? She received no response from the American public. The poor assistant stagehands of the Paris theatres They were out of work—destitute— The theatres closed—and all the actors at the front. But what could be done for them, the poor Paris stagehands? That was her query. And tears welled up in her eyes, as she spoke While her husband chased the Angora from under the sofa— I sat and discussed the question. And tears came to my eyes, But my tears were wept for another reason.
I had ordered the photographs of the prima donna. They are lovely and beautiful to behold and they are printed before me in magazine. Her madonna like face sheds radiance on the prospective box-office patron; He is dazzled by her sun-like head of hair; He loses his heart and his pocket-book when he glances on them. I felt happy that I changed photographers. I felt that my discovery of a new artisan of the sensitized plate Would bring glory and money to many. I sit by the rolltop desk and pull out again the objects of my praises. The telephone bell rings and awakens me from my reveries,— It is the voice of the beautiful prima donna herself; But the melodious notes the critics have praised are changed. There is a raucous, strident tone in the voice; It sounds like the rasping bark of the harpies. "How dare you use those terrible photographs?" "What do you mean by insulting my beauty?" There is a slam down of the telephone receiver,— I turn to my work of writing an advertisement about the prima donna's voice.
THE THEATRE SCRUBWOMAN DREAMS A DREAM
When morning mingles with the gloom On empty stage and twilit aisle, She comes with rag and pan and broom To work—and dream awhile.
Illusion's laughter, fancy's tears, The mimic loves of yesternight, On empty stages of the years Awake in the dim light.
She cannot sweep the phantoms out— How sweet the sobbing violin!— She cannot put the ghosts to rout— How pale the heroine!
Oh! valiant hero, sorely tried!— 'Tis only dust that fills her eyes— But he shall have his lovely bride And she her paradise!
And she—the broom falls from her hands, And is it dust that fills her eyes?— Shall go with him to golden lands And find her paradise!—
The morning wrestles with the gloom On silent stage and chilly aisle, She takes her rag and pan and broom To work—and dream awhile!
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE MUSICAL COMEDY STAR
The lady cannot sing a note, There is a languor in her throat Beyond all healing, She does not act at all, it seems, Except in early morning dreams— She lacks the feeling.
Her feet are pretty, but methinks, The weighty and phlegmatic Sphinx Could trip as lightly— And yet she is a regular, Serene and well established star Who twinkles nightly.
And Solomon for all his stir, Had not a single jewel on her, Nor did his capers Procure him even half the space For publication of his face In ancient papers.
Her gowns, her furs, her limousines Would catch the eye of stately queens In any city— She cannot sing, or dance or act, But then I have remarked the fact— Her feet are pretty.
THE STAR IS WAITING TO SEE THE MANAGER
A moment since, the office boy, Invisible as Night itself, Reposed on some dim-curtained shelf And tasted peace, without alloy.
Secure from all the day's alarms, Of boss and bell the very jinx, He gazed immobile as the Sphinx On pompous front and painted charms.
Now out of interstellar space, Beyond the sunlight and the storm, Appears that lightning-laden form, That toothful smile, that cryptic face.
Whence came he, who that breathes can tell?— He was so hid from mortal eyes, Perhaps he fell from paradise, Perhaps they chased him out of hell.
But now his heels show everywhere, A dozen doors are opened wide, He stands before, behind, beside, He fills the ether and the air.
Far quicker than a wink or beck, Far sleeker than a juvenile, He barely tops the giant smile That wreathes his forehead and his neck.
Oh! sudden gold evolved from dross! Who wrought the shining miracle? What magic cast the dazzling spell?— The star is here to see the boss!
All the fool's gold of the world, All your dusty pageantries, All your reeking praise of Self, All your wise men's sophistries, All that springs of golden birth, Is not half the jester's worth!
Who's the jester? He is one, Who behind the scenes hath been, Caught Life with his make-up off, Found him but a harlequin Cast to play a tragic part— And the two laughed, heart to heart!
IN A CAFE
Her face was the face of Age, with a pitiful smudge of Youth, Carmine and heavy and lined, like a jester's mask on Truth; And she laughed from the red lips outward, the laugh of the brave who die, But a ghost in her laughter murmured, "I lie—I lie!"
She pressed the glass to her lips as one presses the lips of love, And I said: "Are you always merry, and what is the art thereof?" And she laughed from the red lips outward the laugh of the brave who die, But a ghost in her laughter murmured, "I lie—I lie!"
TO A CABARET SINGER
Painted little singer of a painted song, Painted little butterfly of a painted day, The false blooms in your tresses, the spangles on your dresses, The cold of your caresses, I'll tell you what they say— "The glass is at my lips, but the wine is far away, The music's in my throat, but my soul no song confesses, The laughter's on my tongue, but my heart is clay."
Scarlet little dreamer of a frozen dream, Whirling bit of tinsel on the troubled spray, 'Tis not your hair's dead roses (your sunless, scentless roses) 'Tis not your sham sad poses That tell your hollow day— The glass is at my lips, but the wine is far away, The music's in my throat, but my soul no song discloses, The laughter's on my tongue, but my heart is clay.
IN THE THEATRE
Weep not, fair lady, for the false, The fickle love's rememberance, What though another claim the waltz— The curtain soon will close the dance.
Grieve not, pale lover, for the sweet, Wild moment of thy vanished bliss; The longest scene as Time is fleet— The curtain soon will close the kiss.
And thou, too vain, too flattered mime, Drink deep the pleasures of thy day, No ruin is too mean for Time— The curtain soon will close the play.
WALTER J. KINGSLEY
LO, THE PRESS AGENT
By many names men call me— Press agent, publicity promoter, faker; Ofttimes the short and simple liar. Charles A. Dana told me I was a buccaneer On the high seas of journalism. Many a newspaper business manager Has charged me With selling his space Over his head. Every one loves me When I get his name into print— For this is an age of publicity And he who bloweth not his own horn The same shall not be blown. I have sired, nursed and reared Many reputations. Few men or women have I found Scornful of praise or blame In the press. The folk of the stage Live on publicity, Yet to the world they pretend to dislike it, Though wildly to me they plead for it, cry for it, Ofttimes do that for it Which must make the God Notoriety Grin at the weakness of mortals. I hold a terrible power And sometimes my own moderation Amazes me, For I can abase as well as elevate, Tear down as well as build up. I know all the ways of fair speaking And can lead my favorites To fame and golden rewards. There are a thousand channels Through which press agency can exploit Its star or its movement Never obvious but like the submarine Submersible beneath the sea Of publicity. But I know, too, of the ways That undo in Manhattan. There are bacilli of rumor That slip through the finest of filters And defy the remedial serums Of angry denial. Pin a laugh to your tale When stalking your enemy And not your exile nor your death Will stay the guffaws of merriment As the story flies Through the Wicked Forties And on to the "Road." Laughter gives the rumor strong wings. Truly the press agent, Who knows his psychology, Likewise his New York In all of its ramifications, And has a nimble wit, Can play fast and loose With the lives of many. Nevertheless he has no great reward, And most in the theatre Draw fatter returns than he. Yet is he called upon to make the show, To save the show, But never is he given credit Comparable to that which falls Upon the slightest jester or singer or dancer Who mugs, mimes, or hoofs in a hit. Yet is the press agent happy; He loves his work; It has excitement and intrigue; And to further the cause of beautiful women, To discover the wonderful girls of the theatre, And lead them in progress triumphal Till their names outface the jealous night, On Broadway, in incandescents, Is in itself a privilege. That compensates For the wisdom of the cub reporter, The amusement of the seasoned editor, Shredding the cherished story And uprooting the flourishing "plant"; Makes one forgive The ingratitude of artists arrived. They who do not love me I hope to have fear me; There is only one hell, And that is to be disregarded.
August heat cannot weaken nor flivvers stale Our first-night expectance when the new season opens. Come on, boys and girls, the gang's all here; The Death Watch is ready in orchestra chairs Still shrouded in summer's cool slip pajamas, And the undertakers of stage reputations Are gathered to chatter about author and players, And give them and their work disrespectful interment By gleefully agreeing in that sage Broadway saying: "Oh, what an awful oil can that piece turned out to be!" It's hard when the Chanters of Death-House Blues Have to turn to each other and reluctantly murmur: "I'm afraid it's a hit—the poor fish is lucky." First-nighters are the theatre's forty-niners, Making the early rush to new dramatic gold fields, And usually finding them barren. Often must it madden the playwright to offer his ideals To an audience whose personnel would for the most part Regard an ideal as a symptom of sickness; To show sweetness and beauty and color To those whose knowledge of tints is confined To the rouge and the lip stick on dressers; To pioneer in playwrighting, to delve deep into mind, When all that the first-nighters ask is plain entertainment. How much of the great, wholesome public, hard-working and normal, To whom the final appeal must be made Frequents our first nights on Broadway? Costumers, friends of the author, and critics, Scene painters, all of the tradesmen concerned, Kinsfolk of mummers even to the third generation, Wine agents, hot-house ladies, unemployed players, Hearty laughers or ready weepers "planted." Most of them there prepare for a funeral; Their diversion is nodding to friends and acquaintances, And he or she who nods the most times Is thereby the greatest first-nighter. Some managers open to hand-picked audiences, Others strive to escape the regulars; But the majority seek for the standardized premier faces That really mean so little in the life of the play. Listen to the comments during intermission: "It doesn't get over!" "It's a flop!" "What atmosphere!" "An absolute steal!" "Such originality!" "Not a bit life-like!" "That author has a wonderful memory!" "He copped that lyric from Irving Berlin!" "He's as funny as a crutch or a cry for help!" "They grabbed that number in London!" "She's one of his tigers!" "From a Lucile model, my dear, but home-made!" "I can't hand him anything on this one!" "Some heavy-sugar papa backed the production!" "Isn't my boy wonderful!" "Yes, but my girl is running away with the piece!" "If you like this, you're not well!" "What could be sweeter!" "What large feet she has!" "His Adam's apple annoys me!" "She must get her clothes on Avenue A!" "They say she was born there!" "What an awful sunburn!" "Best thing in years!" "The storehouse for this one!" "Did you catch her going up in her lines?" "Yes, and he's fluffing all over the place!" "Splendidly produced, don't you think?" "I think the stage direction is rotten!" So I suggest the old Roman fashion of presenting, The artists, like gladiators crying: "We, who are about to die, salute you!"
I've put one over at last! My play with the surprise finish is a bear. Al Woods wants to read all of my scripts; Georgie Cohan speaks to me as an equal And the office boy swings the gate without being asked. I don't care if the manager's name is as large as the play's Or if the critics are featured all over the ash cans. I'm going to get mine and I'm going to live. A Rolls-Royce for me and trips "up the road," Long Beach and pretty girls, big eats at the Ritz And the ice pitcher for the fellows who snubbed me. How the other reporters laughed When I showed my first script and started to peddle! "Stick to the steady job," they advised. "Play writing is too big a gamble; It will never keep your nose in the feed bag." I wrote a trunkful of junk; did a play succeed, I immediately copied the fashion; Like a pilfering tailor I stole the new models. Kind David Belasco, with his face in the gloom, And mine brightly lighted, said ministerially: "Rather crude yet, my boy, but the way to write a play Is to write plays from sunrise to sunset And rewrite them long after midnight. Try, try, try, my boy, and God bless you." Broke and disgusted, I became a play reader And the "yessir man" to a manager. I was a play doctor, too. A few of my patients lived And I learned about drama from them. How we gutted the scripts! Grabbing a wonderful line, a peach of a scene, A gem of a finish Out of the rubbish that struggling poor devils Borrowed money to typewrite and mail to us. It's like opening oysters looking for pearls, But pearls are to be found and out of the shell heaps Come jewels that, polished and set by a clever artificer, Are a season's theatrical wonder. Finally came my own big idea. I wrote and rewrote and cast and recast, Convinced the manager, got a production. Here am I young and successful, And Walter and Thomas and Selwyn have nothing on me. Press agents are hired to praise me. Watch for my next big sensation, But meanwhile I hope that that play-writing plumber, Who had an idea and nothing else, Never sees this one.
They've got me down for a hick, bo, Sam Harris says I'm the best boob in the biz, And that no manager will cast me for anything else. Curses on my hit in "'Way Down East" That handcuffs me forever to yokels, And me a better character actor than Corse Payton! That's how it is they're stuck on types, And the wise guy who plays anything Isn't given a look-in. Listen to me, young feller, and don't ever Let 'em tab you for keeps as a type. It's curtains for a career as sure as you're born. Why, there's actors sentenced to comedy dog parts, To Chinks, to Wops, to Frenchmen and fluffs. There ain't no release for them. The producers and managers can see only one angle, And you may be a Mansfield or Sothern. It's outrageous that's what it is, that make-up And character acting should be thrown in the discard. You can sit in an agent's office for months Before a part comes along that you fit without fixin'. This natural stuff puts the kibosh on art And a stock training ain't what it used to be. Say, if ever I rise to be hind legs of a camel Or a bloodhound chasing Eliza, I'll kick or I'll bite The type-choosing manager.
GEORGE M. COHAN
Blessed be Providence That gave us our Cohan; Irreverent, Resourceful, prolific, steady-advancing George M. Nothing in life Better becomes him Than his earliest choice Of Jerry and Helen For father and mother; Bred in the wings and the dressing room, The theatre alley his playground, Hotels his home and his schoolhouse, Blessed with a wonderful sister, And in love with a violin. From baby days used to the footlights, With infrequent teachers of book lore In the cities of lengthy engagements Showing him pages of learning That he turned from to life's open volume, Acquiring indelible lessons, Loyalty, candor, clear seeing, Sincerity, plain speaking, love of his own, Passion for all things American. From Jerry, his father, Came Celtic humor, delight in the dance, And devotion to things of the theatre; From Helen, his mother, Depth, Celtic devotion to things of the spirit, Fineness of soul. Early he turned from his fiddle To write popular songs And tunes so whistly and catchy That the music of a child Enraptured the nation. Then followed comedy sketches, Gay little pieces that made public And player-folk chatter of Cohan. Later, essaying the musical comedy, He wrote "Running for Office," To be followed by that impudent Classic of fresh young America, "Little Johnnie Jones." One followed another in rapid succession; His name grew a cherished possession, And ever his dancing delighted. His manner of singing and speaking Provoked to endless imitation. His personality became better known Then the President's. Always he soared in ambition And, becoming a lord of the theatre, He ventured on serious drama, And out of his wisdom and watching Wrote masterful plays, Envisaging the types of our natives. Truly a genius, Genius in friendship, genius in stagecraft, Genius in life! Even in choosing a partner He fattened his average, Batting four hundred By taking a kindred irreverent soul, Graduated out of the whirlpool That wrecks all but the strongest, Born on the eastern edge Of Manhattan, Sam H. Harris, man of business, Who to the skill of the trader Adds the joy in life And the sense of humor, Coupled with pleasure in giving And helping That Cohan demands of his pals. Together they plan wonderful projects, And the artist soul And the soul of commerce Are an unbeatable union. Best of all about Cohan Is his congenital manliness. He sees Americans As our soil and our air and our water Have made them; Types as distinct as the Indian. He follows no school, Knows little of movements artistic. A lonely creator, His friends are not writing men, Reformers, uplifters or zealots. He writes the life he has lived So fully and zestfully, And over it all plays like sheet lightning A beneficent humor. Growth is his hall-mark, Hard work his chief recreation; Not Balzac could toil with labor titanic More terribly. George M. Cohan, Excelling in everything— Beloved son, brother, father, partner, friend, Our best-beloved man of the theatre.
King David of old slew the Philistines; Our David has made them admirers and patrons; He has numbered the people Night after night in his theatres. Will he ever, I wonder, send forth for the Shunammite? Many there be who would answer his calling, For he has shown ambitious fair women To acting's high places. As Rodin in marble saw wondrous creations To be freed by the chisel, So Belasco in immature genius and beauty Sees the resplendent star to be kindled At his own steady beacon. Too varied a mind for our comprehension, Too big and too broad and too subtle To be understood of the bourgeois American Whom he has led decade after decade By a nose ring artistic. Capable of everything, he has worked With the ease of a master, giving the public Marvelous detail, unfailing sensation and poses pictorial; Preferring the certain success to arduous striving For the more excellent things of the future. Like David his forebear, a king but no prophet, Amazingly wise in his own generation. A wizard in art of the everyday, Lord of the spotlight and dimmer, But nursing the unconquerable hope, the inviolable shade Of what in his dreams Oriental He fain would do, did not necessity drive him. His the fascination of a great personality. Who knoweth not him of the clerical collar? Hair of the sage and eyes of the poet, Features perfectly drawn and as mobile As those of the inspired actor; With speech so much blander than honey And insight that maketh his staged stumbling in bargains Cover the shrewdness of a masterly trader. None better than he knoweth the crowd and its likings, As to using the patter of drama artistic, That's where he lives. With incense and color and scenery He refilleth the bottle of art so that the contents Go twice better than in the original package. Thanks be to David for joy in the playhouse. Wizard, magician, necromancer of switchboards, He hath woven spells from the actual, Keeping ideals and ideas well in the background. Like Gautier, these things delight him: Gold, marble and purple; brilliance, solidity, color. He can stage Tiffany's jewels but not Maeterlinck's bees. Deep in his soul there are tempests Revealed in the storms of his dramas— Sandstorm and snowstorm, rainstorm and hurricane. That nature revealed in its subtle reactions Would show in its deeps the soul of an Angelo Subdued to success and dyed by democracy. Opportunism hath made him An artistic materialist. One work remains for David Belasco, And that is to stage with patient precision A cross section in drama of his own self-surprising, Making the world sit up and take notice With what "masterly detail," "unfailing atmosphere," "Startling reality" he can star David Belasco.
LO, THE HEADLINER
I was not raised for vaudeville. Father and mother were veteran legits; They loved the Bard and the "Lady of Lyons." I was born on a show boat on the Cumberland; I was carried on as a child When the farm girl revealed her shame On the night of the snowstorm. The old folks died with grease paint on their faces. I did a little of everything Even to staking out a pitch in a street fair. Hiram Grafter taught me to ballyhoo And to make openings. I stole the business of Billy Sunday And imitated William Jennings Bryan. I became famous in the small towns. One day Poli heard me— He's the head of the New England variety circuit.— "Cul," he said, "you are a born monologist. Where you got that stuff I don't know, But you would be a riot in the two-a-day. Quit this hanky-panky And I'll make you a headliner." Well, I fell for his line of talk Like the sod busters had fallen for mine. Aaron Hoffman wrote me a topical monologue; Max Marx made me a suit of clothes; And Lew Dockstader wised me up On how to jockey my laughs. I opened in Hartford; Believe me, I was some scream. I gave them gravy, and hokum, And when they ate it up I came through With the old jasbo, Than which there is nothing so efficacious In vaudeville, polite or otherwise. The first thing I did I hollered for more dough, And Poli says: "That's what I get for feeding you meat, But you are a riot all right, all right, So I guess you are on for more kale." I kept getting better. I got so's I could follow any act at all And get my laughs. And he who getteth his laughs Is greater than he who taketh a city. At last the Palace Theatre sent for me And I signed up for a week. They kept me two. I am a headliner; I stand at the corner of Forty-seventh Street And Little Old Broadway; Throw out my chest, Call the agents and vaudeville magnates By their first names. I am a HEADLINER with a home in Freeport.
From midnight till the following noon I stand in shadow, Just a splotch of white, Unnoted by the cleaning crew Who've spent their hours of toil That I might live again. Yet they hold no reverence for my charms, And if they pause amid their work They do not glance at me; All their admiration, all their awe, Is for the gold and scarlet trappings of the home That's built to house my wonders; Or for the gorgeous murals all around, Which really, after all, Were put in place as most lame substitutes, Striving to soothe the patron's ire For those few moments when my face is dark. Yes, men have built a palace sheltering me, And as the endless ocean washes on its stretch of beach The tides of people flow to me.
All things I am to everyone; The newsboys, shopgirls, And all starved souls Who've clutched at life and missed, See in my magic face, The lowly rise to fame and palaces, See virtue triumph every time And rich and wicked justly flayed. Old men are tearful When I show them what they might have been. And others, not so old, Bask in the sunshine of my fairy tales. The lovers see new ways to woo; And wives see ways to use old brooms. Some nights I see the jeweled opera crowd Who seem aloof but inwardly are fond of me Because I've caught the gracious beauty of their pets. Then some there are who watch my changing face To catch new history's shadow As it falls from day to day. And at the noiseless tramp of soldier feet, In time to music of the warring tribes, The shadow men across my face Seem living with the hope or dread Of those who watch them off to wars.
In sordid substance I am but a sheet, A fabric of some fireproof stuff. And yet, in every port where ships can ride, In every nook where there is breath of life, Intrepid men face death To catch for me the fleeting phases of the world Lest I lose some charming facet of my face. And all the masters of all time Have thrummed their harps And bowed their violins To fashion melodies that might be played The while I tell my tales. O you who hold the mirror up to nature, Behold my cosmic scope: I am the mirror of the whirling globe.
I saw the rich in motor cars Held in long lines Until cross-streams of cars flowed by; I saw young boys in service clothes And flags flung out from tradesmen's doors; I saw some thousand drifting men Some thousand aimless women; I saw some thousand wearied eyes That caught no sparkle from the myriad lights Which blazoned everywhere; I saw a man stop in his walk To pet an old black cat.
They pass the window Where I sit at work, In silks and furs And boots and hats All of the latest mode. They chatter as they pass Of various things But hardly hear the words they speak So tense are they Upon a life they know begins for them At 2:15.
Within the theatre The air is pungent with the mixed perfumes, More scents than ever blew from Araby. And there's a rapid hum Of some six hundred secrets; Then sudden hush As tongues and violins cease.
The play is on.
There is a hastening of the beat Of some six hundred hearts. There're twitches soon about the lips, And later copious tears From waiting eyes; But all this time There are six hundred separate souls The playwright's puppet has to woo, To win, to humor, or to cajole, Until, with master stroke Of Devil knowledge, Or old Adam's, He crushes in his manful arms The languid heroine And forcing back her golden head Implants the kiss.
And then against his heaving breast The hero feels the beatings of six hundred hearts In mighty unison, And on his lips there is the pulse Of that one lingering kiss Returned six-hundred fold.
I was working on The Daily News When I first heard of her, And from that time Until the day she came to town I longed to see her dance. The night the dancer and her ballet came The Desk assigned me to my nightly run Of hotels, clubs, and undertakers' shops; I was so green I had not learned The art of using telephones To make it seem That I was hot upon the trail of news While loafing otherwhere. How could I do my trick And also see her dance? So I left bread and butter flat, To feast my eyes, which had been prairie-fed, Upon this vision from another world.
I'd seen the wind Go rippling over seas of wheat; I'd stood at night within a wood And felt the pulse of growing things Upon the April air; I'd seen the hawks arise and soar; And dragon-flies At sunrise over misty pools— But all these things had never known a name Until I saw Pavlowa dance.
Next day the editor explained That although art was—art, He'd found a boy to take my place. The days that followed When I walked the town Seeking for some sort of work, The haze of Indian Summer Blended with the dream Of that one night's magic. And though I needed work to keep alive My thoughts would go no further Than Pavlowa as the maid Giselle ... Then cold days came, And found the dream a fabric much too thin; And finally a job, And I was back to stomach fare.
But through the years I've nursed the sacrifice, Counting it a tribute Unlike all the things That Kings and Queens have laid before her feet; And wishing somehow she might know About the price The cub reporter paid To see Pavlowa dance.
And then by trick of time, We came together at the Hippodrome; And every day I saw her dance. One morning in the darkened wings I saw a big-eyed woman in a filmy thing Go through the exercises Athletes use when training for a team; And from a stage-hand learned That this Pavlowa, incomparable one, Out of every day spent hours On elementary practice steps. And now somehow I can not find the heart To tell Pavlowa of the price I paid To see her dance.
THE OLD CHORUS MAN
He's played with Booth, He's shared applause with Jefferson, He's run the gamut of the soul Imparting substance to the shadow men Masters have fashioned with their quills And set upon the boards. Great men-of-iron were his favored roles, (Once he essayed Napoleon). And now, unknowing, he plays his greatest tragedy: Dressed in a garb to look like service clothes, Cheeks lit by fire—of make-up box, He marches with a squad of sallow youths And bare-kneed girls, Keeping step to tattoo of the drums Beat by some shapely maids in tights, While close by in the silent streets There march long files of purposed men Who go to death, perhaps, For the same cause he travesties Within the playhouse walls.
BLUCH LANDOLF'S TALE
When I was old enough to walk I rode a circus horse; My first teeth held me swinging from a high trapeze. About the age young men go out to colleges I trudged the sanded vasts of Northern Africa, Top-mounter in a nomad Arab tumbling troupe. I was Christian, that is white and Infidel, So old Abdullah took me in his tent And stripping off my white man's clothes Painted me with dye made from the chestnut hulls, Laughing the while about the potency of juice That would prove armour 'gainst some zealot's scimitar. Four camels made our caravan And these we also used for "props." When we played a Morocco town The chieftain met us at the hamlet's edge Asked of Abdullah what his mission there, Then let us enter He leading our caravan to the chieftain's hut, Where we sat upon the sand The thirty odd of us Surrounded by as many lesser chiefs. The hookah solemnly was passed around And then the hamlet chief would speak; "Stranger, why have you forsaken home And drawn believers after you, You bear no spices, oil, or woven cloth, No jewels nor any merchantry?"
And then Abdullah: "True, Allah's precious son, We trade in naught men feed their bellies on But we have wares to thrill brave men, To make your youth see what use bodies are, To make your women blush That they have no such men."
"What are these magic wares?"
"Why we have here an Arab youth Who seems possessed of wings, Jumping three camels in a row."
"So! In this very village there's a lad Who jumps four camels With half the wind it takes you, telling of your boy."
Scoff followed boast and back again Until the chief arose, Saying to the lesser chiefs That they should call the local tribe To meet beside the caravanserai Before another sun went down To see if these vain wandering men Could do one half the deeds they boasted.
So we met at sundown, Our brown men stripped Except for linen clouts. We tumbled, jumped, made human pyramids, And whirled as only Dervish whirl.
Then as a climax the village boy essayed To span the four trained camels Who at Abdullah's soft-spoke word Moved just enough apart to make the boy fall short. And then our sinewed lad would make the leap, The camels crowding close together At another soft command. Our lad making good his jump, The populace would grant our greater skill; A goatskin filled with wine, And honey mixed with melted butter Was offered us within the caravanserai. Then we moved out beyond the town And pitched our tents of camels' hair, Rising before the sun to face the friendless desert wastes Until we reached another habitation on the camel trail, I (who played the dumb boy of the tribe Lest my Christian tongue betray me) Trudging behind with all the salary— Chasing the desert after two new sheep, Our net receipts for that Moroccan one-night stand.
Now twice each day within the Hippodrome I, a buffoon in absurd clothes, Strive to make the thousands laugh; And when my act is done There comes the tread of camels' feet, Followed by Slayman Ali and his Arab troupe, Who tumble, jump and build pyramids Before a canvas Sphinx upon a painted desert.... When I saw Slayman last He was a boy Chasing the sheep with me Beneath Morocco's moon. Tell me, where dwells romance, anyway? In Manhattan, or Arabian, nights?
I once knew a man Who'd met Duse, (Or so he said) And talked with her; As she came down a windy street He turned a corner Headlong into her. "I am so sorry," Duse said, "I was looking at the stars."
My envy of that man Withstood the years Until one day I met a Dane Who'd talked with Henrik Ibsen: This man, with head bowed to the wind, Was walking up a Stockholm way When 'round the corner came the seer, And he plumped into him. And that great mind Whose thinking moved the world Surveyed my friend Through his big eyes And slowly spoke: "Since when have codfish come to land?"
With all the awe One has for those who've known the great, These two I've envied Until the other day When blundering 'round behind the scenes I stepped upon Pavlowa's toe.