IBID, page 11
A. Deveer Dunigan: My paper reports that Nellie Bly has just died. I am more inclined to believe that the woman is feigning death as a means to investigating the undertaking profession.
Thomas Marchese (columnist for the New York Shoppers Weekly) She certainly has the coloration down.
Cordelia Klempt (columnist for the Ladies’ Reader): Nellie Bly—Nellie Blech! Gentlemen, may we please suspend such morbid talk until after the à la mode?
Arden Philpot (drama critic with the Yonkers Crier, regarding an actress whose name is now lost to us): Watching her perform is like observing the purchase of stamps.
Winny Wieseler (on the former President): You can lead a horse to Warren Harding, but you can’t castrate the two of them simultaneously.
Enos D. Ryerbach (bon vivant): The biggest difference between men and women lies in the tits, unless, of course, you’re speaking of Mr. Philpot here, when one is advised to travel farther south to draw a conclusion!
Arden Philpot (his retort): Enos, you are bile in human form!
Cordelia Klempt: Shut up, the both of you! You’re wilting my surprise salad.
Victor Sonderskov (freelance poet, on the recently opened tomb of King Tutankhamen): Tut, tut, tut. I am not moved.
Winny Wieseler (on the launch of Chanel Number Five): I haven’t tried the new fragrance. I have, however, worn Chanel Number One and Chanel Number Four simultaneously and would imagine the end result to be the same.
Enos D. Ryerbach (On Coco Chanel): I do not generally endorse women whose names are eponymous with beverages.
Arden Philpot (reviewing Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author): I would have preferred to see perhaps two more characters.
Thomas Marchese: What an age in which to live—Fascists to the right, Communists to the left! And Mr. Kahlil Gibran telling us to love them all! Give me Texas Guinan and a night of liquor-facilitated self-absorption. Give me a plush seat in the Epicurean, hedonistic middle! Give me the bottle of ketchup, Arden, before the grease on my meatloaf sandwich congeals!
21. “Tomorrow I will ask Winny if she will consent to be my wife.” Jonathan’s Diary.
22. Then, suddenly, Winny was gone. Lana Leggio, Winsome Winny.
23. Jonathan received the tragic news late that night. Patrick Oldeman, Tears for the Shawmut, 256-66. Fate had indeed played another cruel trick on Jonathan. Once again the setting for tragedy was (amazingly) Boston. Whereas six years earlier Lucile Moritz’s young life had been snuffed out by a tsunami of molasses, Winny was now meeting her end in a different, yet equally freakish Beantown accident. Like Lucile, Winny was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jonathan knew that she liked to dance, but was unaware that the Charleston had become such an obsession with her that her frequent travels would inevitably draw her inexorably and often foolhardily to the hottest night spots in town. 1925 was the peak year for the popular dance, and Winny (as Leggio notes in her biography) made a special effort to get to the Pickwick Dance Club—the hot spot in Boston for “doin’ it, doin’ it.”
The official post mortem was unequivocal: the roof collapse was attributed to “unnatural stresses” placed upon the building’s structural members by the feverish, swiveling, swaying, flailing and knee-knocking of hundreds of monkey-limbed dancers, among them one Winny Wieseler from New York City by way of Heppleville, Illinois. Poor Winny—artist, writer, progressive activist, lover and friend to Jonathan Blashette—had literally danced herself into an early grave.
A postscript: Jonathan vowed never to return to the city that had claimed his two fiancées. He refused even to sell his deodorants there, in retribution. “I hate this town more than any man on this planet, save probably Babe Ruth,” he told a reporter 1927. “It killed two women who meant the world to me, and murdered my hope for any future happiness. The men of Boston can stink with b.o. till the cows come home!”
LIFE AFTER WINNY
1. The grief slowly receded. The loss of Winny clearly haunted Jonathan for the rest of his life. His near-obsession with her death resulted in a number of strange attempts to either perpetuate her memory or, conversely, to force closure through some radical acknowledgment of her passing. According to Harvey Freeman in his article, “Jonathan Blashette; Inside the Man,” for Body Fresh Magazine, a trade publication put out by the Deodorant Council of America (July/August issue, 1972), Jonathan commissioned well-known portraitist Ely Wochna to do a painting of Winny, which Jonathan then hung in the study of his Greenwich Village brownstone and which remained there for the rest of his life. What made this commission odd is the fact that Jonathan requested that its artist return to his home every year upon the anniversary of Winny’s death to retouch the painting, subtly aging the face, neck and hands of its deceased subject, so that with the passage of years, the late Winny would, in effect, age along with her extant paramour Jonathan.
“Comparisons to Wilde’s Mr. Dorian Gray are without merit. Unlike the portrait of Mr. Gray, which was transmogrified by the unseemly acts of its owner, here was a painting physically modified by the painter himself, under specific instructions from its owner. Deprived of the permanence of youth—that blessed state customarily granted by the artist’s brush—denied the reward of immortality by a man who did not wish to age alone, Winny was required to grow old, to wrinkle, to sag, perhaps even to bruise and scar, should one presume that the head in its dotage might encounter sharp airborne objects, or perhaps duck too slowly beneath a drooping oak branch or spinning windmill sail, or swing carelessly toward an unacknowledged lamp post, thereby incurring cutaneous abrasion, although one suspects that it was never Jonathan’s intention to see the face of his beloved Winny vandalized by the years, but merely to have her grow old with grace and dignity, in quiet company with the man who loved her.
The painting disappeared from Jonathan’s home shortly after his death. One imagines that the family felt it simply too macabre to include in the public estate sale. Those who saw it last will attest to the artistry of its painter; its subject looking appropriate for the age she would have been, had she lived. Curiously, in her last “years” her head had acquired a simple red babushka. One wonders as to the reason for the suspected hair loss, but an explanation has never been given.”
An even more bizarre (and uncorroborated) attempt to address Jonathan’s grief over the death of Winny comes to us from Davison. According to his diary both he and Jonathan spent the fifth anniversary of Winny’s departure in the home of a spiritualist who made a good faith effort to communicate with the deceased through the “thick curtain of mortality.” She did not succeed. Although a connection was made, it was Harry Houdini who allegedly took the celestial call that night and who asked Jonathan to get a message to his wife, who he understood had been trying to reach him since his passage (per their pre-mortem agreement). The message was this: “Yes, there is an afterlife. Yes, I love you still. The secret of the Water Torture Cell: false rivets.”
2. Jonathan lost touch with Klempt after Winny’s death. Winny’s best friend Cordelia Klempt (charter member of the Bowery Hotel Round Table) gained some notoriety in her sunset years for defying the community of Desert Hills, Arizona, to which she retired in 1965, by xeroscaping her front lawn, much to the distress of her bermuda grass-loving sixty- and seventy-something neighbors. Cordelia’s response to the harassment and fines from the community board that followed was that she “lived in a &*%# desert and intended for her %#!* lawn to reflect that fact.” Despite being denounced and ostracized for wanting to ban water-greedy turf and deciduous plantings from her yard, she stayed put for another twenty years, and in the drought of 1970 had the pleasure of watching all her neighbor’s lawns go ugly-brown and brittle from stringent water restrictions. Still, she faced the likes of the following for much of her stay in the community. Desert Hills News, 27 September 1967.
“Do You See What I.C.?”
Community Columnist I.C.
Cordelia Klempt continues to thumb her nose at us all as she shoves yet another unsightly cactus into that abortion she calls her front yard. She persists in forcing all of us to stomach that unsightly abomination of an eyesore every time we drive down Yucca Crest or turn onto Dry Mesa Parkway. It is noticeable, I might add, from as far away as Saguaro Circle and Sagebrush Lane.
One is inclined to say to the aesthetically-retarded Miss Klempt—this is America, my dear stupid woman, not the Soviet Union. Here we uphold beauty in all its plush, dewy greenery, in its riot of floral color. Your yard of rocks and sand and thirsty, gnarled desert succulents mocks your neighbors, mocks your community, mocks this very nation for which blood was spilled (and is currently being spilled as we do battle with the vicious V.C. in that land of rice paddies and coolie hats) so that we might live in peace and prosperity among beauty and ample verdancy. Who are you to move to the desert and infect your property and our community with that selfsame desert? You are the most insidious form of Anti-American subversive.
Obviously, none of us endorses the placement of that burning cross in your front yard last weekend. But perhaps we can understand the anger that motivated it.
What is wrong with grass, Miss Klempt? And what is wrong with trying for once in your long rebellious life to fit in?
3. “I want you to meet a young friend of mine: Jasmine.” Much too young, it turned out. Jonathan came to realize that Davison’s first inning “Winny” home run had been a total fluke. A long series of matchmaking strike-outs followed. Eventually Jonathan had to ask his friend to stop fixing him up. Lanham, “Harlan Davison,” Entrepreneurial History, 13 (1990), 25-42.
4. Jonathan dated Jasmine for five weeks. The relationship was doomed from the start, and not only because Jonathan was rebounding badly from the death of Winny. Jasmine, a dead ringer for Clara Bow, was a typical young, indefatigable, devil-may-care flapper. She exhausted thirty-eight-year-old Jonathan, even as she divided her attention among all the other men whose names crowded her dance card. Here is an excerpt from the only existing letter from Jasmine to her soon-to-be-ex-beau (written on a sorority-sponsored road trip). Jasmine had only a few days earlier met one Reginald Grayson III, a Varsity-dragging John Held caricature, even down to the raccoon coat and Stutz Bearcat roadster. JBP, 2 May 1926.
“He’s a cakeater, Jonny, a real jazzbo but I’m no dumb Dora. I say,’You might be the big cheese in these parts but I’m stuck on my Jonny, see? My Jonny, he’s the bee’s knees, the real McCoy.’ That’s what I tell him. I make nice with Reggie, you understand, but if he gets the least bit fresh, I go all hardboiled, I’m not bunking you. I can hold my own with jellybeans like him, you better believe it.
He does have IT, though. Positively, gotta admit it. But so do you, my little snugglepup. Just a little more crags ‘round the edges, dat’s all. And I’d have it no other way. You are my sheik of Araby, and don’t you worry your turbaned head, my dear. Tres copacetic, things is. Sheba — yours for life.
You are absolutely the berries!”
(A couple of days later Jasmine phoned to say she was engaged to Reginald. Jonathan was never to see her again.)
5. “You got your pung cows and you got your chow cows.” Ellery Reinhold, The Story of Dandy-de-odor-o, the Little Company That Could…and Then Did, 101-03. Edders, the company’s new senior vice president for investor relations, had earned so much money shipping calf shin bones from his Chicago slaughterhouse to China to be made into Mah-Jongg tiles, that he was able to retire at age forty-one in 1928. When Jonathan snatched him up, he was happy to be going back to work again. Having invested heavily in the stock market (including sizeable holdings of Dandy-de-odor-o), Edders was hard hit by the Crash of ’29. He suffered a nervous breakdown and spent the remainder of his life in modest circumstances in a small Forest Hills, Queens, saltbox, picking up the occasional royalty check from verse he wrote for the Holiday Hearts greeting card company. When his mind began to fail, Holiday Hearts began to reject his work out of hand. One really can’t blame them if the following versification, unearthed from the company’s archives, is representative of the obtuseness and offensive nature of his later efforts.
On one’s birthday:
One year closer.
The grave draws nearer.
But that doesn’t make you any the less dearer.
Hugs and kisses and voices a’ trill.
But if you don’t mind my asking:
Where is the will?
On one’s anniversary (husband to wife):
Many years ago
In days of yore,
I gave my troth to an erstwhile whore.
I cleansed your womb of its former employ,
And gave you some measure of marital joy.
I forgot and forgave
And all was near bliss
Notwithstanding the blindness (from the syphilis).
On graduation from high school (from parents):
Hip hip hooray!
Now go away.
6. “I’m Famine. This here’s Pestilence.” Jonathan would have liked to have met all four of Notre Dame’s famed “horsemen,” immortalized by sportswriter Grantland Rice, but only Stuhldreher and Miller were dining at the hotel that night. Describing the chance encounter in a letter to his friend Toby (the Monkey Boy) Brancato (family papers), Jonathan noted that he might have lingered at the table all night, but, true to his name, Stuhldreyer really was “quite famished” and couldn’t digest with someone hovering about.
7. There followed a long series of mismatches and romantic misfires. Furman, The Story of Jonathan Blash—[ette].
8. “I have a prolapsed womb. Would you still like to date me?” Author’s interview with Charmian Campbell, granddaughter of Lavinia Hudd.
9. “Can we postpone our first date until I get out of traction?” Author’s interview with Bridey Burmeister, granddaughter of Astrid Csizmadia. Incidentally, Astrid broke her hip when the leather belt of her Vibro-Slim snapped and she fell backwards onto the living room floor.
10. “Please don’t touch me there. It’s only our first date.” Author’s interview with Eustacia Hodgdon, granddaughter of Ona Hodgdon. The body part in question was Ona’s arm.
11. “First name’s Delicia; last name’s Everest. Would you like to mount me?” JBP, “Hooker Encounters” Notebook.
12. She never emerged from her coma. Author’s interview with Lotta Patois, great niece of Marie Ward. This fact was disputed by one of the attending nurses who entered the room late one night to find Marie sitting straight up in bed and playing solitaire. The nurse was about to go to the phone to share the good news with Marie’s family (one evening with Marie at the newly opened Stork Club didn’t qualify Jonathan to be contacted) when she noticed a move that Marie had missed. The nurse quickly became engrossed in the game, and Marie, happy to be conscious and to have liberated all of her aces, invited the nurse to sit next to her in quiet, nocturnal communion. Only once did either speak to the other. Marie allegedly turned to her companion and remarked, “It’s so nice to have conscious brain function, isn’t it?” After a few more minutes of thoughtful card play, Marie’s eyes suddenly rolled back in her head and she returned to her previous comatose state. The nurse plumped her pillow a bit, wiped a tiny thread of saliva from her chin, and then finished the card game for her. Many years passed before she mentioned the incident to anyone. She finally decided to share the story with her pastor, the Reverend Boxer Seale, who, not being Catholic, was under no ecclesiastical directive to keep it to himself, and so included it in his When We From Sleep Awake (Henderson, Kentucky: Joey Gee Books, 1975), a collection of anecdotes about resurrection, coma emergence, and rudely broken reveries.
13. Jonathan resigned himself to lifelong bachelorhood. Jonathan’s Diary, JBP, 9 August 1927.
14. These were dark months for Jonathan and Dandy-de-odor-o. The slump in sales may have also been att
15. The company was in the red due, in part, to blackened business practices Perry Jennings’s exposé on defective assembly-line equipment at Dandy-de-odor-o’s Queens, New York factory represents only a small fraction of this investigative journalist’s prodigious reportorial and literary output. Never achieving the stature of such muckrakers as Tarbell, Stannard Baker and Sinclair, Jennings in his hard-hitting pieces did reach a wide readership, most notably through his monthly contributions to Jest Kids, a periodical for boys and girls (although his wrenching accounts of child labor practices in the textile industry resulted in a severe drop in subscriptions to the magazine). A monthly cartoon to which he several years earlier contributed text and ongoing story lines, “The Continuing Adventures of Li’l Lame Nell, Six-year-old Loom Operator,” was a catalyst for the passage of legislation by the Georgia General Assembly…to ban sales of the periodical within the state.
Late in his career, Jennings’ credibility was undermined by a series of articles for Guv’ner’s Magazine in which he fabricated the existence of feline sweatshops in Lynn, Massachusetts, wherein sweaters and other knit garments were manufactured through energy generated by cat treadmills—the heavily catnip-drugged grimalkins trotting until collapse toward tantalizing mechanical mice-on-sticks.