The Brighter Side

Damon Runyon

Los Angeles Examiner/March 13, 1938

 Our favorite gulp of the moment is something called “Thanks for the Memory.” A gulp is a song of the type that makes you keep swallowing that old lump in your throat.

We have always been a dead cold setup for a good gulp. When we heard Mr. Bob Hope and Miss Shirley Ross sing “Thanks for the Memory” in a movie musical the other night our neighboring cash customers probably got the impression that someone was raising and lowering a window in their vicinity.

It was only us swallowing that lump in our throat. It reminded us of the time the doctor had us inhale a jigger carrying a rubber hose to take soundings in our pantry, only, of course, the jigger went up and down slicker than the lump. The doctor had the jigger greased.

Couldn’t Hear Herself Eating

We let go a few offhand sobs, too, as Mr. Hope and Miss Ross sang. A lady cash customer in the adjoining seat complained that she could not hear herself eating her peanut brittle because of our sobbing. When we left the theater our shoes were full of tears and went squash-squash as we walked up the aisle, but we were quite happy. A gulper always has that effect on us.

Mr. Hope is no great shakes as a singer though he is as good a light comedian as there is around. He sort of recites his lyrics, but he does it well, and that Miss Ross really can turn on, when it comes to singing a gulp. If we had a lot of money we would hire the pair of them to go around with us singing “Thanks for the Memory” at intervals for the next month.

Tears Always Heralded a Hit

A lot of songwriters on Broadway who knew our weakness for gulps used to corner us in the local jukes and try out their latest on us. If our Adam’s apple began moving up and down like a nervous baseball, the boys knew they had a good song. If we started crying, they realized they had a smash hit.

If we remember rightly, it was Mr. Joe Santley, known to the trade as “Banjo Eyes,: who nailed us one night in Lindy’s a couple of years ago, as we crouched over a platter of Hungarian goulash and said his firm was publishing a song he would like to have us hear. We said all right, let ‘er go, and Mr. Santley, in a voice that sounded something like Clem McCarthy’s as the horses are nearing the wire, sang to us.

So He Wept Right in His Goulash

We think the song was called “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie.” The words “I Love You” occur almost immediately in the refrain, and as Mr. Santley hit those words, our feelings overcame us to such an extent that our Adam’s apple would have leaped right out of our throat, but for the fortuitous circumstances that it was stymied by a mouthful of goulash.

We began crying, and Mr. Lindy himself came over to our table, and said, in indignation:

“Here! Here! You must not do that. People may think you’re crying because something is wrong with my goulash. If you must cry, kindly go around to Dave’s Blue Room and cry over his sandwiches.”

“Listen,” we said thickly, pointing to Mr. Santley, who continued to sing “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie.”

Mr. Lindy heard a few lines and began shedding tears, too and Mr. Santley rushed over to his office and ordered them to run off hundreds of thousands more copies of the song.

The song was a success, all right, but we always thought Mr. Santley should have waited to find out what Mr. Lindy was really crying about before going so strong on the order. Mr. Lindy was crying, as he confided to us afterwards, at the revelation that a human being could sing as far off key as Mr. Santley.

There is nothing in the world like a good gulp. Some devotees of the gulp fancy the kind that speak of unrequited or lost love, which used to be known as torch songs, and we are not decrying these by any means. They are very nice, and if you put all the tears we have shed over them cheek to cheek you would probably have another Hudson River.

Memory Song Brings Tears

However, we doubt that we would weep now to any extent, nor would our Adam’s apple move more than two degrees north and three degrees south, over something like “Somebody Stole My Gal,” because we would not give a whoop. That is for when you are young. It is the retrospective theme in a gulp that now draws out tears. A thing like “I Still Love to Kiss you Good Night.”

The old home town . . .The quiet, shady street . . . The front porch in the evening glow . . . The brown-haired, brown-eyed gal in the muslin frock . . . The soft moon . . . The bright stars . . . The sound of gentle laughter . . .”I Still Love to Kiss You Good Night:” . . . Heigh-ho . . . .Heigh-ho.

But come, come, Abercrombie! They are waiting for this column at the office, and it is no time for that sort of business. “I Still Love to Kiss You Good Night.” Heigh ho . .  “Thanks for the Memory.”


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