The New Yorker’s New York…An Ink Spill Map

Maslin Big map New Yorker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What better way to begin to close out the year here at Ink Spill than with a map of Manhattan highlighting some of the people and places most associated with The New Yorker. I’ve stayed away from current contributors & editors for privacy reasons – that updated map will have to wait a few decades. 

Here’s the who and why of the map:  people have a habit of not living in one place on the island of Manhattan.  For instance, Peter Arno’s Park Avenue pad was not his only New York City address  – it was his last city residence before he moved north to plant a garden. And Dorothy Parker lived in numerous places, but I’ve just indicated the address where she spent the last 15 years of her life.  Some of the names below are so well known that I’ve provided no information other than when they were born and when they died.  There are many more New Yorker writers, artists and editors who lived in the city but who do not appear on the map. Perhaps another map, another time. (I believe if you click on the map, it’ll enlarge and make reading much easier)

As you’ll see below, the Key is divided into Places & People.  Have fun!

 Places:

The New Yorker  has moved four times in its history, and will be moving again shortly, down to the new World Trade Center.  The map shows (in the circular zoom-in of the 42nd Street area) the four addresses:

1.  25 West 45th St  The magazine began publishing here in 1925  and remained at this address until 1935, when it moved downtown to…

2.  25 West 43rd St.  This magazine stayed here the longest, from 1935 until 1991. It was here that Thurber wrote and drew on the walls (a fragment of wall bearing Thurber’s drawings from here was removed and has since been relocated at  the magazine’s newer offices.

3.  20 West 43rd St.  Basically a move right across the street, just south and due east a few feet.

4.  4 Times Square.  The current address, but not for long. 

Bleeck’s  Artist & Writer’s (formerly Club) Restaurant  215 West 40th St.

Bleeck’s (pronounced “Blake’s”) was a regular hang-out for, among others, the Herald Tribune and New Yorker crowd.  It was here that something called the Match Game (not the one on tv with Gene Rayburn) was played with increasing seriousness (or maybe just increasing losses and gains).  And yes, that’s the actual name of the place, parentheses, singular spelling of “Artist” and all.  Decor was English tavern with wood paneling, heavy furniture, dim lighting and a tarnished suit of armor near the door. Life magazine  profiled the joint in its issue of November 26, 1945.

Costello’s  East 44th St. 

Once Thurber tired of Bleeck’s, Tim Costello’s place became his favorite place to hang. Like Bleeck’s, Costello’s was favored by more of The New Yorker crowd than you could shake a monocle at.  The murals Thurber drew here became the stuff of legend (and contention). 

The Algonquin  59 West 44th St. 

It’s not where The New Yorker began (it began in Harold Ross’s brain), but it’s where so many of its ingredients gelled, most especially around and because of the famous Round Table crowd. The Algonguin will always be closely tied in spirit to The New Yorker in more ways and for more reasons  than can be gone into here.

 The Corner of Madison & 42nd St

This is the intersection where the five month old New Yorker, just killed off by Raoul Fleischmann at the Princeton Club, suddenly sprang back to life as Fleischmann waited with his fellow business partners for the light to change. Fleischmann overheard John Hanrahan (Fleischmann’s publications advisor) say to either Ross or Hawley Traux (Ross’s financial expert), “I can’t blame Raoul for a moment for refusing to go on, but it’s like killing something that’s alive.”   Fleischmann later wrote that Hanrahan’s remark had “gotten under his skin” and so he changed his mind about closing The New Yorker and gave the magazine a reprieve.  The rest is, well, you know…

People:

Charles Addams  25 West 54th St. (b. 1912  d.1988) Charles Addams! Need I say more?

Peter Arno  417 Park Ave. (b.1904  d.1968) Harold Ross called him “the greatest artist in the world”  — Arno’s name appears on a metal plaque outside the old New Yorker offices on 25 West 43rd St..  William Shawn included Arno in his list of four New Yorker contributors and editors who “did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.”  (E.B. White, Katharine White, and Thurber  were the other three).

Donald Barthelme  West 11th St. (b.1931 d.1989) Writer.  Read his Snow White to understand why he was the toast of fiction world.

Ralph Barton  419 e.57th. ( b.1891 d.1931)  Cartoonist extraordinaire.  Ross included his work and listed him first in his Advisory Editors in The New Yorker’s very first issue (he was followed by Marc Connelly, Rea Irvin, George S. Kaufman, Alice Duer Miller, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott).  

Robert Benchley  44West 44th St. The Royalton NY Hotel (b.1899 d.1945).  A member of The Algonguin Round Table, and so much more.  Humorist, actor, New Yorker Theater Critic.  Note that he lived just across the street from The Algonquin.  

Gardner Botsford  Grammercy Place (b.1917  d.2004) long time New Yorker editor of non-fiction, his writers included Joseph Mitchell, Roger Angell, and A.J. Liebeling. Step-son of Raoul Fleischmann.

John Cheever  Hudson & Horatio (b.1912 d.1982)

Peter De Vries 32 West 11th  (b.1910  d.1993)  Novelist, humorist, Cartoon Doctor. 

Alan Dunn  12 E.88th St.  (b.1900 d.1974) One of the most prolific of the magazine’s cartoonists.  Married to Mary Petty.

Raoul Fleischmann  955 Fifth Ave.  (b.1885  d.1969)  In 1924, when Harold Ross proposed he and Fleischmann start a “new comic paper” Fleischmann put up the money.

Wolcott Gibbs  East 54th St.  (b.1902 d.1958) Writer, editor, critic, playright (“Season in The Sun”) (New Yorker theater critic – he took over the job from Robert Benchley)

Philip Hamburger  East 80th St.  (b.1914  d.2004) Writer of non-fiction for The New Yorker for over 60 years (serving under all of the magazine’s editors from Ross to Remnick).  He occasionally wrote under the name, Our Man Stanley.

Gus Lobrano  West 13th St.  (b.1903 d.1956) New Yorker fiction editor from 1938 – 1956.  Following Lobrano’s death,  E.B. White wrote of him: “His contribution to The New Yorker was deep and extensive; it is hard to get it all down in a brief report. Probably his most telling contribution was this: that because of knowing and loving him many writers felt that The New Yorker was their home.”

Russell Maloney  413 East 50th St. (b.1910  d.1948) A wildly prolific Talk of The Town writer, on staff from 1934 – 1945.

William Maxwell  East 86th St. (b.1908 d.2000) Author & fiction editor to Salinger, Cheever, Nabokov, and Updike, among many others.

Joseph Mitchell West 10th St. (b.1908 d.1996) Writer. A New Yorker staff writer who became known  for not writing after writing so well for so many years.

Grace Paley West 11th St. (b.1922 d.2007) Writer

Dorothy Parker  23 East 74th St. (The Volney) (b.1893 d.1967)  Ms. Parker was perhaps the most, if not one of the most celebrated members of the Algonquin Round Table. One of Ross’s original contributors and listed as an Advisory Editor in the very first issue of the magazine. The subject of numerous biographies.

S.J. Perelman 134 West 11th St.  (b.1904  d.1979). One of the great humorists of the 20th century. 

Mary Petty  12. East 88th St. (1899 – 1976) New Yorker cover artist and cartoonist. (See Alan Dunn).

Harold Ross  52 East 11th & 412-414 West 47th St. (b.1892  d.1951).  Ross dreamed up The New Yorker.  Thomas Kunkel wrote an excellent biography of Ross, Genius in Disguise

J.D. Salinger  300 East 57th St.  (b.1919 d.2010)

Willam Shawn  East 96th St.  (b.1907  d.1992) The New Yorker’s  legendary second editor.  He succeeded Harold Ross in 1952.  Would someone please write a biography of Mr. Shawn.  

Saul Steinberg 6th Ave. & 11th St…and at the end of his life: East 75th St.  (b.1914 d.1999).  The New York Time’s front page obit labeled him an “epic doodler” – how  I wish they could take that back. The man was a genius.

Otto Soglow 330 West 72nd St. ( b.1900  d.1975) He created The Little King.

John Updike West 13th St.  (b.1932  d.2009)

E.B. White  A number of addresses, beginning with 112 West 13th St., and later, with Katharine White at 16. East 8th St., then uptown at Turtle Bay Gardens, and in the mid 1940s, 37 West 11th St.  (b.1899 d.1985) In his earliest days in Manhattan, White roomed  at 112 West 13th Street along with Gus Lobrano. 

Katharine White  Several addresses, including 16 East 8th St. (see E.B. White above). (b.1892  d.1977) The New Yorker’s first fiction editor. She was hired in August of 1925, and shortly thereafter was involved in nearly all editorial aspects of the magazine. Listed by William Shawn as one of the four who “did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.”

Alexander Woollcott E.52nd St.  (b.1887 d.1943) Wrote The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” column, also the magazine’s drama critic. He was a member of The Algonquin Round Table, and was among those listed as one of  Ross’s Advisory Editors in the first issue of The New Yorker.   He shared the 412 West 47th St address with Harold Ross and his wife, Jane Grant.  Woollcott later moved to the very far east end of East 52nd St., the place Dorothy Parker dubbed, “Wit’s End.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s Progress Report: Thomas Vinciguerra on his Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the New Yorker

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(above: foreground: Fritz Foord, Wolcott Gibbs, Frank Case (owner of the Algonquin Hotel) and Dorothy Parker. Standing, left to right: Alan Campbell, St. Clair McKelway, Russell Maloney and James Thurber.

 

An Ink Spill Exclusive:

Wolcott Gibbs and Co. in Upcoming Group Portrait

There’ve been a handful of New Yorker-centered books in recent years that have caused the house lights here to blink in excitement and anticipation.  The Linda Davis biography of Charles Addams, James Stevenson’s lovely book on Frank Modell, and Deirde Bair’s biography of Saul Steinberg.  Now another is added to that short list.  Last August, Publisher’s Weekly announced that W.W. Norton would be publishing Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker, by Thomas Vinciguerra in the spring of 2015, coinciding with the magazine’s 90th anniversary. Since then, little has been heard from Vinciguerra. But some delicate arm-twisting elicited an update and overview from the harried author.

 

“After months of plowing through The New Yorker records at the main branch of the New York Public Library, I can safely say that I should be able to wrap up my primary digging there by the end of the summer,” Vinciguerra says. “I’ll soon be off to a few other archival collections and conducting some interviews. But happily, I’ve been working on this book in one form or another for so long that much of my research is already done.”

Thereby hangs a tale. In the fall of 2005 Vinciguerra began investigating the life of Gibbs (1902-1958), who in more than 30 years at The New Yorker contributed countless comic sketches, parodies, profiles, short stories, “Talk” and “Comment” pieces and, notably, a pungent theatre column for approximately two decades. “I was appalled that this incredibly productive, versatile, indispensable contributor had been largely forgotten to history,” he recalls. “But for five years, nobody wanted a biography about him. Their attitude was, ‘Wolcott Gibbs? Who’s he?’ Then, in 2010 I got lucky. Bloomsbury had published A Reporter at Wit’s End, a collection of the journalism of Gibbs’s colleague and friend St. Clair McKelway, and I found they were looking to do a follow-up. So in 2011 they came out with my anthology Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs From The New Yorker.

Backward Ran Sentences (its title derives from the famous 1936 Gibbs profile of Henry Luce, which spoofed many aspects of Time magazine, notably its weirdly inverted narrative structure) was a minor success and reawakened some interest in Gibbs. Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post named it one of his best books of the year and even Time declaimed puckishly, “Forward run to this Wolcott Gibbs anthology.” Still, there was no interest in a full-length account of Gibbs’s life.

“Finally,” says Vinciguerra, “I got in touch with my old friend John Glusman, editor-in-chief at Norton. He suggested a book about Gibbs and his circle, shamelessly playing up The New Yorker angle and such giants as White and Thurber, to elicit as much interest as possible. Proceeding from the principle that half a loaf is better than you know what, I gratefully accepted.”

The volume will be neither a history of The New Yorker nor a conventional biography, but rather a group portrait of a certain collection of writers, editors, artists, entertainers and other personalities placed against the backdrop of the magazine, with Gibbs as a focal point. “The best comparison I can make is to Poets in Their Youth,” Vinciguerra says, “in which Eileen Simpson chronicled the lives and times of a whole bunch of interconnected persons—Robert Lowell, Jean Stafford, R.P. Blackmur, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell—with her husband, John Berryman, as a connecting link.”

It’s an unconventional approach, and Vinciguerra is finding that he has his work cut out for him. “This is unlike anything I’ve done before,” says the author, a founding editor of The Week magazine and a contributor to various sections of The New York Times for almost 20 years. “And I’m afraid that I’m going to disappoint some people. When Brendan Gill came out with a new edition of Here at The New Yorker, he explained that the book wasn’t an official account of life at the magazine; it was an account of his life at the magazine. Similarly, Cast of Characters will concern itself almost exclusively with Gibbs and the people who were part of his orbit.

“Fortunately, Gibbs wasn’t merely a writer but a major New Yorker editor as well. And unlike White and Thurber, with whom he was always mentioned in the same breath, he never formally left the staff. So he was absolutely an ongoing, sometimes omniscient, presence. At the same time, there were many big names that weren’t in his crowd. You’re not really going to see anything here about folks like Joe Mitchell, Jean Stafford, Dorothy Parker, Richard Rovere, Saul Steinberg, or S.J. Perelman. A.J. Liebling, Robert Benchley and Peter Arno, among others, will enter only fleetingly.

“At the same time, there will be new information about hitherto elusive figures who Gibbs did interact with, like St. Clair McKelway, Russell Maloney, Gus Lobrano, John Mosher, Hobie Weekes, and Freddie Packard. It goes without saying that along with White and Thurber, Harold Ross and Katharine White will loom large. So, too, will Gibbs’s close friends Charles Addams and John O’Hara, and his literary enemy Alexander Woollcott. And I’m paying special attention to the two worlds that Gibbs really made his own—Broadway and Fire Island.

“I’m tempted to spill even more, but I do have a deadline.”

 

Some links of interest:

From newyorker.com, October 11, 2011, an interview with Jon Michaud of The New Yorker: “Q&A: Thomas Vinciguerra on Wolcott Gibbs”

From The Committee Room, December 12, 2012, this interview:  “TCR Recommends — “Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs by Thomas Vinciguerra”

From The Washington Post, December 9, 2011, “Year-end Picks”

From Time, October 25, 2011, “Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker”

And…

Mr. Vinciguerra has been kind enough to pass along to this address examples of some of the treasure he has discovered while digging through the New Yorker’s archives in the New York Public Library.  From what I’ve been seeing, there is no doubt “Cast of Characters” will be in a league with “Genius in Disguise”  Thomas Kunkel’s spectacular biography of Harold Ross.  Come 2015, we are in for a treat.

 

 

 

 

 

Capote and New Yorker Cartoons

   Reading the Holly Golightly piece (“Forever a Gamine at Tiffany’s”) in today’s New York Times revived a thought I had lodged in my mental “to do” file a few weeks ago when I had the pleasure of meeting Thurber biographer, Burton Bernstein.

 

Listening to  Mr. Bernstein expanding upon a passage from his biography concerning (the nearly blind) Thurber being led around The New Yorker’s offices and elsewhere by Capote,  got me to thinking about the legend of Capote throwing away cartoons while assisting in The New Yorker’s art department.

 

Before we get to that, here’s a very brief look at Capote’s earliest days at the magazine. In late 1942 or early 1943, he was hired, while still attending school, as a New Yorker copyboy – a catch-all job that apparently included sharpening pencils, running errands (and yes, leading Thurber around).  After a time he was given the plum job of assisting in the art department (according to some, this came out of his close friendship with office manager, Daise Terry).

 

Capote’s new duties included sorting through incoming envelopes of unsolicited cartoons and attending  the art meeting where his job was to place selected drawings on an easel. Each drawing would be examined and discussed by Harold Ross, Rea Irvin, fiction editor, Gus Lobrano, and the temporary art editor, Albert Hubbell (filling in for James Geraghty who’d gone off to serve his country).  Daise Terry would take notes on the comments.

 

Albert Hubbell told Gerald Clarke that up until Capote worked the easel, all previous assistants were like “automatons” — Capote, however, would laugh, make faces and comment on the cartoons.  This led Ross to instruct Hubbell:  “Tell him to stop that.”

 

Capote’s copyboy/art assistant days at The New Yorker lasted until the summer of 1944 (his leaving came on the heels of an oft told misunderstanding between Capote and the poet, Robert Frost that eventually led Harold Ross to ban Capote from the offices).

 

 

And now on to throwing away cartoons.  I’d first come across the story in Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker:

 

The story goes that after Capote’s departure from the magazine, it was discovered that he had been serving as a sort of self-appointed art editor. One of his tasks was to open the envelopes that contained drawings sent in by artists from all around the country; when Capote didn’t like a drawing, he dropped it over the far edge of the big table at which he worked. Years passed, and someone thought to move the table. Behind it were found hundreds of drawings that Capote had peremptorily rejected, instead of sending them along to Geraghty or Ross. True or false? Nobody knows, for Capote anecdotes are hard to check.

 

 

So did he, or didn’t he?  This morning, in a stab at clarity, I gathered the Capote material* at hand on these premises and came up with a couple of puzzle pieces.

 

During many many hours of conversation, conducted over the last two years of Capote’s life, writer Lawrence Grobel had this exchange with Capote about the disappearing cartoons:

 

Grobel: Is there any truth to the story… that you appointed yourself an art editor, rejecting submitted drawings you didn’t like by dropping them behind a table where you worked?

Capote:  No. Where’d you hear that?

Grobel: It’s in Brendan Gill’s book.

Capote: “Well, I was in the art department but I wasn’t throwing away people’s cartoons.”

 

And, Capote told his biographer, Gerald Clarke:

 

Sometimes I would get the cartoons all messed up and confused. Then I would throw them into one of those holes  and say to myself,  ‘Well, I’ll straighten that out later.’  I somehow happened to lose about seven hundred of them that way. I didn’t deliberately destroy them, and I don’t know how I lost track of them.

 

Despite it being a more colorful story that Capote appointed himself editor and/or destroyed or threw away cartoons, it’s far more believable that the 17 year old Capote was overwhelmed by the volume of unsolicited cartoons (reportedly thousands a week) coming into the office and inadvertently lost track of many of them.  But of course, as Brendan Gill suggested, we’ll never really know.

*Books consulted:

Bernstein, Burton  Thurber (Dodd, Mead, 1975)

Clarke, Gerald   Capote: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 1988) pp. 71 – 73.

Clarke, Gerald  Too Brief A Treat; The Letters of Truman Capote (Random house, 2004)

Gill, Brendan   Here At The New Yorker (Random House, 1975)  p.317

Grobel, Lawrence   Conversations with Capote (New American Library, 1985) p.56

Inge, M. Thomas   Truman Capote: Conversations (University Press of Mississippi, 1987)

Plimpton, George   Truman Capote (Nan A.Talese/Doubleday, 1997)