Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA69 April 6, 1924
WANTS TO TESTIFY
All I know is what I read in the papers. I thought this week I would be able to write you something nice clean and uplifting, with no trace of scandal. But I just can’t find anything. Why, even if you talk about the church now you are just as apt to be discussing some of their scandals as you are if you talk on oil.
Now I had a nice little article I wanted to write about Judge Wilbur, the new Secretary of the Navy, and just as I was ready to write it I read in the paper today that he had stopped off in Chicago on his way to Washington to take up his new duties and he went to church there to pray for moral courage to give him strength to refuse.1
Now at these times I can’t go and write about a man that is doubtful of himself.
I see where they have found a record in Annapolis, where he made the highest kick ever made. He may have made the highest ever recorded but LaFollette, and Reed are tied for the longest kick ever made, covering a period of some 40 years.2
But the funny thing about it is that they generally had grounds to kick on. So you see it is mighty hard to compose a few lines on the days’ news without Daugherty, or Roxie Stinson, creeping in between the lines.3
Then another thing, this investigation is getting nearer and nearer every day. Didn’t they call Al Jennings, that other Oklahoman.4
Well, one thing, an ex-bandit will feel right at home among the senators. Al has been a movie actor too. But I notice in all his reference to himself he mentions the train robberies more than the movie acting. So I guess he is more proud of the first than the latter.
Al wired them he knew all about Mr. Harding’s nomination. I am going to wire them that I know all about ex Governor of Oklahoma Walton’s barbecue.5
They have investigated everything else. I will ask for transportation both ways and a room at the Willard.
It’s the greatest publicity I know of. Why, it beats murder for publicity. Every paper in the United States runs what you say, even if you don’t say anything. Look at Sinclair!6
Every paper was full of what he didn’t say. And the Senate got mad because he wouldn’t argue back with them and they are going to haul him up and make him say something.
Now who pops up on the stand but my good friend Will Hays!7
thing; he was out to my house just when this thing started and I was asking him about it, never thinking, mind you, that he was mixed up in it, because if I had known that he was mixed up in it I would have been more careful.
The position I am in, I can’t afford to let it be known that I associated with any of those fellows. We hired Will to keep us movie people out of just such contaminated influences as this. So you see if Will Hays in his position as purifier of the movies, would find out that I had associated with Will Hays of political life, (whose name had been linked with Kerosene Kings) why he would set me down maybe for 6 months in the movies. Will said he nicked Mr. Sinclair for 75 thousand berries, for the campaign fund. Mr. Harding was elected by the biggest majority of any president. What would they spend on an election if it happened to be close?
By the way, I have about forgotten it, but what was it that Newberry was let out of the Senate for?8
I tell you, it looks like pretty near all my friends have been on the stand—the Roosevelt boys, Will Hays, Tex Rickard, W. G. McAdoo, Al Jennings, and Harry Sinclair.9
It just looks like a fellow would be socially ostracised unless he strung along with his bunch. So I have wired Mr. Walsh,10
Presiding Elder of the Interrogation Committee, that I am ready to come and tell what I know about Charlie Chaplin and Poli Negri.11
Bull Montana and I are about the only men I know of that amount to anything that haven’t been called.12
Week before last the investigation left oil and got off onto bootlegging from Government warehouses. I tell you it is hard to do anyting in this country nowadays without having our national industry come into it.
The only one you never hear mentioned any more is ex-secretary Fall.13
He and the oil leases passed out of the picture so long ago that people have about forgotten them. While the Senate have been investigating everything from chewing gum to parking spaces, the poor old House of Representatives couldn’t get a speck of publicity, so they just go out and pass a bonus bill.
All the soldier has to do to get a bonus now is to die. Those that they didn’t get to die for nothing they are offering an inducement to die now for somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 dollars.
If your bonus comes to less than 50 dollars, why they are going to pay that to you. They ain’t going to ask you to die for 50 dollars. No, 60 is about the lowest. Now this was the House who passed this. It will be about 6 months before the Senate even hear about it. Then they will investigate. By that time there will be another war, and people will be so excited about it that they will forget who won this one.
Then another day when the members of Congress were not up to the Senate laughing at the denials of the witnesses, they said, “Let us pass a tax bill!”
So Mellon says, “I got a good one you can pass.”14
They said, “Yes,
that is a good one but it is a Republican one, and there must be something the matter with it somewhere.”
So some fellow named Garner said, “If some of you will bring my lunch in at recess I will stay in and write one.”15
When they all come back
he had one.
It was no better than Mellon’s. He had taken the tax off the fellows that Mellon had put it on, and put it back onto the fellows that Mellon had taken it off of.
So Nick Longworth dropped his fiddle one evening at home, and wrote him a tax scenario which was half as good as Mellon’s, and half as bad as Garner’s, which made it just equal to each of the others.16
But he was smart enough to leave both the Republican and Democratic labels off of it, and it passed.
You can get any bill you want passed, if you don’t brand it Republican or Democratic. But politics is one thing they absolutely won’t stand for.
I have a scheme that I think would be very beneficial and add to the efficiency of this investigation. That is, have certain days for certain things. Now, say for instance, Mondays. That is for confessions. Everybody that wants to confess come and confess Monday. Tuesday, is for accusations. If you want to accuse anybody come Tuesday, and accuse from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M.
Then that leaves Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for denials. You see it takes you longer to deny than anything else. That would make it a lot easier on the spectators. They would know when just what days to go.
They could sell the house out Tuesday. Everybody wants to hear accusations, and nobody wants to hear denials. So you are just taking up spectators’ time by having them there on days when all they hear is, “It’s absolutely false. I didn’t receive the money, and if those 18 witnesses have testified that I did they must have been mistaken.” Or here is another favorite line: “I don’t remember.”
I tell you folks, if American men are as dumb as some of them have appeared on the witness stand this year, civilization is tottering.
So, readers, if I am called I will guarantee to you that I will remember, and I will tell ’em more things than Vanderlip told the Rotary club in Sing Sing.17
I won’t hide behind my vast wealth and refuse to answer.
I will tell ’em some things about Hollywood that will rock the very foundation of censorship.
And I look to be called. Now that they have called one Oklahoma bandit, they are liable to come right down the line.
Remember, all I want is transportation both ways and a room at the Willard.
1Curtis Dwight Wilbur, United States secretary of the navy from 1924 to 1929.
2For Robert M. La Follette, Sr., see WA 14:N 4; for Jim Reed see WA 6:N 6.
3For Harry M. Daugherty see WA 65:N 2. Roxy Stinson, the divorced wife of an associate of Daugherty, provided valuable testimony that corruption had pervaded the office of the attorney general.
4Alphonso J. “Al” Jennings, Oklahoma attorney and actor; imprisoned from 1897 to 1907 for robbery of the United States mails. Jennings testified in the oil lease scandal.
5For Jack Walton see WA 7:N 1.
6For Harry F. Sinclair see WA 59:N 3.
7For Will H. Hays see WA 21:N 6.
8For Truman H. Newberry see WA 3:N 4, WA 6:N 3.
9Archibald Bullock Roosevelt, Sr., New York City investment broker and a son of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt, an executive with Sinclair’s oil firm, testified about a payment made by Sinclair to an associate of Secretary Fall. For Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., see WA 64:N 4. George Lewis “Tex” Rickard, colorful American prizefight promoter, who staged many championship bouts between 1906 and his death in 1929. For William G. McAdoo see WA 25:N 1.
10For Thomas J. Walsh see WA 66:N 1.
11For Charlie Chaplin see WA 11:N 8; for Pola Negri see WA 14:N 2.
12Louis “Bull” Montana, Italian-born American professional wrestler, best remembered for his fierce-faced, villainous roles in silent films during the 1920s.
13For Albert B. Fall see WA 60:N 7.
14For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 57:N 2.
15John Nance “Jack” Garner, Democratic United States representative from Texas from 1903 to 1933; speaker of the House from 1931 to 1933; vice president of the United States from 1933 to 1941.
16For Nicholas Longworth see WA 17:N 4.
17For Frank A. Vanderlip see WA 65:N 3.
WA70 April 13, 1924
FOUND: ONE MAN IN OIL WHO IS PURE
A few weeks ago I engaged in a good natured debate before a very large audience, with Los Angeles’ most able and popular preacher on the question: “Resolved: That Cowboys have been more beneficial to Civilization than Preachers.” I hope you won’t all think me egotistical when I say that I won, not on account of me, or my flowery arguments, but simply because I was lucky enough to have the cowboy side. Of course he, out of good sportsmanship, presented his preacher side, but he had so little to work on that it practically went to me by default.
Now in that debate I enumerated the deeds of all our valiant buckaroos, from Theodore Roosevelt down.1
But there is one I failed to mention. If, as the saying goes, “It’s the things that we have done that are remembered after we are gone that really amount to anything.” Well, I have a cowboy friend who is doing things today that will live longer with people who know and appreciate art and beauty and genius, than anything any cowpuncher ever did.
Think of a 40 dollar a month cowhand, who never had a lesson in his life, taking a little paint brush, a few daubs of paint and producing scenes of our west, which are fast passing, that have sold (not only one, but three of them) to England’s future king, (if they will just keep him off a horse) and which will hang for generations to come in ancestral halls, (if Ramsey McDonald don’t object) along with Rembrandts, Whistlers, (I would mention more but that’s all the original cast of painters I can think of).2
Even the Duke of Connaught, in his Own Your Own Apartment in London has two.3
The reason I mention first the notables from abroad who have his work is not to appear snobbish, or try to cater to the aristocracy, but because those two birds I mention come from where art is art. And, incidentally, they jarred themselves loose from 10 thousand dollars (not shillings) for each, (not in bulk) but for one single-portion picture each.
Now you know from the present rate of exhange that where they come from for 10 thousand dollars they would wrap up the whole museum along with any picture for that much dough. For they not only have art there but they have art at a reasonable figure.
Among the American homes where his work hangs is that of the late Theodore Roosevelt. (Now wouldn’t a man have a fine chance landing a western picture into his collection if there had been even a steer with a horn leaning the wrong way.)
Wm. Howard Taft has one in his home, hanging high up so he can see it.4
Mr. Mellon of Pittsburgh, Sectry of the Treasury (Mr. Couzens’ friend) has one too.5
By the way, there is another scandal for the committee. How can a man on the Secretary’s salary afford a ten thousand dollar picture? I will take that up with Mr. Walsh at once.6
Mellon needs watching. They all do.
This is not mentioning at all the oil and movie billionaires, who have his work (for this article is dealing with art, and not with scandal).
I don’t need to mention his name to any art conniseur. (I can’t spell that word but it means a kind of a floor walker among artists.) Now they all, as I say, know who I am talking about already, but the trouble is that there is so little percentage of artistic people who read my articles that I will have to tell you his name.
It is Charles M. Russell, of Great Falls, Montana.7
He went west from
his home in St. Louis at the age of 15, and landed by stage coach in Montana in 1880, and has lived there ever since.
A lot of these birds go west to some dude ranch, or tourist camp, stay 3 months, and then either write stories or paint pictures of the west, and say, “I know, for I have been right over that very country.” Charlie says he don’t know nothing but Montana, and he don’t paint anything but Montana.
To give you an illustration—he went on a trip all through old Mexico, and yet he has never painted it. He says “It is beautiful, the coloring and dress of the people is great for an artist. but I don’t know enough about it. Why, I would have to live there 25 years before I would attempt to paint those people.”
He gained his first local fame in Montana, in the winter of ’86 and ’87. It was a terrible cold winter. He was working for a cow outfit and they had been snowed in all winter and the cattle had about all died. The owner finally got word through to ask the boss how everything was. The boss wrote him a letter telling him the bad news. Then Charlie, who was just one the hands, drew a picture of one old lone cow in a blizzard. She was surrounded by a pack of wolves, and he had under it “The last of the 10 thousand, or Waiting for a Chinook.” A Chinook, by the way, is one of those warm winds which come in that country which melt the snow and it feels warm like summer, and the stock has a chance to get something to eat.
Well, when the boss saw that picture, just painted on the back of an old envelope, he said, “Why write him a letter? Just send him this! It will tell him more than I can write.” And that is held in Montana today as one of the most famous of Russell’s paintings.
He used to paint a picture, bring it in and sell it if he could for a few dollars, and if not, give it over the bar for a round of drinks for himself and
friends. For in those days Charlie was a pretty wild kind of a hand. So, as a consequence, the Silver Dollar Saloon housed many a Russell masterpiece, and it became noted.
Then Charlie got to riding up to Cascade, a little mining town near and it was noised around that there was a school teacher up there that must be sitting for a portrait. They were not sure until they heard that he had given her his favorite horse. Then “Old Yank,” a character, miner, stage coach driver, and all around town philosopher, said, “Charlie sure is going to marry that gal. Now I hear he give her his horse and he will have to marry her to get him back.”
He got not only the horse back but a wife, and not only a wife but a manager.8
The last Russell painting has gone over the bar. She said: “You
paint these things. I will attend to the distribution end of this enterprize.”
She enlarged his market from what had been purely local consumption to one which embraced two continents. (I think that’s what these writers call “two nations who are joined together by a single ocean.”)
Now for another side of this remarkable woman. Lots of people forgot when they were celebrating over the remarkable good that prohibition would bring, that it was also putting out of business a few good men among saloon keepers, who had always paid their license and were conducting as legitimate a business as any other, and did not just switch to a bootleggery. Well, the Silver Dollar Saloon happened to be one of them, and the owners had misfortune and they had their home mortgaged and would have lost it, when in steps Mrs. Charlie Russell, sold just part of the pictures paid off the home, and left the owner comfortable fixed, and still able to enjoy art such as few have.
Charlie is the greatest story teller I ever heard, and most of them are on himself. There was a very ugly cowpuncher who was a great bucking horse rider. So Charlie painted a bucking horse and rider, and all of them in the saloon saw the resemblance to this homely one, in Charlie’s rider. So Old Yank was called on to pass his opinion as to whether it was him. Yank said” “The horse looks a little like him.”
He painted a picture of an old deserted mining town away off in the distance. They were all admiring it, till finally Old Yank, who was also the local critic said: “Charlie this ain’t no tropical climate. It gets might cold up here.” Charlie says, “Yes, I know it does.” Yank says, “Well you ain’t got nary a chimney on one of your houses.”
An Eastern tourist was looking at a picture of his where an Indian had just killed a buffalo. The tourist says, “But why did he kill the buffalo?” Charlie told him, “Well, they had a grudge against each other and they finally shot it out and the Indian killed him to get even.” Tourist says, “How extraordinary!”
When the Prince of Wales was in Canada, Charlie was out to Mr. Lane’s ranch when the Prince was so the boss was catching out their horses when Mr. Lane said to the boss, “Now Fleming, put the Prince on a gentle horse. You know there will be hell to pay if we kill a king on this ranch.”9
The first one of his pictures which brought a big price naturally attracted a lot of news in the home paper. One of the cowpunchers on reading it went to Charlie and said, “Charlie, what is it that makes them pictures cost so much? Is it the brush or the paint?”
He is the only painter of western pictures in the world that a cowboy can’t criticize. Every little piece of leather or rope is just where it would be. Eddie Borein, the greatest etcher of western subjects we have, is also a great painter himself, and a real ex cowpuncher.10
He says Russell is “The
master.” So you see in these times of scandal, it is a real pleasure to point
out to some of you someone who is IN OIL, and still remains pure.
Now every story should point a moral and this one is: If you are going to paint (or do anything else) know what you are painting about and if you are going to marry, marry somebody that can manage you RIGHT.
So here is to an old 40-dollar-a-month cowpuncher, whose work will live for centuries. Maybe longer than that. Maybe as long as the Republican party is under suspicion.
1For Theodore Roosevelt see WA 48:N 3.
2For the Prince of Wales see WA 17:N 8. James Ramsay MacDonald, British Labour party leader who served as prime minister in 1924 and from 1929 to 1931 and 1931 to 1935.
3For the Duke of Connaught see WA 42:N 7.
4For William Howard Taft see WA 26:N 3.
5For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 57:N 2. James Couzens, Republican United States senator from Michigan from 1922 until his death in 1936.
6For Thomas J. Walsh see WA 66:N 1.
7For Charlie Russell see WA 42:N 8.
8Nancy Cooper Russell, wife of Charlie Russell and her husband’s business manager. She published a volume of his letters after his death in 1926.
9For George Lane see WA 42:N 6.
10John Edward “Ed” Borein, American western illustrator, etcher, and painter, known as the “Cowpuncher Artist.”
WA71 April 20, 1924
JOKESMITHS WARNED TO SPARE PRINCE
I want hereby, and hereon, to publicly issue a protest this week to my fellow writers, and comedians, against the use of cartoons, editorials, paragraphs, free verse, or any form of public notice, jibing, or poking fun or attempting to be funny, at the expense of the Prince of Wales, falling off his horse.1
My reasons are two-fold, first on account of it being passed, and secondly on account of the happenings of the past week to my own immediate person. Now everything is funny as long as it seems to lose some of its humor, and if it keeps on happening, why the entire laughter kinder fades out of it.
Last year in New York it was one of my sure fire subjects to remark about the Prince of Wales staking himslf out in a six foot claim in some part of England. And I remember one choice morsel of gossip I had was that I was going to get appointed as Ambassador to England so I could go riding with the Prince and be able to rope his horse and bring him back to him. And another was, “I see where the Prince of Wales fell off his horse again today. But that ain’t news any more. If he stayed on that would be news.” Well that always knocked the audience right back on their flasks.
Now in those days, which was a year ago, that was very comical both to me and the audience. But of course now it has finally reached the comic strip cartoons, really earlier than a joke generally does, and even the editorial writers are commenting on it, in what they term a lighter vein. Now an editorial writer is the last man in the world to find anything out, so you
see how old and out of date it must be to refer to now.
But all this has nothing to do with my real reasons. I always have a few old ponies for me and the children to play around with, so somebody said, “Will, why don’t you play polo. Anybody that can ride can play polo.” And me, like a fool, believed him. Why that is as absurd as saying anybody that can walk would make a good golf player, or anybody that looks good in a bathing suit will make a good swimmer.
Now I want it distinctly understood that I did not take up polo for any social prestige, or to make myself pointed out as a man about town. If I was the champion polo player of the world, I still couldn’t drink a cup of tea without the saucer. And another reason I always hesitated on taking up the game was on account of the white breeches. I had always been reared to believe that white breeches should be concealed beneath black and gray ones—at least in public.
The people that think riding a horse is all there is to polo, are the same people that think curls are all there is to Mary Pickford.2
I can also walk, but I can’t sweep a golf ball into one of those holes with a broom.
Well, I got me some of those long handled hammers and started in at polo. You know some men like to have their fields harrowed and plowed, and I had not played polo two days until I was offered a job to come over and play on their ground as they wanted it dug up. Finally I got so every once in a while I would hit the ball. But it seemed like every time I hit the ball it would get mad at me and go off in an opposite direction.
Well, finally I got to playing in practice games, more for the comedy I would cause than through any good I might do my side. If the purple and whites had a game I might wear a purple jersey, but in reality I would be playing with the whites.
Then come a polo tournament held at Coronado Beach. So I was scheduled to play in one of the minor league, or small time events, I go down and one day we are having a friendly practice game with a few looking on. Three of us beginners all bump together mind you, we are all three on the same side. We knock our horses down, I fall on my head and of course, am not hurt.
The referee called an unusual foul. He said I had fouled by running over two of my own side. Well, the next day was the big game; we were to play the 11th Cavalry from Monterey. They sure were a fine bunch of boys, and hard riders. Things were going along pretty good until along about the 3rd act, I was on a new pony who suddenly reared up and fell back on me. There he was, a laying right across my intermission, my head was out on one side and my feet on the other; that was all you could see. When he got up I knew for the first time how the Prince must have felt.
Well, everything goes O. K. for two more periods. I am on a friend’s horse and coming lickety split down the field, when for no reason at all the horse crosses his front legs and starts turning somersaults. They picked me up just south of Santa Barbara.
The crowd all said, “Oh, that’s Will Rogers the comedian. He just does that for laughs.” The papers next day all said, “Comedian spills off horse twice at polo game.”
Now I will admit there was not quite the same publicity given to all my various falls, as to those of the Prince. But the hurt was just as bad. Everybody that reads about it had been kidding me about being the local Prince of Wales of America. But what I wanted to know from some of these newspaper riders is what I am supposed to do in case the horse falls.
Are the Prince and I supposed to fall with the horse, or are we supposed to stay up there in the air until he gets up, and come back up under us? Every fall that the Prince has had has been caused by a falling horse, not by being thrown from one. In the future the Prince and I will personally pay in the papers for the extra two lines that will announce that “The horse going down had something to do with our going off.”
England is all worked up over his numerous falls, but up to now no one has manifested much interest in any of mine, only for laughing purposes. At least none of the prominent Washington politicians have asked me to cease my riding. I want some concern paid to my welfare. In my falls I am not fortunate enough to spill any royal blood, but it’s my blood, and it’s all I got. It’s kinder funny but no matter how common our blood is, we hate to lose any of it.
I saw a picture in the paper last summer where the Prince was on one of his horses and its name was Will Rogers. Now I got all swelled up when I saw he had a horse named for me, but maybe that was the one that has been doing all this high and lofty tumbling. As a suggestion if our respective countries want to do something to protect our welfare the best thing I can suggest would be to get us some horses that can stand up, for the Prince and I both have to take every precaution to protect our looks. It would be terrible if his face was marred. And I certainly don’t want anything to happen to mine to make it look better. My living depends on it, just as it is.
The only thing that makes me sore is that I haven’t got the nerve to do some of the riding stunts that the Prince goes after. He goes over jumps that I wouldn’t have nerve to climb over on foot. Then if he gets a fall a lot of us alleged humorists (who would be afraid to lead one of his horses to water with a 20 foot halter rope) start in rewriting original jokes about the Prince’s horsemanship.
I saw a picture of one of his falls, where the horse had fallen trying for a water jump. Why that jump was so wide, that I bet we haven’t got a joke writer in this country who could swim across it, and not over two could row over it.
I am not overly strong for royalty, but if I had to have one of them over me I don’t know of one that I would rather have than this same bird, and most of this admiration has been won by his horsemanship, not by the lack of it.
Lots of women have it in for him because he has not married, but with all of them making a silly play for him, I admire his judgment as much as his horsemanship. So here is an appeal to my fellow jokesters; if you want to kid somebody on their riding go to Central Park, don’t go to England unless, as I say, you have some solution for a man staying up while the horse is going down.
P. S. I only had one thing to be thankful for in my falls. I practically ruined the only pair of white breeches I had. Of course, it’s all right with the Prince—he can wear his daddy’s. But from now on I will get to play in chaps.
1For the Prince of Wales see WA 17:N 8.
2For Mary Pickford see WA 25:N 4.
WA72 April 27, 1924
GREAT SEASON FOR QUESTIONERS
All I know is just what I read in the papers. Now the president has been telling his hired help up around the Senate that they ought to do something towards making some laws instead of trying to find out what each other had been doing. You go to trying to find out how a Senator spends his off hours and you’ve got an investigation on your hands that will run well into the next term.
Mr. Mellon wrote to the president and told him the boys had been picking on him so he up and snitches to the teacher.1
The teacher just sends the letter of Mr. Mellon’s to the Senate and ask them to lay off Andy. It seems the Senate Committee has been trying to find out where Andy got his clutches on all this stack of dough. Any time a man has got more than a Senator they are suspicious of him, and rightly so, for they know how they got what they have. And the more a man has got the more he hates to be investigated, for things that might pass as honest in a court of law don’t sound so good when some bird blats them out at an investigation.
HENRY FORD OF PITTSBURGH
Of course Mr. Mellon is the Henry Ford of Pittsburgh, and any time you are the richest man in Pittsburgh you are figuratively and literally, dirty rich.
Now here is what a man like Mr. Mellon is up against. Here he has all this money of his own, (and a little batch belonging to the government) and along comes a good investment. Now whose money is he going to put into that, his, or the company’s? It is human nature for a man to look out for himself. He is an honest man—no one denies that, but the trouble is, have we as a government got enough to interest him? Us leaving our money with him is just like the old family cook forgetting to draw her check for a couple of months. He don’t even know he has it.
Of course, I can see the Senators’ angle, too. They figure here is a man with our loose change in among his bills, now in the end will he forget to give us our usual 5 per cent? But, on the other hand, suppose we let him go and get a poor man who probably has only seen the change rack on the cashier’s window. When you show him money in bales like a huckster buys cabbage, why immediately he wants to see his name at the bottom of a check, so some of it will loosen up.
This thing of getting rid of a man in the cabinet is all right, but there is one bad feature to it that few of the people ever realize. That is, that unfortunately every one of them is replaced by some one else. If it just was not for that, this resignation business would be immense.
HARD ON CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
When Mr. Coolidge sent this quiet reminder up to the Senate it was an inspiration to the Republicans but an insult to the Democrats. Jim Reed from Missouri made a motion that the president’s message be blotted from the Congressional Record.2
That it was a slam against “The honest and fair mindedness of our August Senate.” Now I consider that a direct insult to the President. If I wrote something and somebody suggested that it was not good enough to go into the Congressional Record, why I would consider that my literary talents had reached about the lowest ebb it was possible to mire.
So personally I think Mr. Coolidge has a libel suit against my good friend Jim Reed from the smelly banks of the Kaw.
By the way, my old Oklahoma fellow worker Al Jennings has not arrived back out here in California.3
Guess he has decided to go on to New York and testify in that church fight, between the old fashions, and the new fashions. That’s what I figure on doing when I go East—kill off all those testimonies in the one trip. The last time Al went East he was robbed. I hope he gets back out here with something this trip, for it is certainly getting tough out here. There are days when a man can’t lay up a thing, testifying.
The queerest investigation that has sprung up in Washington, (and it has to go some to be queerer than some of the others) is one that happened lately. Mr. Wheeler who has been presiding questioneer at one of the various investigations, was himself indicted up in his home state, and turned right around and caused an investigation to be made, and a committee formed to investigate where they got the ground to indict him on.4
Now the people who had him indicted will appoint a committee to investigate where he found out that he was indicted. So we will go on as long as there is a man who will act on a committee.
Just last week out here in Los Angeles they dug up a lot of old human bones that are supposed to be hundred of years older than old King Tut and the fancy undertakers who flourished about his time.5
Now there were three of these old fossils dug up out here and among them was a rock gavel. So the supposition is that they were holding a committee meeting, investigating somebody, and one of them as the chairman had the gavel. It only shows you how bad things are getting out here in the broad spaces, when they have to dig down 200 feet to find a sucker. Generally we await them at the depot or at the community camping ground.
Our old friend Hell’s Maria Charley Dawes will be trouping in here right away.6
If he fixes up this German reparation thing, he will just be unlucky enough to get back here in time to start out with Mr. Coolidge’s next
cabinet. It don’t hardly seem right does it for a man that has served his country so well!
Just been reading about the great amalgamation, and buying and selling and combining of New York newspapers. And that brings to mind that this weekly of mine which I have named “The Exposure” and of which this editorial is the backbone, has been approached during this epidemic of amalgamation. I hope it is not betraying a business secret when I say to my myriads of readers that the Congressional Record has been trying for weeks to amalgamate The Exposure, retaining the best features of each.
For instance, the editorial policy of The Exposure would be retained. But this monotony of just reading common sense would be broken up by also retaining the humorous angles of the Congressional Record. I wouldn’t consider it for a minute as The Exposure is breaking into fields where the Record could never hope to ascend.
But, on the other hand, one must consider the names and class of writers who contribute to the Record. Just think of having one’s name sandwiched in between a hunorous paragraph on taxes by Henry Cabot Lodge, and a pastoral scene of cows returning laden with milk by Magnus Johnson.7
And then maybe an occasional little personal advice by Calvin Coolidge. You see the Record had never been a paying proposition. They are anxious to link it up with something that is on its feet financially.
Heretofore it has been a periodical that statesmen mailed out to their voters free. Now that has got to be stopped. Men are gradually realizing that a thing that is free is of no earthly importance. And, besides, it has lost men more votes than it ever gained for them. All one has to do to get his speech reprinted in the Congressional Record is to find a stenographer that can stay awake long enough to take it. Then you mark in the “Applause,” and “laughter” parts yourself.
PREFERS POLICE GAZETTE
Now they have been after me, they want to get the Exposure, and the New York telephone directory and amalgamate the two, which would give us a lot of names for a sales argument, and then sell out the whole thing to the radio. But just between us two I would rather tie up with the Police Gazette than the Congressional Record. The old Gazette may be yellow, but her soul is white.
You reach a voter when he is shaving and I tell you you can make him think. Besides, the Police Gazette was the first paper to publish pictures with their news. Now all the papers have stolen their idea, only they forget to publish any news with their pictures. Besides you will admit that The Gazette uses far better judgment in the selection of their subjects to be pictured, than our dailies do.
So here’s to The Exposure, who is like a modern statesman. We won’t sell until we get our price.
1For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 57:N 2.
2For Jim Reed see WA 6:N 6.
3For Al Jennings see WA 69:N 4.
4For Burton K. Wheeler see WA 54:N 9.
5For Tutankhamen see WA 11:N 10.
6Charles Gates Dawes, American financier, lawyer, and politician who helped devise the Dawes Plan in 1924 for a scaled-down payment of German reparations. He served as vice president of the United States from 1925 to 1929. His favorite “blasphemous” expression was “Hell’n Maria.”
7For Henry Cabot Lodge see WA 4:N 7; for Magnus Johnson see WA 35:N 4.
WA73 May 4, 1924
APPLESAUCE TEST FOR DIPLOMATS
Well, all I know is what I read in the papers. And all that the Ambassador from Japan knows is what they tell him from home. I have always maintained that there was something the matter with ambassadors, as none of them ever seemed to ambass properly. They are all right as long as nothing important shows up for them to do, but when it does they seem to flop miserably.
You see in the first place they are only supposed to call on the president and leave their cards or attend a dinner and know what ribbon to wear across their chest. Then in some cases they are supposed to speak and then the speeches are always as follows:
“It affords me great honor to be called upon at a magnificent occasion of this kind. I know it’s not me the man that you are so honoring, but it’s my nation who I happen to have the good fortune to represent at the capitol of your most wonderful country. And I want to thank you for the cordial relations that at the present exists between our two most friendly nations. My government has asked me to convey to you through me, the high honor and esteem in which they will always hold you. So allow me to drink a toast to the health and future prosperity of your most esteemed country.”
All of which is a lot of apple sauce! His government don’t even know they are having any such affair as this.
TOASTMASTER COMPLETES THE RUIN
Then the gag about the future health and prosperity of our country! You know how much any foreign ambassador wishes us future prosperity. So the whole speech taken apart and carefully gone over means absolutely nothing. Then to help go on and ruin the evening entirely, the toastmaster will arise again and remark 99 cases out of 100, as follows:
“What a pleasure it has been to us all to listen to the well-chosen and so aptly put words of our dear ambassador from Jasbo. And I want to assure him that it is not only his nation that we are pleased to welcome but he himself, and the wonderful forethought of his farseeing nation in sending such a type of man to safeguard the affairs of their noble land. So let us drink a toast to the continued friendship of the lands of America and Jasbo.”
Now we will take this gab apart and we find that his reply is even more inane than the first fellow’s. Such things as that go on night after night and take up the valuable time of men who are at least supposed to be busy. Outside of the drinking the toast, there is absolutely nothing to the whole evening.
I have always kinder given these Japanese the best of it when it comes to diplomacy. As an example of it: They have accumulated more territory in the last few years with less effort than any other nation on Earth. If times are hard they just kinder diplomatically saw off a chunk of China and declare it a part of the island empire “until, of course some future time,” as they say, when China can repay them some unheard of sum for protecting it for China. Then on Saturday their diplomacy starts working again and up on a detour into Russia they go and whittle out Sakhalin or some other prospective oil field.
So, as I say, I have always considered them the peers of diplomacy. And when Ambassador Hanihara wrote in those two fatal words GRAVE CONSEQUENCES, he brought things right up to what has always been my contention.1
There ain’t no diplomats in nobody’s nation.
I will give Congress and the Senate credit; they did nobly. When the Grave Consequences was read (Hughes had read it before but he didn’t know what they meant.2
His English is kinder sad), it got to the Capitol, and right away Lodge, who is the English interpreter up there said, “Why, say, this here Grave Consequences gag in this here Jap’s essay means a sort of a veiled threat.”3
Well, when the others found out what it meant, why they just reared right up on their hind legs and said, “Who is going to bluff who? Who is going to tell us who we can invite into our house?”
You see Hanihara figured that they could get it by on account of the Senators and Congressmen not knowing what Grave Consequences meant, and he did get it by Mr. Hughes and Mr. Coolidge. But when it reached the Confucius of Nahant, Mass., why he just up and called the turn on the definition. You can fool Mr. Lodge about everything in our national affairs but the English language, and not even a Jap can fool him on that.
Well, this Mr. Ambassador woke up the next morning to find himself famous. His name went in with the notables such as Sinclair, Al Jennings and Roxie Stinson.4
It looked like he was going to get a trip home that he didn’t expect.
Now, as to who wrote the thing, nobody knows. Maybe he is just the goat, as we say when another cabinet member is let out. But at any rate he and his troop have found out that you can diplomat America out of almost everything she has, but don’t try to bluff her, especially as long as she has Lodge to tell her what the words mean.
Now as to the merit of the thing—will some learned reader kindly tell me why a nation or race of people want to come in where somebody else don’t want them to come? If any one didn’t want me in a place I certainly would not want to go in. This country is our own home, and we should be allowed to regulate traffic. Americans can’t go to Japan and buy lands, and Japan restricts Chinese coming into their country. If my neighbor don’t want me in his yard, you don’t see me making any efforts to get in. So all this honor that nations speak of don’t seem to be working.
The Japanese are a good race of people in a lot of ways. We may just as well admit it; we can’t compete with them when it comes to work. A clock and a bed are two things that a Jap farmer never used in his life. A Jap will raise a crop while the American will be telling his neighbor over the back fence what he is thinking about putting in this year. And, as for working after hours, there has not been a chore done after supper on an American farm since the radio came in. If you go out to throw the horses some hay, you will miss the Distraction Saxophone Hounds, or Professor Broke’s Essay on Thrift.
Then again the American farmer can’t seem to get over the habit of wanting to look meat in the face two or three times a day, also a routine of vegetables, and a few slabs of pie. The Japanese don’t even have to stop work for dinner, for he knows all he will have will be rice, so why knock off for that! The American farmer thinks all rice is good for is to throw a daughter after a wedding when she is so kindly bringing him in another mouth to feed.
Then there is the picture bride thing. We are as a nation sometimes kinder careless how we select our brides, but we haven’t become that careless yet. I think that any one who even sends a picture post card nowadays has something mentally wrong with him—much less get married by one.
1Masanao Hanihara, Japanese ambassador to the United States from 1923 to 1924. He was recalled in 1924 because of the unfavorable reaction in the United States Senate to his protests against the Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924.
2For Charles Evans Hughes see WA 2:N 4.
3For Henry Cabot Lodge see WA 4:N 7.
4For Harry F. Sinclair see WA 59:N 3; for Al Jennings see WA 69:N 4; for Roxy Stinson see WA 69:N 3.
WA74 May 11, 1924
FOOT AND MOUTH QUARANTINE
I am writing this away out here in California, and I don’t know if it will get through or not. We have an encounter out here with the hoof and mouth disease, and they are quarantining about everything that goes out of the state. Arizona is the worst; they tried to stop an aviator the other day that was flying over the state from California to Texas.
They don’t allow passengers that are going through the state to get off the train. They have to carry the disease, if they have it, on into New Mexico. Of course, if they don’t care to get off there they can go on into Kansas or Oklahoma with it. They stopped a shipment of furniture. I guess they figured that a cow might have occupied one of the beds at some time or another.
Now it has never been proven what carries the disease, so of course each state figures it out itself what might be lugging it around. Arizona has doped it out that it is automobiles, especially Ford automobiles, on account of them being what is classed as cloven hoofed. You see a cloven hoofed animal is the only one that gets it. They get it first by breaking out between the slit part of their foot; then they lick it and it infects their mouth. That’s where it derives its name, the Foot and Mouth disease.
Well, the Ford car gets it between the places where you crank it, and the place where you look in to see what is the matter with it. Then it licks itself, and scatters it by running into another Ford. If they could keep them from running together there would be no danger of the disease scattering but that has been impossible. Whenever there are two on the road sooner or later they will tangle.
Now with animals, when a case breaks out they shoot every animal of that same kind in the state. So that is why they are so particular with Fords. If an epidemic ever broke out among them it would take years to shoot every Ford in the country. Besides, if they shot and buried them as they do the cattle, they would come up again as soon as spring and a good rain set in. A lot of people are censuring the Governor of Arizona for being so strict with them, but I tell you he recognizes the seriousness of the thing in case one comes into the state infected. For if you wipe out the Fords and the Burros, you have just about eliminated Arizona’s mode of transportation.
Some states just dip cars into a kind of sheep dip, but that is no good with a Ford. It will come out of one of those dipping pools, shake itself just like a dog who comes out of the water, and all your dipping is off and it is just as contagious as it was when it went in. I have talked with big veterinary doctors out here about it and they say the hot sun will kill any germ that is being carried, especially if it is exposed to the sun for 12 hours.
Now can you imagine anybody going into Arizona, at Yuma, or at the Needles, and then turned back after being delayed there for a couple of weeks? Why, that would not only kill the disease if they have it but it would melt a man’s car if he had to wait there 3 days. 12 hours in that heat not only would kill any germ but would fry it and serve it well done. Yuma is the place where, if when a man dies and it is thought his chances of going to heaven are none too good, some kind friend will bury an overcoat with him.
Now of course it’s a terrible serious thing, but the more serious a thing is the more common sense would be used in handling it. They have gone so far in some cases that they are almost humorous, and in some cases have not gone far enough. You see it is the only disease that they know absolutely nothing about; still it has been in other states without all this hysteria.
It started a hundred years ago somewhere in Europe and they didn’t know what it was; so the veterinarian just shot and killed the cow. Well, years later, another case broke out and that vet having read about what the first one did (that didn’t know what to do) he did the same thing. He shot the cow and as there happened to be another cow standing by this one and he happened to have two bullets, why, he just shot her too.
Well things just went along from one war to another until finally another case was discovered and this veterinarian having read the history of the two previous cases says to himself, “I will not only see them but raise them,” so he shot the afflicted cow, then shot all of her friends. So that’s the way the disease has drifted just from one shooting to another. Each epidemic that breaks out they just take in more territory with their shooting, until now if a red cow gets it they shoot every red cow that can be found. There has never been a cow that has died from it. In fact, they don’t know if she would or not. They shoot her before they have a chance to see what would happen. Perhaps it would be beneficial to her—nobody knows.
It’s the only disease in the world where shooting is the remedy. Instead of developing veterinarians’ medical knowledge it has only developed their marksmanship. A veterinarian don’t carry a case of medicine now, all he carries is a rifle. The U. S. Government appropriated one and one half million of dollars the other day just for more ammunition to help eradicate the disease. The whole state has been put under federal marksmanship.
They have put an embargo on fruit and vegetables being shipped. Now, if there is a man living that can tell me when a cabbage has the foot and mouth disease and where, I will be glad to retract, and I don’t care if carrots do have it; I hate them anyway. They are especially strict on dogs and horses. They say there was never a case in history where a dog or a horse ever had an attack of it, but that they don’t want them to.
Now they could find out something about how the disease works if they had the time, but the minute it breaks out, why, they call a conference and they all get together and decide where the next conference will be. Then the following morning’s paper will say, “The whole of the State Health Board will meet again tomorrow to discuss means of quarantine. This time they will meet in “Frisco.” Then the next day they hold another conference with the governor, this time in Sacramento. Then they all adjourn for a conference on Thursday at Los Angeles where they are to confer with the federal officers. So the disease is just one conference after another.
If doctors of humans held that many conferences, everybody in the United States would die while they were conferring.
You wire the state or the federal government that our cow or dog is sick and they will send out experts from Washington and appropriate money to eradicate the cause. You wire them that your baby has the dyptheria or scarlet fever and see what they do. All you will do is hire your own doctor, if you are able, and there will be a flag put up on your front gate. Where children that don’t know can still go on in and perhaps be exposed to certain death, the government won’t have guards at every entrance to keep you back from that exposed house.
If your hog has the cholera the whole state knows it and everybody is assisting in stamping it out. You can have 5 children down with the infantile paralysis, more deadly 10 times over than any foot and mouth disease, and see how many doctors they send out from Washington to help you.
I heard Dr. Copeland, now Senator from New York say that there was more money spent on hogs’ sickness by state and federal government than there is on children, when one child’s life is worth all the hogs and cows that ever had a disease.1
If you want the government to help you don’t tell them it is any human sickness. Tell them it is boll weevil or chinch bugs, and they will come a running, because they have big appropriations and men paid for that.
How many children die every day from some contagious disease, that would be living if we exercised the same vigilance over a child that we do over a cow? Hundreds of people are passing through the adjoining states to California every day who have been exposed to some contagious disease, and nothing is said of fumigating them, but if you try to come through and haven’t been any nearer a cow than a can of condensed milk, why, you must be fumigated.
I fully believe that every sane precaution that is being exercised is necessary, for it is a very serious thing, but while we are all thinking of it, why can’t we get a government to at least do for a child’s protection, what they
do for a cow or a hog?
1For Royal S. Copeland see WA 18:N 6.
WA75 May 18, 1924
OUT FOR THE JACK
Well, I just got back in home from opening up a new theatre. They have a new system out here now. When a new theatre is to be formally opened, instead of having a big blow out and having the Governor, and the Mayor, and the President of the Commerical Club or Chamber of Commerce all make speeches, why they just go ahead and have as good show as they can, and let those fellows go to the Rotary luncheons and tell how the city has grown and grown until it’s now in its infancy. But in dispensing with those professional boosters’ services, they figure that they have to have some one just to say a few words. So, through some strange process of reasoning, they have picked on me, as they know I will say little and what I saw will be littler still.
A few weeks ago I was drafted to preside at the opening of the new Biltmore Theatre, in connection with the new Biltmore Hotel. (You know any town is old fashioned if it has not a hotel called the Biltmore. Good hotels have lost their entire clientelle because in building they happened to pick out some inferior name other than the Biltmore.)
Well, Mr. Abraham Erlanger, being one of the owners of it, and me having played in shows for years in which he was interested, why he thought it would be a good idea to get me to do something for nothing for him.1
Then another reason they wanted me was on account of the novelty. I was the only one they could think of who did not own a dress suit, and so my clothes naturally was the only suit in the house without the smell of moth balls.
I was afraid when they saw me pop out there they would be disappointed, so I thought I better explain my presence by repeating to them just about what a Governor or a mayor would say if he was there. That would kinder tide over the audience’s disappointment. I had heard politicians open so many things that I had it down pat: “Ladies and Gentlemen, especially the Ladies, for I don’t know when I have seen before me so many beautiful faces, I mean female faces, (that gag always gets its usual titter, and has, for something like 200 years). We are gathered here tonight to witness the formal opening of this magnificent temple of amusement. It is indeed an honor to be privileged to grace this luxurious auditorium which these public spirited men have brought to our very threshold. It is a milestone in the progress of our fair city. A landmark in the artistic development of our high minded population. This edifice would do credit to a metropolis, and we want to thank the builders, and congratulate ourselves on picking this Eden on Earth for our permanent domicile. It is the spirit of this city that has made this luxury possible for us to enjoy.”
After hearing me say this, why they felt they had heard just what any public official would have said. All of which would have been apple sauce. It was no milestone in any progress of the city. Some man coined that expression 100 years ago and public speakers can never get over it. Something is always a milestone to them. In fact the present generation don’t know what a milestone is. They go by so fast nowadays that miles mean nothing.
Then, speaking of a theatre as an artistic development: I said this theatre might talk art but the minute an “Abie’s Irish Rose” come along they would forget all their artistic ideals and book it in.2
Those shows have set the intelligence of audiences back 10 years in this country.
Then they always speak of the spirit of the city. There is no such thing as spirit where there are no dividends coming in. Old community spirit waves just so long as everybody is collecting. Spirit had nothing to do with building this theatre. These birds found a good spot where a lot of people passed every day and they got themselves a cheap lease and are out for the Jack. The first losing week that comes along the old spirit stuff will be at a low ebb. So you see while a theatre may not get the apparent boost from me I at least tell the truth about how it was founded.
You know, after all, anybody can open a theatre. It’s keeping it open that is the hard thing. We have a very popular chief of police here who officiates at many functions but they didn’t feel like having him, as he might close the joint up any time. Theatres are more numerous now they are built on the choice corners where saloons formerly were. It remains to be seen whether they are an improvement over their predecessors.
Charlie Chaplin was there.3
I called on him as the logical opener but he is making a snow picture in the summer time so that keeps him about as
busy as an Eskimo trying to keep warm with a Palm Beach suit on. By the way, Charlie has given me a new idea for a series of comedies, and I am going to try them. If they turn out I will tell you what they are.
We missed Doug.4
I see where he has been carrying Mary on his shoulder over in Europe to keep her from being crushed, by the crowds.5
If little Mary can only just reach Doug’s shoulder she is safe even though the hordes of Europe are clammoring at her heels. Mr. De Mille in “The 10 Commandments” commanded the waters of the Dead Sea to split 50-50,
and Lasky’s property boys immediately carried out the miracle.6
But that is nothing as compared to Doug when he commands the mob to desist.
California by some is considered kinder slack just now. As an example of hard times, they say you can’t sell a lot now until it has come through escrow.
The primaries are over. Mr. Coolidge is certainly doing well in his own party. The Democrats out here didn’t want to run anybody at their primary. But when told they had to put up somebody so as to hold their franchise, why, they finally did.
The Foot and Mouth Disease is slacking up. They had the golf courses quarantined. You know when an animal gets it they shoot all the others and the government pays part, perhaps two thirds, of their value. So they didn’t want it to get in among the golfers, as there would be no way to establish what a golf player would be worth in case he was shot, as nobody knows what a golf player does when he is not playing golf.
Pola Negri, the foreign movie queen gave a party the other night.7
read about it in the papers. I didn’t get to go. Well, one thing, I wasn’t invited. I jump around so much I guess she didn’t know where to get ahold of me. Up to then, Hollywood had been behaving itself pretty good. They got some cafes over there now and I see where they are about to take up dancing in them. I hate to see that start, as the first thing you know Hollywood will become as wild as all the other towns.
That’s about all the scandal I can gather from Hollywood, so I will be closing but in doing so I want you to know if you have a theatre and want somebody to open it in a different way, why, I am just about the guy you are looking for. I add a certain amount of class and dignity. (I think the French call it finesse.) That is hard to get among politicians, and, after all, that’s all our public men are. Now I don’t like to knock Governors and Mayors, but why have them open your theatres? That’s the only way I have getting into one without paying.
1Abraham Lincoln Erlanger, American theatrical manager and producer whose Theatrical Syndicate held a virtual monopoly on American theatrical business for many years.
2Abie’s Irish Rose, enjoyed one of the longest runs in the history of New York City theater productions. Anne Nichols wrote the comedy, which opened on May 23, 1922, and played before approximately two million theater-goers during its 2,357 performances on Broadway.
3For Charlie Chaplin see WA 11:N 8.
4For Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., see WA 25:N 4.
5For Mary Pickford see WA 25:N 4.
6Cecil Blount De Mille, American motion picture producer and director from 1913 until his death in 1959. De Mille was noted for his biblical spectaculars, including The Ten Commandments in 1923. Jesse L. Lasky, American film producer, theater owner, and talent manager.
7For Pola Negri see WA 14:N 2.
WA76 May 25, 1924
BACK TO BABBITS, BOOZE AND BANK
This week’s Exposure is in the nature of a travelogue. I myself, the editor, chief editorial writer, reporter, and copy reader, (in fact what I am not, ain’t) are shaking the dust (of which there is no better in Southern California) of California’s little heralded climate from my feet and am slowly
trudging my way via Santa Fe Limited, back across the burning sands to (Mecca) New York City. That city from which no weary traveler returns without drawing again on the home town bank. That city of skyscrapers, where they have endeavored to make the height of their buildings keep pace with their prices. That city of booze and bankrolls, where the babbits from Butte and Buffalo can pay the spectators, $8.80 for a $2.20 show, view the electric signs until 12 o’clock and then write home of the Bacchanalian revels.
In leaving California, this land of perpetual publicity, where a lot on the corner is worth two in the middle, I do so with great regret. I know that I am exchanging the subdivision for the subway and one single California flea for a billion Long Island mosquitoes.
I am leaving a city where English is the dominant tongue, to return to a city where it is seldom heard and never understood. I leave from the land where the movies are made, to return to the land where the bills are paid. I leave from the ex-regime of Hiram Johnson to enter the ambitious home of Tammany Hall.1
I am leaving the political home of William G. McAdoo (my neighbor and friend) who says if nominated he will meet me where Pennsylvania bends.2
I am now speeding across Kansas, that state which is sometimes noted for its broad and narrow ideas. We have just left Dodge City, that ex-frontier town which made my old pal Bill Hart’s picture “Wild Bill Hickok” famous.3
Bill Hart killed more people in one reel in his picture than ever
lived in Dodge City. But he afterwards explained it to me, he said: “‘Will, my public like to see me shoot actors; in fact I think most audiences like to see not only me but anybody shoot actors.” He was just reloading his gun (a thing he seldom does) so I thought, as he was looking straight at me, I better be leaving.
I have been looking for this politician “Allen” all the way across Kansas and have asked everybody about him but no one seems to know him.4
You know he and I worked in the Follies year before last together, and he told me then he came from out here somewhere.
I would not have left California but I do love a No. 1 good California oranges and fruit. So I am going back to New York to get them. I have survived for a whole year on culls, or seconds. Then things are kinder slowing up out there in the real estate line. A fellow sometimes has to wait until he gets his lot out of escrow before he gets a chance to see it at a profit. Well you know that’s discouraging. I bought a lot and held it a week and when no offer come, I just said, this is no country for a staple business man; I am going. Of course I could have stayed and sued the salesman who sold it to me, as he said I would double my money in three days.
When I stated to get Pullman reservations I didn’t think it would be any trouble. I had been reading in Los Angeles papers of the thousands coming in by every train, but I had never saw a thing where any one ever left. So when they told me I could not get any seats for days it was a terrible blow to me. I thought these trains all went back empty.
You see the Californians come out by the covered wagon, but they all want to go back by the Limited. Arizona is still quarantined against California on account of the hoof and mouth disease, although the disease has been forgotten in California for weeks. There’s a sheriff follows the train clear across the state in a Ford to see that no one gets out and spreads the disease. At Albuquerque, New Mexico, they let us get out and walk around, no matter what disease we had. That’s ex-secretary Fall’s state.5
They figure nothing can hurt them now.
Fred Harvey runs a department store at the depot, and no matter how big a hurry you may be to get where you are going he has the train stopped 40 minutes.6
Everybody that didn’t buy a lot in Los Angeles buys a Navajo
blanket at Albuquerque. Those who did buy a lot can only afford a bow and arrow. I don’t know why but they all seem to want to spend their last money for a bow and arrow. I suppose an undertaker meets us in Kansas City.
I hear the Navajos have struck oil on their reservation. That will give the white man a chance to show his so-called 100 percent Americanism, by flocking in and taking it away from the Indians. Everybody out through here is all hopped up and excited over the proposed dam at Boulder Canyon on the Colorado, in Grand Canyon. That is attracting almost as much attention as dear old Al Smith’s religion.7
California wants all the power and water, Arizona says: “Just half of it belongs to you, so if you want to, why dam up your own side of the river and use it, but don’t use any of our side. Utah says,”You are both cuckoo.”
Brigham laid out that river through Utah the same time he installed the organ in the tabernacle.8
Nevada claims part of it and says, “It’s as much an institution with us as divorce.” Wyoming claims it started up there with them under the name of Green River, but that Volstead had it changed to the Colorado, and that now, that Volstead is embalmed in his own amendment, why they should receive it and its name back again.9
Colorado says, “It is named after us and we want it. Our gold millionaires are partly civilized now, and the rest of the U. S. has nothing to laugh at us about.” Mexico is not saying a word and there is where the river goes too, so I guess if the river wants to go anywhere, why let it go where it wants to. Anyway the dam won’t be built this week, as everything is held up on account of election.
I didn’t tell you I am going back to join the new Ziegfeld Follies which will open in the early part of June. This is a political year as some of the candidates might have told you, and I thought it better that I be near the heat
of the battle. Then things are so unsettled on the Democratic side that I thought on account of a compromise candidate I better be handy. Also Mr. Ziegfeld tells me there has been a demand for me, not among his audience but among the candidates themselves, as there is no one that can really say the nice things of them that I can.10
I know part of the presidential candidates personally—well, I know about 18 or 19 or them. The others I know by reputation. So I am going back to give you real facts as I see them not from the eye of a biased political writer but from a big broad minded journalist whose paper has no policy to write in accordance with.
Something tells me that both parties are going to be terrible so I am going to be in Cleveland and also in New York to help pick the worst ones.
We are now nearing Kansas City, and instead of going directly on to New York, I am branching off and going down for a few days to my home around Claremore, Oklahoma. That is the home of the radium water, a curative liquid that will cure you of everything, even a presidential ambition. I think the time will come when everybody will be made to stop off at Claremore on their way to any place they may be going.
Fred Harvey can stop you for 30 minutes to make you buy a Navajo blanket. I should be allowed to stop you at least long enough to give you a bath, especially as when traveling through there you can generally use one to advantage.
We don’t want your money. Los Angeles and Albuquerque will clean you financially. But we will cleanse you physically, free of charge.
So I am mighty happy I am going home to my own people, who know me as “Willie, Uncle Clem Rogers’ boy who wouldn’t go to school but just kept running around the country throwing a rope, till I think he finally got in one of them shows.”11
One of those lyceum managers had me booked for three or four dates to lecture at Seattle, Spokane and Portland, where I was to be the whole show and deliver a so-called lecture like a regular ex-Senator or Bryan, or any of those.12
But I passed it up just to go on home, not to do any talking, but to listen, and see all my old friends and hear ’em call me Willie, and they will give me some political opinions that will beat all your Lodges or Borahs, and maybe I will tell ’em a little about Hollywood, and the night life, for I want to keep on the good side of them.13
They don’t know how I make a living. They just know me as Uncle Clem’s boy. They are my real friends and when no one else will want to hear my measly old jokes, I want to go home. It won’t make no difference to them.
1For Hiram W. Johnson see WA 14:N 3.
2For William G. McAdoo see WA 25:N 1.
3William Surrey Hart, American actor who first appeared on stage in 1889 and in motion pictures in 1914. A close friend of Rogers, Hart became famous as a star of cinematic westerns. James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, American scout and lawman of the Old West.
4For Henry J. Allen see WA 3:N 2.
5For Albert B. Fall see WA 60:N 7.
6Frederick Henry “Fred” Harvey, American restauranteur who in 1876 opened his first of several rest and eating stops along railroad routes in the Old West. His establishments, known as “Harvey Houses,” were noted for their good food, clean rooms, and excellent service.
7For Al Smith see WA 5:N 5.
8>Brigham Young, American religious leader who headed the Mormon Church from 1847 until his death in 1877. He directed the mass migration of Mormons to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah and served as the first governor of the territory.
9For Andrew J. Volstead see WA 9:N 13.
10For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 3:N 1.
11Clement Vann Rogers, rancher, merchant, and Cherokee tribal leader in Indian Territory (Oklahoma); father of Will Rogers.
12For William Jennings Bryan see WA 5:N 7.
13For Henry Cabot Lodge see WA 4:N 7; for William E. Borah see WA 1:N 6.
WA77 June 1, 1924
OF AN ALLIGATOR SKIN BAG
The last letter I wrote to you was penned as I was speeding across Kansas on my way to Claremore, and Chelsea, Oklahoma. Well, I finished the letter at Emporia Gazette. I think there is a town by that name. I remember the porter calling it out. It is edited by one of the greatest and best known newspaper men in the business.1
I forget his name just now, but everybody remembers him.
Well, I finished my letter there on this Santa Fe train going into Kansas City from the outskirts of Hollywood. I was going to leave the train at Kansas City, and go home on the fast Frisco train which did not stop at Chelsea, Oklahoma, where I was to stop off and see my sisters. So the conductor told me to wire to the Frisco passenger agent at Kansas City and ask him to please stop and let us off. I wired him but I didn’t think he would do it. So at this Emporia Gazette which, as I say, has a town named after it, the conductor handed me a wire telling me that all had been arranged.
I was awful tickled. Then I happened to think that in the weekly letter which I had just finished and mailed on the train there was a joke which told about our town of Claremore, Oklahoma, having the greatest baths in the world, and that everybody passing through there should stop off and take one, for even if they had already had one that week, they could use another on account of being on the ’Frisco.
Well after I received this nice wire from their agent, I happened to think of what I had said in my article, and I felt plum ashamed. Here, after this man being so nice to me, why I was saying his road was unclean. I had already mailed it, and I didn’t know what to do, and then they met us in Kansas and were so nice to us. That rubbed it in more than ever. So I happened to think I will wire in to have the spelling corrected and have the gag about the untidiness of the Frisco Railroad cut out and put in the Missouri Pacific instead.
That was certainly smart in me, thinking of that. Why, I wouldn’t have had that come out in an article for anything. I would be a fine fellow, wouldn’t I, after officials doing me such favors, to go and tell things on their road. I realized afterwards that I should have included the Missouri Pacific with them in the first place. I was absolutely wrong in discriminating. It certainly learned me a lesson. Never knock anybody as long as they do favors for you. Even if I was right in the first place, I shouldn’t have put that in, until I had at least heard from them to see if they were going to stop the train.
The reason I am telling you all this is, just to show you how near I came to being very ungrateful. Why, I wouldn’t have that get out for anything in the world.
Come to think of it, it was not me that thought of sending the wire; it was Ed Wynn, the comedian.2
And when I say comedian, I mean comedian. He of the Perfect Fool fame, he and his wife were on the train with us. Ed and I spent three days on that train trying out jokes on our wives that we were going to use in New York this year. I just looked at Mrs. Wynn who is a lovely woman, and perfectly sane and Mrs. Rogers, who is I do say it myself, after sixteen years of forced laughter, is bearing up remarkably, and under happier surroundings might retain her faculties for years. In a kind of abstract moment, I just looked at both of them, and thought what have these women done in their lifetime that they should be subjected to this brand of jokes, not only for three days, but for life. Truly providence acts in a strange manner and justice is sometimes long delayed.
When the Women’s Hall of Fame is laid out, along with Joan of Arc, Nellie Revell, Florence Nightingale, and Mrs. Chapman Catt, I will be much disappointed if I don’t find a tablet which reads about as follows, “To the loving memory of those unselfish, and long suffering women who have married comedians (and remained so).”3
Well, when we got into Kansas City, in that wonderful big depot, it reminded me of the times of the old station there, which was really just a valise, or grip, exchange. I popped through there one time jumping to Seattle, Washington, to do my little act on the Orpheum Circuit. Well, do you remember in those days every man that traveled any farther than from the house to the barn, thought he had to have an alligator bag, with big warts on the side of it, that would rub bunions on the side of your legs if you carried it over a block. That and a diamond ring, were the first things you were supposed to buy, especially if you were a traveling man or in the theatrical business.
So I had just worked long enough to have both. One toothbrush, a couple of shirts, and five ropes, were nestling in this crocodile bound enclosure, with not only warts but horns on the side of it. I had to buy a ticket, and in those days it took an agent longer to make out a ticket to Seattle, than it did to go there. It sold by footage, one foot to the mile. The excess baggage on your ticket cost you more than your fare. He handed it to you neatly folded in yard lengths. You only had to sign it for each town you went through.
Well, the afternoon I spent buying my ticket, I forgot to keep one foot solidly implanted on my deceased crocodile. Some lover of animals kindly annexed my prosperous trade mark, and when I turned around, the one year’s savings I had invested in hides was just passing over the Kaw River. I went to relate my unhappy ending to a policeman, and found a line longer than Congressional Investigating Committee witnesses, all trying to find out where their grips had gone to. I didn’t even get a chance to tell him about mine. And if it had not been for that long ticket to the coast and back, I would not have had a clean thing to put on every morning till I got there.
And, by the way, coming back I played Butte, and lost the diamond ring. So it took two thieves to at least TRY and give me the appearance of a gentleman. Now when I see a man wearing either a diamond ring, or an alligator valise, I offer up thanks to the two men who robbed me.
After we boarded the train at the hands of their agent who was so nice and thoughtful of our welfare, and who said he always went to see my pictures, (but couldn’t think of the name of any he had seen) why he and the conductor showed us one of the very newest model sleeping cars. They raved over it, and it was beautiful. The porter went to make down the berths in our room in it and a pillow was caught in that chain that lets down the top.
Well this poor anti-Klu Klux assisted by everybody on the train including the engineer, held a clinic. I was getting sleepy and tired, and was sorry I had wired to have that joke taken out, and was just about to wire them to put it back in again, when I happened to think—this was the Pullman’s fault and not the Frisco’s. Along toward daylight they gave it up, and moved us into another car. I guess they had to send it into the factory to have that pillow amputated.
Like any sickness or operation, it caused all the rail road men to reminisce. They remembered when lead pencils, and women’s hair (that, by the way, was in the old days) had got hung in there, and they had just had to let ’em starve to death to get ’em out. They said the Pullman people had offered rewards for any one that would invent something that would replace those chains, that lower the top berth, principally on account of their noise.
I am mentioning this as it may be the means of stirring the ambition of some mechanical genius. Someone will do it sooner or later, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. Didn’t Henry invent the Ford radiator? Didn’t somebody invent “Yes We Have No Bananas?”4
Now, I ask you, who but a comedian, could a fool thing like that happen to? As I say, it’s just another one of the bad breaks for any woman who marries one.
1William Allen White, American journalist, editor, and publisher, known as “the sage of Emporia”; editor of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette from 1895 until his death 1944.
2Ed Wynn, American entertainer who was one of the foremost comics of vaudeville, motion pictures, and radio. An early day performer with the Ziegfeld Follies, Wynn was married to actress Hilda Keenan.
3Joan of Arc, French national heroine of the fifteenth century. Nellie MacAleney Revell, American publicist, journalist, and radio commentator who was among the first women to demand and attain equal status with men in newspaper reporting. Florence Nightingale, English nurse, hospital reformer, and philanthropist, active in the nineteenth century. Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, American suffragette leader and lecturer who served as president of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance from 1904 to 1923.
4For “Yes, We Have No Bananas” see WA 35:N 1.
WA78 June 8, 1924
CONGRESS IS FUNNIEST
WHEN IT’S SERIOUS
I just got back from Washington D. C. (Department of Comedy). I had heard that the Congressional Show was to close on June the 7th, I don’t see why they are closing then. They could bring that same show with the original cast they have, to New York, and it would run for years.
I am to go into Ziegfeld’s new Follies, and I have no act.1
So I thought I will run down to Washington and get some material. Most people and actors appearing on the stage have some writer to write their material, or they
reproduce some book or old masterpiece, but I don’t do that. Congress is good enough for me. They have been writing my material for years and I am not ashamed of the material I have had. I am going to stick to them. Why should I go and pay some famous author, or even myself, sit down all day trying to dope out something funny to say on the stage! No sir, I have found that there is nothing as funny as things that have happened, and that people know that have happened. So I just have them mail me every day the Congressional Record. It is to me what the Police Gazette used to be to the fellow who was waiting for a haircut. In other words, it is a life saver.
Besides, nothing is so funny as something done in all seriousness. The material on which the Congressional Record is founded is done there every day in all seriousness. Each state elects the most serious man it has in the District, and he is impressed with the fact that he is leaving home with the expressed idea that he is to rescue his District from certain destruction, and to see that it received its just amount of rivers and harbors, post offices, and pumpkin seeds. Naturally you have put a pretty big load on that man. I realize that it is no joking matter to be grabbed up bodily from the leading lawyer’s office of Main Street and have the entire populace tell you what is depending on you when you get to Washington. The fellow may be alright personally and a good fellow, but that Big League Idea of Politics just kinder scares him.
Now, they wouldn’t be so serious and particular if they only had to vote on what they thought was good for the majority of the people of the U. S. That would be a cinch. But what makes it hard for them is every time a bill comes up they have a million things to decide that have nothing to do with the merit of the bill. They first must consider is, or was, it introduced by a member of the opposite Political Party. If it is, why then something is wrong with it from the start, for everything the opposite side does has a catch in it. Then the principal thing is of course, “what will this do for me personally back home?” If it is something that he thinks the folks back home may never read, or hear, of why then he can vote any way he wants to, but politics, and self preservations must come first, never mind the majority of the people of the U. S. If lawmakers were elected for life I believe they would do better. A man’s thoughts are naturally on his next term, more than on his country.
The first day I got there it was a dandy show. In the House of Representatives they were arguing on the bill as to whether we could raise the elevation of the guns on our battleships. Now, when you stop to think, that would be just like arguing on, “Can we use bullets in our guns or must we just carry them and throw them at the enemy?” because naturally if you are allowed to have a gun at all you certainly ought to be allowed to point it any way that will get you the most good out of it. But most of them thought as our guns had always pointed toward the water instead of up in the air, why naturally, they should be kept pointing that way. Butler of Pennsylvania, and Britten, of Illinois, both members of the Naval communities like to come to blows on it, both being Republicans, the Democrats urged them on in hopes they would murder each other.2
Well, any way, they killed that bill instead of letting the Navy point the guns or elevate them where they thought best. They are to put them where Congress thinks they will do the least damage in case we ever have to use them in battle. The ones opposed to it were afraid Japan would object and get sore at us. That’s why we wanted them elevated, to keep them from getting sore at us. If we had enough guns, and they all were elevated to the right height, no one would ever get sore at us.
Well, a friend from Texas a member of the House saw me sitting up in the gallery just soaking in all this gun raising patriotism, and he called attention and introduced me to the House of Representatives.
Well, I felt that quite a compliment, but there was nothing I could do. An ordinary comedian like me would have no chance there. I was the most unfunny man in the entire building.
Then I went downstairs outside the Congress Hall and met all my old friends, Representatives from Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Texas, Kansas, Arizona, and from all over, and I want to tell you they are as fine a bunch of men as any one ever met in his life, they were all full of humor and regular fellows. That is, as I say, when you catch them when they haven’t got politics on their minds, but the minute they get in that immense Hall they begin to get serious, and it’s then that they do such amusing things. If we could just send the same bunch of men to Washington for the good of the nation, and not for political reasons, we could have the most perfect government in the world.
I went to lunch in the Congressional Restaurant with my fellow Cherokee Indian Representatives; they are my breed and my kind. One of them, Charlie Carter, part Cherokee and part Choctaw, is one of the oldest members of the House, a friend of my father’s.3
Charley is a good Injun without being dead. The other is Will Hastings who I have known all my life.4
With the other Oklahoma congressmen, and Senator Harold of Okla., and Mrs. Hastins, we killed a lot of food and nominated a lot of presidents in the small time we had to do it in.5
Met Mr. Upshaw of Georgia and we had quite a pleasant time kidding around.6
He wanted me to accompany him to Gettysburg to hear his address to the dead heroes, on Memorial Day. He was going to address them on the evils of Prohibition. I don’t know of any class of heroes that have had to put up with the varied assortment of lectures that the Gettysburg ones have. For fear of perhaps joining them I didn’t go. But he like the others, is a dandy fellow to meet, and like all the others when he is not serious, he is immense.
I went from there to the Senate. You see they have two of these bodies—Senate and Cognress. That is for the convenience of visitors. If there is nothing funny happening in one there is sure to be in the other, and in case one body passes a good bill, why the other can see it in time, and kill it. Before I went up in the gallery I met them all.
I had known quite a few before but I had always been anxious to meet Senator Borah.7
I am a great admirer of him and his work. He was thinking of running for Vice President but I advised against it. He is much too able a man to be Vice President especially during the next term. Then met Mr. Underwood, a very possible nominee of the Democrats.8
A very pleasant wholesome man and spoken well of by everybody. My old fighting friend Jim Reed asked me out to dinner but I had just made a previous engagement.9
Another old crony has quit the Senate entirely for the last three months just to write his keynote speech—Pat Harrison.10
He looked like he wanted to read it to me but I was only going to be there two days. If the voters will only believe half what Pat promises in his speech, the Democrats will walk in.
I haven’t the time in this small space to tell you half that happened during my stay, talking to senators, and listening to them from the Press Gallery. They had a better show than the House that day but I will write you later. I went out to Mrs. Longworth’s for dinner, where you get the smartest and most authentic political dope in Washington.11
The next day for lunch was out at one of MY PUBLISHERS Mr. Ned McClean.12
I reprimanded him severely for not including me among his telegraphic acquaintances from Palm Beach. Had he done so even in regard to what gum I chew I would no doubt have been called to testify and as there were things of far less importance being investigated, it would at least have rescued me from oblivion during part of last year.
Oh yes, I have to tell you also next week, that they put on a special investigation for me the second day. Gaston Means was on the stand.13
I must tell you what all he told, that the papers didn’t print.
So all in all I had a very pleasant visit in Washington, found that with all my kidding and knocking our public men, they all seemed to be my friends, It’s only when they are actually in action and serious that they are funny. Off the stage they are the finest bunch I ever met.
1For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 3:N 1.
2Thomas Stalker Butler, Republican United States representative from Pennsylvania from 1897 until his death in 1928. Frederick Albert Britten, Republican United States representative from Illinois from 1913 to 1935.
3Carter (see WA 54:N 17) was a Chickasaw tribal leader.
4William Wirt Hastings, Democratic United States representative from Oklahoma from 1915 to 1921 and 1923 to 1935. Hastings was a former attorney general for the Cherokee tribe. He was married to the former Lulu Starr.
5John William Harreld, Republican United States senator from Oklahoma from 1921 to 1927.
6For William D. Upshaw see WA 7:N 4.
7For William E. Borah see WA 1:N 6.
8For Oscar W. Underwood see WA 51:N 3.
9For Jim Reed see WA 6:N 6.
10For Pat Harrison see WA 15:N 8.
11For Alice Roosevelt Longworth see WA 9:N 4.
12For Ned McLean see WA 66:N 13.
13Gaston Bullock Means, American detective and convicted swindler who was a leading witness in the investigation of the Harding administration scandals.
WA79 June 15, 1924
NOW IF THEY’D ONLY HANG SOMEBODY!
Well, by the time you read this, some poor fellow will know the sad fate that he is to run as Vice President on the Republican ticket. I am going out to the convention to see him get his. It will be the only thing in the way of excitement that there will be out there. Coming from that convention back to New York to this free for all, will be like jumping from a prize fight into a war.
I went down to Washington last week to try and get some advance information on who would be nominated as Vice President out there. I found out everything else but. They even put on an investigation for me. Senator Wheeler, Senator Brookhardt, Senator Ashurst, and Senator Moses, brought out Mr. Gaston Means, who is the best man they have for a show witness.1
So I felt rather elated that they would put on their best man for me.
He had not been on the stand in a long time—perhaps a couple of weeks—and at times he seemed to forget just what the questions were going to be until they were asked. He was one of the head detectives under Mr. Dougherty.2
He lived up to your idea of a detective. He was fat, wore black broad-toed shoes, a felt hat crushed in and the brim turned down over his forehead. A five-year-old child would hardly have known he was a detective. It’s a strange thing, but detectives are the only profession in the world that any one can look at and tell what they are. Doctors will fool you; lawyers sometimes, but detectives are recognized as quick as toupees.
Well the day I was in there he testified about Mr. Mellon being the biggest bootlegger in the United States.3
Now that’s not bad testimony, when you can find a man nowadays that can pick out for us the biggest bootlegger in this country. That don’t only take a detective, but a wizard. And Mr. Mellon certainly should feel flattered, because if he is why it will get him more recognition than being Secretary of the Treasury.
He seemed to know so much about Mellon that I was sorry that they didn’t ask him something about some of the other Cabinet members. He said Mellon’s banks backed the bootleggers, and loaned money on warehouse certificates. Well I know a lot of bankers out in the farming and the cattle country that have been loaning on farms and live stock that would like to have as good collateral as a few hundred barrels of Old Crow. So if Andy did loan on that security I would call him a better banker than 90 percent of the rest of them.
Means certainly had an assortment of what he called definite information, on any subject in the world. The questioning was as assorted as a spelling lesson. Right in the middle of the Mellon glorification, why Chairman Wheeler, head Questioneer, asked him what “Tex Richards did with the movies of the Dempsey-Firpo fight.”4
But just as he was describing who won, and what the picture cost, Mr. Wheeler asked him if it was “true that a man named Jones worked for Governor Cantou of Mexico”5
He said he was not sure! That was the only thing in the world he seemed to be in doubt about.
But he had a letter from a preacher who used to lecture before Rotary Clubs, and if they didn’t mind he would read it. It was 28 pages of closely written foolscap. It didn’t mention either Jones or Cantou, but it told how this preacher lost his job, (which was queer for the preacher must have died of old age writing this letter,) I figured up those four senators’ time to the country just during the reading of this letter and it amounted to a fraction less than $150 without counting the clerks and light.
I couldn’t understand why he didn’t ask him something important. For instance, “Who will win the National League Pennant this year” or “What kind of a show did he think the Follies would have.” They went from this clergyman’s lament to “When did he, Means, quit working for the Department of Justice.” Means said, “They quit paying me in April but I did as much for them right on after that as I had done before.” In other words you could not tell by looking at him whether he was working or not.
Right in the midst of it somebody asked whether Mr. Howland (one of Mr. Dougherty’s attorneys) would give Mr. Means a job cleaning out spitoons.6
I don’t know what that had to do with bootlegging, oil in Mexico,
or Tex Richard’s transporting movies of a prize fight. But being the first of
these investigations I had ever attended why naturally I would not be any too familiar with their usual line of procedure. Well, he said he wouldn’t give Mr. Howland a job cleaning spitoons either, as he had heard what kind of a lawyer Mr. Howland was. That like to brought on a fight. Howland dug up the testimony from one of Means’ previous investigations, and showed him where he was not doing the same act at this one that he did before. Means couldn’t remember just what gags he had pulled before, so he couldn’t think of an alibi to answer this. But Ashurst of Arizona thought of one, and started to say something when Senator Moses interrupted and said, “You can’t interrupt while we are waiting for the witness to answer a question.”
Senator Ashurst said, “Who can’t interrupt? Don’t you interrupt me when I am interrupting him.”
Ashurst then related as follows: “I interrupted him first and I won’t have you or anyone else, especially a Republican, interrupt me while I am busy interrupting somebody else.”
Well, Moses withdrew his interruption and the very dignified proceedings went on. Right in the midst of this, for no apparent reason, why Means said he was trying to find out where Congressman somebody or other from Minnesota had gotten the money to buy him a house. While he was explaining how many closets the house out in Minnesota had, Senator Moses asked him, “Means, what did you have hid in my office that time you found out everything I said! Was it a dictaphone? I couldn’t see it.” Means said, “I was put on to watch you fellows.”
I gleaned from the investigation that every Senator or Congressman was having the other one watched. Then in case one got more than the other why they could change clients.
Mr. Wheeler threw a scare into me once. He looked right at me as I was sitting at the press stand table right by Means, and said, “What about this moving picture business?” Boy, I was scared. I thought here is where they ask me something about Hollywood and Will Hays is not here to tell me what to say.7
Then Mr. Wheeler kinder grinned at me and asked Means about the fight films. It certainly scared me—coming right fresh from Hollywood, and me knowing all that I do. Just think, if I had had to tell them of all the new churches and Sunday Schools, and school buildings that I have seen go up there, in the last year! But it was not me that they were after; in fact, I couldn’t ever tell who they were after.
Means next jumped to Henry Ford. He said he had been put on the track by the administration to find out if Ford liked the administration, and why he disliked the rich Jews. But just as he was about to find out what Ford eat for breakfast, why he was put on a case to investigate the Lloyds of London, the big insurance people who insured Harold Lloyd against having twins.8
They will bet with you on anything and let you take either side you want. If you give them enough odds they will bet you Bryan will be arrested for drunkedness at the New York Convention, or bet you that La Follette winds up by being a Republican.9
Well, Means said he found out after diligent investigation, that Lloyds’ stock was owned by Englishmen. (Seems rather odd, it being an English concern.) He said they had made millions out of it, and then people tell you gambling don’t pay. But as soon as he found out that the name of the concern was Lloyds, why he was taken off that case.
Well this thing kept up all day. He told of everything in the world but why Mr. Stearns of Boston gave up his business there, to come to the White House to sort out New England visitors from the riff raff.10
I had all year felt very hurt that I did not get in on any of the investigations but after I got there and heard this one I know now I would have
been a total failure. My knowledge is limited to not over three or four subjects, while a man to get in as a witness there has to know more than a hotel
Now this Mr. Wheeler struck me as being a very smart, straightforward, consciencious man; Brookhardt, Moses and Ashurst, the same. It’s too bad they can’t do something with these men that they have found out all this stuff on. The American people would trade 10 investigations for one conviction. If they would only hang somebody, no matter if they were guilty or not, just for an example, why we would forgive them for all their investigations. Still these Senators may be doing this just to get out of the Senate during the day for, after all, Means is easier to listen to than any one I heard over there.
1For Burton K. Wheeler see WA 54:N 9.Smith Wildman Brookhart, Republican United States senator from Arizona from 1912 to 1941.For George H. Moses see WA 54:N 14; for Gaston B. Means see WA 78:N 13.
2For Harry M. Daugherty see WA 65:N 2.
3For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 57:N 2.
4For Tex Rickard see WA 69:N 9; for Jack Dempsey see WA 31:N 1; for Luis Firpo see WA 35:N 7.
5Esteban Cantu, Mexican general, politician, and revolutionary.
6Leonard Paul Howland, American attorney and former Republican congressman from Ohio.
7For Will H. Hays see WA 21:N 6.
8For Harold Lloyd see WA 11:N 9.
9For William Jennings Bryan see WA 5:N 7; for Robert M. La Follette, Sr., see WA 14:N4.
10Frank Waterman Stearns, wealthy Boston merchant and progressive Republican; supporter and confidant of Calvin Coolidge. President Coolidge provided a suite in the White House for Stearns and his wife.
WA80 June 22, 1924
RADIO FAIRY TALES
OF REAL LIFE BEHIND SCENES
I don’t often talk theatre to you. Most people in any business talk it all the time. But I have bored you all with politics lately and shall have to feed you portions daily when the Democrats meet for their fight; so I would like to take you all on a little jaunt behind the scenes with me, and we will visit the new stars in this wonderful fairyland of make-believe. (I know this sound to you by now like one of those radio stories that all good children are supposed to go to sleep by.)
Now, all you little ones who can read bad English, sit right still, and your Uncle Will will tell you a few short stories for all you good little theatregoers.
This is a true story, and I want you to put your nose right up against the paper so you can read every word. There is not a rabbit or an old br’er fox in it. If your inclination runs to animals or insects, why, you had better drop this and reach for the instrument where the static comes out, for we are dealing with real fairies in a real fairy story. We must be up and away before old sleep-eyes gets us.
Once upon a time there was a good father and a wonderful mother, and they had three little fairy daughters.1
And the good father and the good mother had to go away from home every night to work to make money to support a nice beautiful home for the three little fairies. They had to work hard and long, and practice up new and novel things, for these fairies worked and lived in a land of make-believe. They had to sing funny songs, and learn funny and clever dances, to try to amuse the practical people, who are not in this make-believe land, but still come to it to forget their daily troubles.
So the good mother and the good father would tuck their little treasures in bed, and then off to work, and even if one of the little angels were not feeling well, the good mama and the good papa had to go just the same, every night, because they had to make practical people laugh.
The practical people thought it was all fun. They didn’t know that some times when this old funny fairy clown was making funny faces his heart might be heavy, though his feet were light.
They worked, and saved, and prospered for years, until those practical people got to learn not only that they were funny and made them laugh but also that they were good, and loved each other, and were a very happy little family in this land of buffoonery.
Then came a wonderful night in this enchanted palace where these two loved ones toiled to make others merry. It was the opening night, when they were to show their new tricks and make new merriment.
Now old Mr. Practical audience didn’t know that in addition to all else they had done, they had been teaching the eldest of the fairy daughters all this magic of make-believe. For this good father and good mother had decided that if this land of mimicry was good enough for them and had made them live happily, why, it was good enough for their fairy daughter.
So the mother cared for the other little ones while the father taught his daughter his accumulation of dances of a lifetime, and when she appeared and did these wonderful things those old practical people made it the night of a lifetime, long to be remembered in the hearts of the people of make-believe land. And today the fairy daughter reigns as absolute queen over the biggest city of all the western world and she don’t even know or realize it.
She only knows she wants to please and amuse. That should be the moral of this little story. “No matter in what field, you may do something to be acclaimed.” For be it make-believe, or be it practical, remember the lesson of this little creature who doesn’t know how wonderful she is and will always be that way, even though she is the newest and biggest star today of all theatreland.
Some day it will be all five, all in this little enchanted old merrymaking house where people come to be amused, for the two little sister fairies are playing make-believe and following in the steps of their wonderful sister. They will have much hard work, and will have to cut out some of the play. But, won’t it be worth it. Instead of being put to bed every night they can go to this old merrily haunted house and play jokes on the old father,and make the practical ones laugh because he won’t be nimble enough to catch them.
That will be all for tonight, children. What? One or two of you are not asleep yet? What’s the matter with you? Want to hear another one? All right.
Once upon a time there was a little poor boy.2
Oh, he was awfully poor, and he lived in a great crowded city, and his old grandmother couldn’t
make enough to support them, so he had to sell papers on the street. He learned to sing a song, and he used to sing in little cheap theatres on amateur nights. He was just one of a million of the same race but with not half the chance of most of them. Yet he kept trying, and bringing the pennies home to his old grandmother, and he learned all he could about this wonderful make-believe.
He kept working up and up, with none of the advantages that the little fairy girl had. He didn’t have a good father as a wonderul teacher to show him. He had to learn just as the little fairy girl’s good father had learned, by what these old practical people call hard knocks.
He wasn’t much to look at. He didn’t have the little fairy girl’s beautiful face, and he was little and skinny. But he wouldn’t be discouraged. He would put black soot all over his face because it was cheaper than makeup, and he became known by that. He was ambitious, and he studied what the practical people wanted, and he tried his best to supply it, till one day a big (what make-believe people call) manager come along and put him in a wonderful fine show, and last year he was heralded as one of the kings in all the mighty realm of fun making.
WHY THE HERO CRIED
What become of the old grandmother who raised him, do I hear one of you wideawake say? One night when our little hero was climbing this ladder of success, he had come to this funny factory where he was to make people merry later in the night. He was huddled over in his dressing room, not as you practical ones think, laughing at something funny he was preparing. No, he was crying when another old merrymaker entered the room they were sharing.
On sudden inquiry the old intruder learned that the crying was over the thought that the poor old grandmother had not lived to hear and share in his success at this time when he could give her every luxury.
“Oh, but wait a minute, Uncle William, how do you know all this? You are only telling us this to make us go to sleep, maybe.”
Now listen, children, does Uncle William have to tell you everything? The story is all you need to know. You don’t need to know who it was that Uncle William shared his dressing room with.
Now, here, it is getting late, and I am going to tell you only a short one. Once upon a time there was another little boy in another big city.3
He worked on a huckster’s wagon, selling vegetables. When he couldn’t sell them he would juggle them. The people got so interested in his wonderful feats in juggling that they would forget to buy any, so he always had plenty left to practice with. If they had bought him out he would still be on that wagon, because he would not have had anything to practice with.
His feats, of course, led him into this queer assortment of souls in this make-the-band. He never spoke a word. He got to be recognized as the king of pantomime stage comedy. He traveled the world over many times. He reached the top in his chosen profession. But it was not the one his ambition inclined to, so one day a good fairy in the shape of a manager put him in a show and made him talk, and the practical people went to hear this mere juggler make them merry without juggling, and today he is crowned king among merrymakers.
One day on his climb up the ladder he was surprised in his dressing room by an intruder (who was assisting him in trying to chase the gloom away from the practical people). Well, this juggler, who even then had gotten so high in the make-believe world that you would hardly think he would associate with a carrot or a potato, was fondling an old picture of a horsedrawn wagon overladen with an array of vegetables. The vegetables looked as if they had all the peelings worn off them where they had been captured from the air in every conceivable manner. Respect and sentiment were written on every line of his face as he gazed at this picture.
“But, Uncle William who told you the story? The intruder?”
Never mind who told me the story. Haven’t I seen pictures of horses and wagons, and people looking at them? Now, that’s enough. You will get no more stories tonight.
“But Uncle William, why did you just pick out those three?”
Say, now, you go to sleep. Suppose three of your little boy and girl friends all had some wonderful good fairy visit them in the same year, and you knew about them and liked them. Wouldn’t you tell your children friends of their good fortune? Sure you would.
Now go to sleep before a bug bites you.
1For Fred and Allene Stone and their three daughters, Dorothy, Paula, and Carol, see WA 13:Nn 2, 3, 4.
2Eddie Cantor, American vaudeville, burlesque, theatrical, and motion picture comedian.
3William Claude “W. C.” Fields, red-nosed American comedian of vaudeville and motion pictures, noted for his humorous portrayals of intolerant, eccentric characters.
WA81 June 29, 1924
THE TROUBLE WITH THE STAGE
IS THE AUDIENCE
Well, as I sat in a compartment on the special train carrying the company back from Atlantic City, where we had been trying out the new show, I just got to thinking of the heart aches and disappointments compared to the hopes and expectations of the same bunch of people going down this time one week ago. This does not only apply to chorus but to every person in the show. I don’t mean by this that we have a show that is not up to our expectations, for it is said that it is the best show. But what struck me is the hard work — disappointments and blasted hopes that the finished show is based on.
You people of the audience see the finished product with everybody laughing and doing their part as though they never had a worry. But you don’t know how many were turned back—some discharged, some put in minor parts, and hundreds of things changed around from what you originally expected to do, maybe lots of this through no particular fault of theirs at all, lots of times just through unfortunate circumstances. Everybody is ambitious, in the theatrical profession I think more than in most any other business.
Every chorus girl dreams of the day when she will get a little bit or part to do. Perhaps she has been promised it in this show. They may have it handed to them at rehearsals, and work hard on trying to perfect it as the stage manager wants it. It may be with one of the comedians. Opening night, the girl may do it great, but the stunt don’t appear funny to the audience, or maybe the comedian himself is bad in it and the whole thing is out, all through no fault of hers, she has to take her place back in the chorus line or get out. It’s just one of those tough breaks.
Ever since I came back East to join the show I have been thinking night and day on some novel little things to do and of course had built up great hopes on them. Well, I want to tell you honestly I didn’t have a single one that turned out. Well—yes, they were turned OUT just as fast as I did them. The first part would be in the alley before I got through with the last part. One of my marvelous bright ideas was to put out a card which read, “Songs and jokes we would like to forget but they won’t let us.” Well, another comedian and myself went out doing the songs which had been done to death lately and jokes which were not too old but yet had been told a lot lately. I had the idea of doing this behind a woven net drop that come down to keep the audience apparently from throwing and hitting us with something. It was the old Cherry Sisters stunt.1
Well, the songs we sang didn’t seem to the audience to be old enough to be funny or new enough to be good. So the net was given to a poor fisherman. One of the actors said to me, “I think that net killed it. If you had done the act without the net I think it would have gone.” I said, “Friend, I wouldn’t do the same act again for a thousand dollars without the net. The next time we would have really needed it.”
Then another one I had laid great stress on was an old fashioned illustrated song with slides. The song was called the “Men of Yesterday.” It was the best ballad lamenting the men who had passed and what great men they had been in their day. Now at the same time I was showing on the screen such prominent men as McAdoo, Al Smith, Charley Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Dawes, Underwood, Jackie Coogan, and Ben Turpin.2
I leave it to you if that idea don’t contain some humor, to be singing a sad song lamenting these down and outs and then showing the pictures of these men including a lot more equally prominent.
Well if you think it’s funny I wish you had been in the audience. You would have been a novelty. I never saw a song that it seemed so long to the end. It died standing up, sitting down, and rolling over. I asked people about it later and they said “Why, McAdoo and those fellows you showed are not down and out.” Now will you tell me what’s the use of trying?
Ann Pennington has worked for the last two years with Brooks Johns who plays the banjo for her to dance by.3
Well, I conceived another bright idea of learning one chorus of her dance, and dressed as him, going out and doing it as the audience were accustomed to seeing him do it. I got a teacher and nearly drove everybody out of the theatre for two weeks hammering on this banjo. Got to dress rehearsal at Atlantic City and found that her dance come right ahead of my own roping specialty. I couldn’t do it there and so that was another idea gone into the ocean. Going down last Sunday, I was singing and playing all the way. Today that banjo is in a crepe bag in the baggage coach ahead. Two weeks of good banjo practice gone for nothing.
We started in with a plot. I had a scene with a little girl who I was supposed to have raised and she had won a beauty prize and was going on the stage and leave me. Well, I thought, here is where I will do some of my moving picture acting. It is a pretty little scene, as I realized that she was going and that I had learned to really love her. Everybody at rehearsals said, “Oh, that’s great.” I got so I could do it so good I cried—really. Well, opening night they listened for a few minutes and they didn’t hear me pull any wise cracks, so they just made themselves up something to laugh at. They didn’t want to hear me serious. They wanted to know what I thought of Coolidge or what was going to become of the Democrats. Now, I don’t mind telling you I had visions of that little scene getting me in a dramatic play, where I could leave the ropes in the barn. The whole plot was dumped into the ocean.
The audience didn’t want to hear a lot of talk. They wanted to see girls and action. So consequently all those whose parts pertained to the plot had to change to something else or get out. So you see we have all had our trials, and worries, I came back with nothing that I went down with. Everything is something else that developed while there.
There is enough material thrown out of one of these shows after the first performance to build Ringling Brothers Circus. We had so much show I wanted to send the first act on the road and take the second act into New York.
So a plot and a corset are two things you will never see in our show.
You may have a scene and you like it and think you are good in it, and they find it don’t fit into their scheme of the show, or maybe it’s not funny enough. Girls are disappointed about their costumes and are crying—maybe they have been taken out of numbers for some reason or other. Principals may have what they think are their best songs or dances cut out, for this is one big machine and no little or big cogs are supposed to mar the ultimate end. If you are ground under, it’s just your hard luck, not one chance in a hundred that it was your fault, but things just broke bad for you.
The boss has them himself more than anybody. He builds and plans all year to see big ideas go wrong at dress rehearsal or on opening night. So nothing that happens to us can we blame on him. He is gambling two hundred and fifty thousand dollars on each one of these, so what are our worries compared to his? Of course, after we all get into New York and get started why we forget some of our disappointments, and others will get other jobs. But right at the time when we were speeding in, all on edge as to what New York would think of us, I just thought, here is the great advertised show, which is supposed to be a lighthearted and care-free organization, and supposed not to have a worry or a care, yet I bet you there was more real downright drama on that train than on any other that was going in. But during it all they just gritted their teeth and stood it, rehearsed all night and half of the days, everybody trying their best without a murmur, stage hands, musicians, actors, owner and all the bosses, going all night and day, everybody ready to gamble their future on one night’s showing.
I want to tell you there are some game people in our much maligned profession. I want to tell you, folks, you will never know what a blow it was to me not to be able to sing about those noble “Men of Yesterday” and play that banjo for Ann Pennignton’s bare knees.
If you see the show and I am sad, you will know what it’s from.
1The Cherry Sisters—Ella, Jessie, Addie, Lizzie, and Effie—made a small fortune from one of the worst vaudeville acts in the country. Theater managers paid the Iowa sisters as high as $1,000 a week for their act, which one critic described as “so very bad that is was good.”
2For William G. McAdoo see WA 25:N 1; for Al Smith see WA 5:N 5; for Charlie Chaplin see WA 11:N 8; for Harold Lloyd see WA 11:N 9; for Charles G. Dawes see WA 72:N 6; for Oscar W. Underwood see WA 51:N 3; for Jackie Coogan see WA 54:N 31. Ben Turpin, slap-stick American vaudeville and motion picture comedian best known for his crossed-eyes and large toothbrush mustache.
3Ann Pennington, American dancer who often performed in the Ziegfeld Follies and who won fame as the dancer with the “dimpled knees.” Brooke Johns, American singer, musician, and lyricist who appeared with Pennington in the Broadway production of Jack and Jill in 1923.