Category Archives: New York City

Any and all documents and quotes related in any way to the cultural, social, economic, and political life of Five Boroughs of New York City.

The Algonquin Wits: Edna Ferber’s Storied Riposte to Noel Coward

Miss Ferber, who was fond of wearing tailored suits, showed up at the Round Table one afternoon sporting a new suit similar to the one Noel Coward was wearing. ‘You look almost like a man,’ Coward said as he greeted her.

‘So,’ Miss Ferber replied, ‘do you.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: Dorothy Parker, Famously, on Katherine Hepburn

Mrs. Parker once said of a Katherine Hepburn performance: ‘She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: Alexander Woollcott’s Riposte in a Moment of Immodesty

“Ever conscious of his weight problem, Woollcott installed a steam cabinet at his ‘Wit’s End’ home on the East River. The cabinet had a large window in front, through which an outsider could see anyone sitting inside. One afternoon Peggy Pulitzer, while a guest at Woollcott’s, wandered by the cabinet and beheld Aleck’s stark-naked form. Later she advised him, ‘You should cover that window with an organdy curtain.’ Woollcott corrected the lady’s phrasing, however” ‘Curtain de organ.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: Robert Benchley on Office Sharing

Benchley and Dorothy Parker shared a tiny $30-a-month office for a time in the Metropolitan Opera House studios. As Benchley described it, ‘One cubic foot of space less and it would have constituted adultery.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: Dorothy Parker Eavesdrops

“Sitting next a table of visiting Midwestern governors in a New York nightclub, Mrs. Parker summed up their conversation: ‘Sounds like over-written Sinclair Lewis.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Weekly Text, 25 February 2022, Black History Month 2022 Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Louis Armstrong

For the final Friday of Black History Month 2022. this week’s Text is a reading on Louis Armstrong along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Because I grew up with Mr. Armstrong (I was eleven years old when he died), he has always been a part of my life. He often appeared on the 1960s variety shows–which I have come to think of as the last gasp of Vaudeville–and I loved watching him perform. At a very young age I became familiar with Louis Armstrong’s music by way of my father’s tendency to play jazz programming on public radio at mealtimes.

Mr. Armstrong has lately crossed my radar screen in the form of a remark made by Troy Maxson, the principal character in August Wilson’s magisterial play, Fences. No one, I think, would dispute Louis Armstrong’s enormous and in every respect indelible influence on Jazz. Like all living things, though, Jazz evolved. Bebop, Jazz for listening rather than dancing, developed in the early 1940s in New York City. When the the recording ban of 1942-44 ended in the United States the innovators and stars of Bebop, foremost among them Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, became widely available to the listening public.

Louis Armstrong heard in Bebop’s frenetic pace and “weird notes” what he called “Chinese music.” Mr. Armstrong believed Bebop artists mostly played for one another, not the audience listening to them. In act one, scene four (page 48 of the Plume edition) of Fences, Troy’s son Lyons, a musician, invites Troy to a club to hear Lyons play. Troy declines with the comment that he doesn’t care for “Chinese music.” I very much doubt this allusion is coincidental, so there’s one obscure note in the play to point out to students reading it (at the risk of revealing my hamster wheel of a mind to the readers of this blog).

It’s also worth mentioning, should you be teaching Fences (this is my first time through this masterpiece) that Troy works as a garbage collector; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the time of his death in Memphis, was in that city to support the cause of striking sanitation workers. This too, I suppose, I reject as a coincidence. The Pittsburgh Cycle, as Mr. Wilson’s plays are known, is also known variously as the Century Cycle and the American Century Cycle. This is drama, yes, but it is also history.

So this post is an appropriate conclusion to Black History Month 2022. Women’s History Month 2022 begins on 1 March. As always, Mark’s Text Terminal will observe this imperfect, indeed inadequate (as it too is only a month long–scarcely enough time to detail the manifold contributions of women to this world) month with posts and Weekly Texts on topics in women’s history.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem originally Ferdinand Lew(is) Alcindor: (b.1947) basketball player. Born in New York City, he reached a height of seven feet, one-and-three-eighths inches (two meters seventeen centimeters). During his college career at UCLA, the team lost only two games, and he led it to three national championships (1966-68). He then joined the Milwaukee Bucks; in 1975 he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. The dominant center of his time, in 1984 he surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s career scoring total of 31,419 points. He also holds the record for the most field goals (15,837), ranks second for the most blocked shots (3,189) and games played (1,560), and ranks third for rebounds (17,440). He was voted Most Valuable Player a record six times.

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Algonquin Wits: Robert Benchley on the Standardization of American Life

“It takes no great perspicacity to detect and to complain of the standardization in American life. So many foreign and domestic commentators have pointed this feature out in exactly the same terms that the comment has become standardized and could be turned out on little greeting cards, all from the same type-form: ‘American life has become too standardized.’”

Robert Benchley

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: Harold Ross on Henry Luce

“On hearing that Time editor Henry Luce objected to a profile of himself published in The New Yorker—on the grounds that not one nice thing was said about him in the whole piece—Ross told him, ‘That’s what you get for trying to be a baby tycoon.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: George S. Kaufman on New York City Traffic

Kaufman once voiced a possible solution to the New York City’s traffic problem: ‘Have all the traffic lights on the streets turn red—and keep them that way.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.