Cheer for Jimmy Walker

Westbrook Pegler

Evansville Press/July 11, 1935

Cruel Exile Is Nearly Over for the Pal Of New York’s Plain Folks.

The Heat is definitely off now, so a sentimental propaganda is under way in favor of James J. Walker, once Mayor of New York who is said to be planning to return home in the fall and resume life as an attorney. 

Mr. Walker will discover that most of the people whom he threw down when he was supposed to be their man in the city hall have forgotten all about the thieving in the high places which went on during his administration. He will run into cheap ovations in the co-ed saloons from plastered weep-easies who make free use of the word “pal” and will be hailed as the Man Who Came Back, in a generous disregard of the reasons why he went away. 

It is a strange thing that Mr. Walker, because he was spectacular and ran with noisy publicity-lovers, was regarded as a man of the people throughout his seven years in office. 

He never went near the slums except to snip the ribbons at the gate of some new playground on which the grafters had been sure to take their toll. He was famous for his 50 suits of clothes — or was it 100? — and his valet to lake care of them. He refused to work at his job, although he had put through a big raise in pay for himself and routed his life along Broadway and in the dude mansions of the suburbs.

His favorite resort in town was the Casino in Central Park, which under his administration was converted into an exclusive resort of big, flashy spenders, with a menu which led off with caviar at $2 a copy and continued on in the same tone of voice. He never met the people at the Casino or at the Ritz, where he lived for a long time, or the Ambassador, on Park Ave, where he put up for another spell.

Never a Gallery God

At The Prizefights, which were his favorite opera, Mr. Walker never was found among the people in the outfield seats but invariably planted himself in Row A among Tex Rickard’s vaunted 600 millionaires and the leading reacketeers of the period. And he always came down the aisle late so as to make an entrance attended by his royal escort of expensive police officials who should have been assigned something better to do for their pay.

He took impulsive tours abroad to rest from the labor of avoiding the common people and made one gaudy pilgrimage to California, ostensibly to plead for the release of Tom Mooney, when his own administration had plenty to answer for at home.

He had a little safe in his home as a repository for cash money which he was not overeager to account for, although his honor was ruggedly impugned, wherein he stood in contrast to Fiorello La Guardia, who has been toiling after him to repair the wreckage and sweep up the dirt that Jimmy Walker left.

La Guardia was out of a job and in the market for any honest work that would yield a few eating dollars when he ran for mayor, and you would lose money on the deal if you were to pay as much as $5 for the right to frisk him right now. 

He is pugnacious, tactless, honest, conscientious and knows neither pal nor brother. Therefore he heard himself booed on a recent public occasion in town by the same sort of people who will go down to the dock and cheer Jimmy Walker when he finally decides that it is safe to come back. 

Balm to Bright Lights

Mr. Walker’s popularity is centralized in the district loosely known as Broadway, which is the most lavishly publicized, least essential and least responsible sector in the entire city of New York but a very influential factor in the government and public morals of the town. 

He was a doggerel song-writer himself in his early days, and he gave the royal approval to the roistering, hell-raising phase of the city’s life when he was drawing good pay as the mischievous little urchin who became New York’s own Dick Whittington.

Broadway naturally will acclaim and forgive him when he comes back. And because Broadway constantly receives more publicity than the neighborhoods where millions of average, unspectacular people carry on the struggle to keep their homes intact the windy greetings and sentimental trash which will welcome Mr. Walker home will completely obscure the reasons he went away in the first place. 

The reasons why he went away, however, affect the lives, the living and the chances of all the families in the city who receive no publicity but only pay the taxes one way or another and who are paying for the graft that was taken by the parasites who were like to wreck Jimmy Walker’s Little Old New York when he was supposed to be the people’s pal. 

So welcome home, pal, old pal, with a heynonny-nonny and a what the hell! It was only money, anyway, and you have suffered enough in your exile in your hay-roofed cottage hard by the pleasures and palaces of London and the Riviera.


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