The Private Papers of a Cub Reporter

Walter Winchell

Spartanburg Herald-Journal/May 16, 1940

Three men were sitting around a Stork Club table talking about the Annoyin’ Saroyan and those two prizes, the Critics’ Circle medal and the Pulitzer ribbon for “The Best Play of the Year” . . . Two of the lads were yelling that by all standards of good play-writing “Life With Father” (which didn’t get a vote) should have had both prizes and a Congressional medal besides . . . They said it was a shame that Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, who co-auth’d that very funny show, didn’t get the honors. “Yeah,” said the third, “it looks as though all Lindsay and Crouse are going to get out of ‘Life With Father’ is a fortune.”

Eddie Buzzell assumes you are acquainted with the legend that all the Marx Brothers are a tease with the girls backstage . . . At any rate a Hollywood chorus girl, making her first appearance with a Marx Brothers vaudeville unit in Chicago the other day, had gone to her dressing room where she sat on a chair . . . It gave her such a pinch, she screamed: “Gee, even the Marx Brothers chairs pinch you!!!”

Then there’s the story about Joe Frisco who used to get $5,000 a week when the show business was something to be part of . . . Frisco went to see his doctor to be cured of betting on horse races . . . He had been playing them for 25 years . . . “And so,” Frisco explained, “the doctor’s got me on a diet—only one horse a day.”

Mrs. Ben Bernie, whose nickname is Wes, has a race horse by that name . . . It just became a mama, and yesterday the colt was christened . . . Sam H. Harris, provided its name—“Go Wes.”

They say it happened when gangland was in power in Chicago, about seven years ago. A youthful producer promoted several underworld chiefs to back his production of “The Mikado.” He didn’t enjoy doing it, he had to . . . After several rehearsals they all said they’d like to see the actors and actresses doing their parts . . . The producer said he feared the cast would be frightened if they saw them out front, but they insisted . . . Finally after two acts of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, one of the mugs turned to the producer and exploded: “What goes on here? It’s all music?”

When Richard Bennett, the star, appeared in a London show one night he was feeling low . . . There was a very swanky affair to attend after the performance, besides . . . He was sitting despondently in a chair bewailing that nobody loved him, when friends called for him . . . Suddenly he jumped up, dashed into the bathroom and came out with a bottle of iodine which he held in front of him, declaiming Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy with true fervor and passionate gesture . . . Bennett then uncorked the bottle of poison, exclaiming: “Now I will end it all!” but only succeeded in spilling it over his gleaming white shirtfront . . . Then ruefully eyeing the stain, he said: “Now how can I go out looking like this?”

He was a Nazi, true and brown, ready to give his all for his Fatherland—so long as he had nothing . . . He came here two years ago for the Cleveland Air races to demonstrate the Storck plane, which lands in an area of 30 feet and comes in at 30 m.p.h. . . . His prizes amounted close to $2,000, which he left behind for fear it would be confiscated over there. The man with whom he left it died—and when the account is made in Surrogate’s Court, the estate will be found to be insolvent. His name is Emil Kropf. The man with whom he left his prize money for safekeeping—was Bob Hague.

Over at the N.Y. Times’ classified bureau the other day an employe was taking down an ad via phone. “What did you say?” she kept asking the advertiser every other line or so. “I can’t understand you—speak clearly please” . . . Or she would say: “Please repeat that—speak a little more distinctly please” Finally, she got it all down. She said she had never had such difficulty before understanding anyone over a phone. The advertiser was Milton J. Cross, the esteemed radio announcer, who only a few seasons ago won the prize for “The Best Diction on the Air.”


At a meeting of the New York Federation of Women’s Clubs held at the Astor the other day. Mildred Dilling, concert harpist on the program, listened in awed amazement to G-Man Hoover’s talk on crime. She thought the number of larcenies each year in the U.S. almost incredible. Then when she returned to her dressing room—she knew the number had been underestimated by one. Her necklace had been swiped!

Godwin Earl has this to say about the statement that “The Man Who Came To Dinner” was practically the same plot as “The Elephant Shepherd” done 15 years ago with Chic Sale as the star. “Why not go back to the source?” he queries. ‘During the Reign of Terror’ a citizen saw a frightened old Nobleman waiting in the crowd for the call to get his head removed. The Citizen was sorry for the Old Man, so he slipped up behind him, cut his bonds and spirited him away. He hid him in his home. Then began a strange thing. The Nobleman forced the Citizen to introduce him as his uncle, give him the best room in the house, and the old boy lived in luxury the rest of his life. The alternative being—that if not he would give himself up and the Citizen and his family would be beheaded for aiding a Noble. That is a well-known episode of the French Revolution.

Add Literary Lace: From W. L. White’s column in the N. Y. Post: “—but the thing you can’t help noticing (in England) is that every Jewish boy or man anywhere near military age is in uniform . . . most are in the infantry, which, let it be remembered, is no branch of the service to get into unless you are really looking for trouble and anxious to find it, which most of these men obviously are. Their faces have that same steady, determined look that I saw in Finland on men who were glad that all the talky-talk was at last over and that it was time to do a job.” Bugs Baer in the Journal American: “Once again France and England will thank Belgium for the use of the hall.”

The printed version of “My Dear Children” contain all the ad libs J. Barrymore is supposed to have mocked all the play with while in his cups. Barrymore, presumably, will plead guilty to the drinking—but not to the dialogue.

Mussolini, cheering the Ratzi cause, reminds you of a fighter’s towel-swinger. He cheers loudest when his client is winning, but remains always ready to heave the towel into the ring . . . Some of the cynics are claiming that the Ratzis paid dearly for the conquest of Norway. They won the country, but lost Chamberlain. When we first urged the slap-down of Bunds and other 5th Columns we got many the editorial scolding for “flag-waving.” Now, having been scared by Hitler, these critics are echoing our words. But then we don’t grudge them our words—since they’ve eaten up all their own.

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