1912 Photograph Shows Don’s ‘Halo’

Ellis Parker Butler, Reina Marquis (holding a copy of "Danny's Own Story") and Don Marquis.

Ellis Parker Butler, Reina Marquis (holding a copy of “Danny’s Own Story”) and Don Marquis.

The 1912 publication of Don Marquis’ first book, the novel “Danny’s Own Story,” created a stir in literary circles. Doubleday, Page & Co., Don’s publisher, heralded the young writer as a rising star, and reviewers favorably compared him with Mark Twain, who had died less than two year earlier. (It didn’t hurt that “Danny’s Own Story” bore a passing resemblance to “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Both were written in a backwoods vernacular and both used wry humor to tell the adventures of young boys, one an orphan and the other nearly so, who ran away from home and lived by their wits.)

Don wrote “Danny” while on the staff of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, but he moved to The Evening Sun just before its publication on January 17, 1912. To celebrate the new book, Doubleday hosted a reception a few weeks later at its headquarters in Garden City, Long Island, and among the guests was Ellis Parker Butler, a well-known humor writer at the time whose best-known work, the short story “Pigs Is Pigs,” had been published six years earlier.

At one point during the festivities a Doubleday photographer asked Don and his wife, Reina, to pose with Butler. No one at the time paid attention to an alarm clock sitting on a bookshelf directly above Don’s head, but when the photograph was developed the clock was gone — its glass face wiped out by glare from the camera’s flash. In its place, it looked for all the world as if an angel had come down from heaven and anointed Marquis with a halo.

Doubleday sent copies of the photograph to both Butler and Marquis, and a short time later it reported their separate responses in a statement it gleefully released to newspapers across North America. The following exchange was published in the March 2, 1912, editions of The Toronto World, with comments first from Butler, then Marquis. Continue Reading →

Print Friendly

Clomid brand

Vintage birthday cakeIf you will be in New York City on Wednesday, July 29, please join us for dinner and drinks to celebrate Don Marquis’ 137th birthday. 

A few fans will be gathering that evening to talk, relax and tell stories about Don and his crowd. If someone feels the urge to channel Archy and recite some poetry (nothing too serious, of course), that’s fine, too! 

A location hasn’t been determined yet, but perhaps a tavern with a dining room near City Hall (and the former homes of The Sun and the Tribune), or maybe Keen’s Steakhouse, further uptown, where Don’s co-workers toasted him in 1922, when he left The Sun to join the Tribune staff.

If you’re interested in attending, send a note to john@donmarquis.com. And if you’re in Boston a few days beforehand, some folks plan to be there July 25-26 to see the Blunderwood typewriter (see below) on display in the Rose Kennedy Greenway. An early birthday toast might be in order.

Print Friendly

Glucophage usa

Progress on the Blunderwood typewriter

Progress update!

UPDATE: The Blunderwood folks have reached their Kickstarter goal of $5,000, but they now have a “stretch” goal of another $3,000 to add gold-leaf lettering to the typewriter and purchase a more powerful projector. The deadline is June 27. And make plans to see the Blunderwood in Boston, July 25-26!

– – – – – 

Archy and Mehitabel are the inspiration for a whimsical (and huge!) public art project coming this summer to a park in downtown Boston – and then to the Burning Man festival in Nevada.

A group of artists, welders and carpenters who call themselves the Cat and the Cockroach Collective are building a 24-to-1-scale model of a 1927 Underwood Standard portable typewriter, The reimagined Blunderwood Portable will be 20 feet square and 8 feet tall, with interactive keys able to spell out personal messages projected on an oversize sheet of paper when walked upon.  Continue Reading →

Print Friendly

Brand diflucan for sale

archyMark your calendars! Fans of Archy and Mehitabel are already making plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Archy’s first appearance in Don Marquis’ Sun Dial column in the New York Evening Sun. March 29, 2016 will be a cockroach centenary like no other, and we’d like to hear about your plans — in New York and around the world. (The 1927 classic “archy and mehitabel,” after all, was popular in Canada, England, India and Australia as well as the United States, and translated editions were published in German and Italian.)

Is your theater group planning a production of “archy & mehitabel”? Maybe your school, library or book club can host a poetry reading, or a poetry slam. Or host a showing of the 1971 animated feature “Shinbone Alley.” A group in New York hopes to sponsor public displays and performances, and we welcome your ideas and involvement. Check out the link at the top of this page, “archyFest!” for more, and use the Twitter hashtag #archyfest! to keep in touch!

Print Friendly

Canadian zithromax and healthcare

EnvelopeIn 1927 a young journalism student at the University of Illinois, Frances Hickman, wrote to Don Marquis. She was preparing a class paper on the famous newspaper columnist and boldly decided to ask him directly for details of his life. Don responded with an incredible, 988-word summation of his past, present and probable future — rich with detail, honest to a fault and brutally funny.  

Don’s letter, dated December 14, 1927, was eventually given to the Library of Congress. It has been reprinted only once before, in William McCollum Jr.’s “Selected Letters of Don Marquis” (Northwoods Press, 1982).

*  *  *

My dear Miss Hickman:

I am in receipt of your letter of recent date asking me to tell you something of myself which you can use in your thesis; the way you put it is: “Tell me just as much as you will about yourself.” This at once plunges me into a difficulty—just how much to tell about myself in any perfectly proper thesis submitted to the authorities of any reputable university by any young woman student of Journalism, (for my secretary assures me you must be a young woman on account of the hand writing.)

With regard to my past it can all be summed up by saying I have been a promising young man in literary circles for at least thirty years. With regard to my present, I am in a very low and depressed state of mind, consequent upon having the greatest romantic drama ever written in America [“Out of the Sea”] turn out to be a commercial failure; and in planning a campaign of wholesale murder, mayhem and arson against certain dramatic critics, not to mention a couple of actors. With regard to my future I have no hopes: fountains of evil which have welled up in me on account of various literary disappointments have no legal outlet in the way of dissipation: the time is past when one could get drunk and forget a licking. Continue Reading →

Print Friendly

Celebrex china

A comic theme running through Don Marquis’s 1927 book “The Almost Perfect State” is his avowed distaste for beans. “The ancient Egyptians lived largely on lentils; and where are the Pharaohs now?” Don asks at the start of the book, and he proceeds to blame all the world’s ills on the deleterious effects of the “accursed” bean.

“There will be no beans in the Almost Perfect State,” he flatly declares, but at the end of the book he reveals the joke: “If you will eat beans, here is the way to prepare them,” Don writes, and he then delivers, in narrative form, a glorious, laborious recipe for country-style baked beans made with generous helpings of salt pork, molasses, onions and mustard. Continue Reading →

Print Friendly

Non pescription ventolin

Gale

Gale McNeeley as Archy. Click the photo for a link to Gale’s performance.

It was 99 years ago — March 29, 1916 — that Archy the cockroach first spoke to the world. Don Marquis had come into his office at The Evening Sun earlier than usual and discovered “a gigantic cockroach jumping about upon the keys” of his typewriter.

“He did not see us, and we watched him,” Don wrote in his newspaper column that day. “He would climb painfully upon the framework of the machine and cast himself with all his force upon a key, head downward, and his weight and the impact of the blow were just sufficient to operate the machine, one slow letter after another. He could not work the capital letters, and he had a great deal of difficulty operating the mechanism that shifts the paper so that a fresh line may be started.

“We never saw a cockroach work so hard or perspire so freely in all our lives before. After about an hour of this frightfully difficult literary labor he fell to the floor exhausted, and we saw him creep feebly into a nest of the poems which are always there in profusion.”

It was the first of hundreds of stories, poems, japes, jests and epigrams by Archy that would appear in Don’s writings over the next 20 years, often accompanied by comments from an alley cat of questionable morals, Mehitabel. 

Print Friendly

The Kardashians? A Century Late and a Dollar Short

When the reality TV show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” first appeared, in 2007, Americans justifiably wondered who in the hell were these dysfunctional egotists and why did they deserve to be on television? They were simply “famous for being famous,” a strange concept that seemed to be a result of today’s celebrity culture. 

But there’s nothing new under the sun. Don Marquis was laughing at the same sort of people more than a century ago, as the following poem makes clear. It appeared in The Evening Sun on February 14, 1912, and is reprinted here for what is almost certainly the first time since then. This was Don’s first byline in The Evening Sun — barely a month after he joined the newspaper and a year before he started writing his Sun Dial column. Continue Reading →

Print Friendly

‘Letters We’d Write if We Dared to’

Don Marquis used his newspaper columns to poke fun at popular fads and conventions of the day. Reincarnation and free-verse poetry were skewered with every mention of Archy and Mehitabel, and Don’s Old Soak character owed its long and successful run to the nagging persistence of Prohibition. The era’s rich and powerful politicians and business leaders were targets, too, as evidenced by the following item from Don’s Sun Dial column, reprinted here for the first time since it appeared nearly a century ago. Continue Reading →

Print Friendly

Purchase real name brand ventolin

Here are publicity photos of Eddie Bracken and the inimitable Carol Channing taken during the studio recording of “archy and mehitabel: a back-alley opera,” a concept album by writer Joe Darion and composer George Kleisinger.

Photo from "archy and mehitabel" 1954 recording Photo from "archy and mehitabel" 1954 recording Photo from "archy and mehitabel" 1954 recording
Photo from "archy and mehitabel" 1954 recording Photo from "archy and mehitabel" 1954 recording Photo from "archy and mehitabel" 1954 recording

Darion and Kleinsinger recorded the album (Columbia ML 4963) in February 1954, but Columbia wasn’t sure it would sell and didn’t release the album until January 1955. They got behind the album after the Little Orchestra Society staged a successful, one-night performance at New York’s Town Hall theater on Dec. 6, 1954, though without Channing or Darion. It took another two-plus years before the renamed “Shinbone Alley” finally premiered on Broadway as a full-cast musical production. The Broadway show had been partly rewritten by an up-and-coming comic talent, Mel Brooks, and starred Bracken and Eartha Kitt. (Channing was pregnant when the show was being cast.) “Shinbone Alley” ran for only 49 performances, but several songs remained in Kitt’s repertoire for the rest of her life.

"archy and mehitabel: a back-alley opera"Channing and Bracken were reunited as lead vocal talents in the 1971 animated movie “Shinbone Alley.” Visit my Archy & Mehitabel page for more on the production’s enduring appeal, and click on the images above to see larger versions. The photos come from the Masterworks Broadway website, part of Sony Music Entertainment, which also has a link to buy a digital copy of the album from Amazon.com and Apple’s iTunes.

Print Friendly