Ibid, p.16

IBID, page 16

 

IBID
 


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  14. Addicus died after a brief illness. A curious side note: Though Jonathan’s father never converted to Judaism, he had, by the time of his death, earned a special place in the hearts of his many Jewish friends and neighbors on New York’s Upper West Side. “Addicus, the Methodist Jew of Amsterdam Avenue” was honored with a six-day Shiva and a namesake sandwich at the Seventy-second Street Delicatessen. The “Addicus Blashette” Arkansas-Pulled-Pork-on-a-Bun remains on the restaurant’s menu to this day, but has never actually been served in this strictly kosher establishment.

  Jonathan had been among those who had gathered at the old man’s bedside to say their farewells. Continuing a family tradition, he notes his father’s last words in his diary (3 January 1942):

  “You’ve been a good son, made your papa so proud. Look at you: successful businessman. And such a nice suit. Although Manny could have gotten it for you wholesale. This I should tell you?”

  15. “We will call her Molly Chang.” I have found no evidence that Jonathan ever took Davison’s idea seriously. It seems clear that Jonathan had always preferred to sponsor or co-sponsor an established radio program (and spot advertising was begun later that year, chiefly during the broadcast of major sporting events, and generally those in which participants tended to perspire heavily.) Still, it is interesting to note to what degree Davison felt his idea had merit, even to the point of preparing the following memorandum to Jonathan and Dandy-de-odor-o in-house advertising personnel.

  TO: CEO Blashette, et al.

  FROM: Harlan Davison

  RE: Radio program sponsorship

  DATE: February 11, 1942

  Gentlemen,

  The undisputed popularity of Fibber McGee & Molly and The Goldbergs makes it clear that Americans are eager to listen to radio programs that follow the trials and misadventures of hyphenated-Americans named Molly. I therefore, contend that the time is right, and in fact, long overdue for Dandy-de-odor-o to sweeten its investment in this lucrative advertising medium, through sponsorship of a Molly-centered program of its own. Whereas Molly McGee is Irish, and Molly Goldberg of the Jewish persuasion, our program will feature the indomitable Molly Chang, owner of a small Chinese eatery in some fictional American city with a sizeable Chinese-American community. She will be warm and maternal and will dispense Confucius-like pearls of Oriental wisdom, much like a female Charlie Chan. In fact, she will have a son, not unlike Charlie’s number one son—very worldly and American, a real wiseacre, who, when we first meet him, will be wearing a zoot suit. (Blind Uncle Chin-Tang will accidentally sit on the boy’s slouchy fedora.)

  The program will be comedic and will feature guest appearances by such radio luminaries as Charlie McCarthy and Deanna Durbin. On occasion, though, Molly will become very serious and talk about the war and the struggle of the Chinese people against Japanese aggression. Perhaps W.C. Fields will ask her how she feels about the Rape of Nanking.

  I think that she should be played by Loretta Young. For publicity photos she should be made to look like Luis Rainer in The Good Earth.

  I am open to any additional suggestions you might have about this program idea.

  Dandy-de-odor-o Corporate Records. Davison Files

  16. “Great Jane has become Lady Jane.” Jonathan Blashette to Andrew Bloor, 23 November 1942, AnB. The full text of the letter follows:

  Dear Dr. Bloor,

  I am sorry to hear about your spasms but happy to know that the doctor thinks they will subside with bed rest. Thank you for your sister Evetta’s recipe for lemon trout. I will pass it along to Miss Cook and ask her to prepare the dish this weekend. (It is so convenient to have a cook with the name Cook. I asked her once what her first name was and she said, without cracking a smile, “Lovetah.” She’s a find, that one.)

  Great Jane has changed her name. Great Jane has become Lady Jane. And she truly fits the part. I knew the transformation was complete when she asked for season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera. She already has a close circle of female friends with whom she plays contract bridge each week. And she continues her work with an organization that finds steady employment and housing for hoboes (a mission very close to her heart).

  I cannot tell you how heartening it is to see the woman’s life turned around like this. Her complexion has cleared. She grows stronger with each day, her respiratory troubles having nearly disappeared.

  And she has also become a valuable member of the Dandy-de-odor-o corporate family, assisting me here and there with projects as needed. Next week she will be taking her first solo flight on behalf of the company—meeting with sales representatives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (We are trying to make inroads with the U.S. Navy, but for some reason American sailors still refuse to use deodorant.)

  Best wishes as always,

  Jonny.

  17. “Her train doesn’t go through Boston, does it?” Andrew Bloor to Jonathan Blashette, 28 November 1942.

  18. “300 Killed by Fire, Smoke and Panic in Boston Resort—Dead Clog Exits” New York Times, 30 November 1942.

  19. The final death count at the Cocoanut Grove was 491. Patrick Oldeman, Tears for the Shawmut, 301-10.

  20. Many of the bodies could not be identified. Ibid.

  21. “Jonathan is a basket case.” Harlan Davison’s Diary, HD. The full entry for December 3, 1942, follows:

  “Jonathan is a basket case. This morning he got word that Lady Jane was at the Cocoanut Grove on Sunday night. She had decided to stop for the night in Boston on her way to Portsmouth so that she could visit with a friend whose daughter was a performer at the club. The friend, who got out through the front door before the bodies began piling up, lost sight of Jane in the panic and did not see her again. (Her daughter was among eight chorus girls who leapt from the second floor into the arms of two male dancers!)

  Jonathan had warned Jane of the Boston curse. Apparently she didn’t take it seriously. And now she lies in some Suffolk County, Massachusetts morgue charred beyond recognition. It is a horrible thought and one that is taking a terrible toll on Jonathan. He has eaten and slept very little since learning of the tragedy.”

  22. “I am changing my name to Job.” Jonathan’s Diary, 5 December 1942.

  23. “I am going to sell the company and buy a small island in the South Pacific and live the rest of my life in mourning beneath wind-ruffled palm fronds.” Ibid., 6 December 1942.

  24. “Nix on the South Pacific; the palm trees will only remind me of the Cocoanut Grove. It was an ignited artificial palm that supposedly started the fire.” Ibid., 7 December 1942.

  25. “I am moving back to Pettiville and retire there.” Ibid., 8 December 1942.

  26. “Nix on the Arkansas idea; the place will only remind me of all those I loved who once lived there.” Ibid., 9 December 1942.

  27. “I am going to drink myself into oblivion and maybe take some strong narcotics.” Ibid., 10 December 1942.

  28. “Now why would you want to do that?” Scribbled query in the margin of Jonathan’s diary, 10 December 1942. Apparently heeding the call of nature, Jonathan had left his diary to go down the hallway to the bathroom. Moments later, Jane entered the house through the door to the utility room. Assuming that Jonathan was uptown at his office, she did not call out his name. As she passed his study, she noticed evidence of occupancy: a burning cigarette, a cup of steaming tea, and the open diary. With affectionate mischief, she scrawled these words upon one of the exposed pages, then ducked into the closet. Jonathan returned to his study and to his desk. As he recalls the moment in his next letter to Andy Bloor,

  “The handwriting was unmistakably hers. I thought that I was being visited by a ghost. And then the ghost appeared. She opened the closet door and presented herself—soiled and bruised but generally intact. ‘Are you real?’ I asked, so frightened I could hardly get the words out. She nodded and grinned. ‘I am real. I am alive. The curse, Jonny, has been broken.’”

  Lady Jane had rescued herself from the flaming nightclub but had bee
n knocked senseless when a panic-stricken marine sergeant dived out a window and directly on top of her. When she came to she had forgotten who she was. (“I thought that I might be Eleanor Roosevelt. It was important for me to find a mirror.”) Jane wandered in this state of shock and temporary amnesia for ten days, drawing unconsciously from her former street-savvy survival skills. When she finally chanced upon a billboard for “Dandy-de-odor-o—the Deodorant Men Trust. Pick up a stick today. Not available in Boston” the veil of amnesia suddenly lifted. Jane knew at that moment who she was and why she was there. Most importantly, she knew that she had to get home. Back to New York. Back to Jonathan.

  Jonathan wrote in his diary that he held her for a very long time, weeping uncontrollably.

  29. “The war is over. Long live the peace!” Jonathan’s Diary, 2 September 1945.

  14

  BUSINESS AS USUAL, AND BUSINESS UNUSUAL

  1. “Computers are the future.” Louis Krull, “Prominent Businessmen Cogitate on the Computer” Scientific U.S.A., 1946, No. 1, 120-27, 179-85. Davison was misquoted and therefore not nearly as prescient as some give him credit for being. The misquote is followed by its correction.

  “I see a day in which the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer will be light enough to hold in the hand, powered not by 18,000 vacuum tubes but by a few transistors and conducting chips.”

  “I see a day in which the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer will be miraculously powered by only 16,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only twenty tons! Instead of taking up one very large room, I am confident the day will come when it will fit snugly into a slightly smaller room, yet leave space for a chair and a very thin filing cabinet.”

  2. It was one of Jonathan’s less memorable saloon encounters. Playwright Bertolt Brecht refused to answer the committee’s questions and fled to Europe. The members who remained made up the now infamous “Hollywood Ten.” Beverly Hillard (known to his close friends as Beverly Hills) spent the balance of his days reminding whoever would listen (including Jonathan) that he, as the forgotten member of the group that challenged the witch hunts of an industry gone Communist-phobic, had been equally maligned and maltreated. Jonathan records their late-night conversation in his diary.

  October 28, 1947

  After ordering another mai tai, Beverly proceeded to explain that he was being subjected to a more subtle form of persecution. Although the studios continued to solicit his services as hairdresser, all but a few of the stars whose hair he curled and teased refused to speak to him, enduring their time in his chair with grimaces and groans and over-absorption in current issues of Photoplay and Modern Screen magazines, brightening only when they chanced upon photographs of themselves that seemed to successfully capture some special quality that normally remained elusive.

  “I feel like a piranha, an absolute piranha.”

  “Do you mean pariah?” I asked.

  “Yes. What did I say?”

  “You said piranha, the Amazonian man-eating fish.”

  “No, I don’t feel like a fish. Is that dart board spinning?”

  “I think you’ve had enough to drink, Beverly.”

  “Please. Call me Beverly.”

  “Maybe I should get you home. Where do you live?”

  “George Cukor’s guest house.”

  As I was walking Beverly out to my car, he returned to the topic of the evening:“It’s because they all think I have Communist ties, see? If they could shun me any more they would. But they need my services. I am indispensable. But yes, they treat me badly. Helen Hayes won’t even look at me. Even when I say, like I did last week, ‘Helen. Please. You are the first lady of the American stage. Can you not even find it within your heart to make momentary eye contact?’ She just shook that prim head of hers, her eyes never leaving the copy of Photoplay in her lap. The magazine was opened to a picture of Joan Crawford in an apron, making waffles for her two adopted children. The waffles appeared scorched, but the children wore expressions which said, ‘We are resigned to eating these, no matter what.’ No, I’m not blacklisted in the official sense, but they’re blacklisting me all right. In their hearts.”

  3. “A toast to the Blashette Foundation. Just think of all the good you will do now!” Andrew Bloor to Jonathan Blashette, 15 November 1947.

  4. Within the first two weeks several checks had been written. Some of Jonathan’s many causes and charities were simply too strange not to earn at least passing mention in these notes. Among them was donation of over $10,000 to the Goebel Art Company and Siessen Convent in the Swabian Alps to silence a blackmailer who threatened to besmirch the good name of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, the Franciscan nun responsible for the delicately hand-painted porcelain child figurines of the same name that even today command respectable collectible prices. In late 1947 the blackmailer, whose name was either Cutberth or Cuthbert, sent Sister Hummel photographs of a “hummel” that had recently fallen into his possession—one which displayed none of the jolly innocence that characterized her work—yet one that had apparently been signed by the Sister and stamped with Goebel’s distinguishing “bee” trademark. The piece depicted a young girl sitting at the knee of a very obvious Satan—pitchfork, spiked tail and all. It is hard to tell from the photograph I came across just what the young girl is doing to the devil’s hooves. She may be buffing them or she may be measuring them for shoes. Whatever is taking place, the girl seems happy to be performing this service for the Prince of Darkness.

  No one knows how this double-figurine found its way to Cut(h)bert(h). Was it a counterfeit, or did Sister Hummel, in some dark night of the soul, craft it from a nightmarish vision of Satanic thrall? However it came into being, its existence threatened an enterprise that was making a great deal of money for the Siessen Convent and creating thousands of fans throughout the world. The “devil’s hooves” hummel, had it come to the world’s attention, would have had disastrous consequences for all concerned. Jonathan’s money, along with—it is believed—a large contribution from the Vatican, kept this from occurring.

  Along these same lines, Jonathan is reputed to have spent $35,000 in 1960 for a painting of two young girls with very tiny dots for eyes, allegedly painted by Walter Keane on an off-day and potentially so offensive to devotees of Margaret and Walter Keane and their big-eyed offerings that Jonathan took no chances and destroyed the painting upon purchase. “It would have ended my career if word of that painting had gotten out,” a very grateful Keane supposedly confessed to Jonathan. “Why didn’t you just dispose of it yourself?” Jonathan asked. “I needed the 35 g’s,” Keane allegedly responded. “I need paint and canvas for my new series—all the American presidents, each with large sad eyes.” (Interview with Patsy Esposito, former president of the North American Keane Fan Club, 14 August 1998—two weeks after her family’s successful intervention.)

  5. The Blashette Foundation rarely declined a legitimate request. One of the rare occasions on which Jonathan did turn down a legitimate application for financial assistance involved the Chamber of Commerce of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, definitely not, in Jonathan’s opinion, one of the legendary Seven Cities of the Cibola. The businessmen of the town had sought his help in financing a public swimming pool for use by the town youngsters. “It gets so hot here, especially in the summer, you understand,” wrote a member of the Chamber, “and the kiddies would appreciate whatever generous gift you might offer to help us provide them with a cool place to splash and play when the mercury licks the tip of the thermometer.” To which Jonathan, according to Rowan, is said to have responded, “I don’t send money to idiot towns that name themselves after stupid radio programs. Go put the squeeze on Ralph Edwards.”

  Sybil Rowan in her ‘Tis Better to Give: The Story of Twentieth Century Philanthropy (Tucson: Holiday-Hays Press, 1981) contends that Jonathan had never been a fan of Edwards. The story, probably apocryphal given that Rowan’s corroborating source is untrustworthy, is that Jonathan had been nursing a grudge
against the radio and television personality ever since Edwards allegedly spattered urine on Jonathan’s shoe as the two men stood at side-by-side urinals in Radio City Music Hall men’s room following a screening of The Farmer’s Daughter. According to the men’s room attendant who supposedly shared the story with Louella Parsons (it was unearthed years later in her “Not for publication” file), Jonathan pointed out to Edwards that he had just peed on his foot.” “Which one?” Edwards had replied. “You have so many.” Jonathan, peeved and now somewhat ammonia-smelling, left the washroom in a huff, but not without flinging on his way out, “Don’t do my life. You put me on This is Your Life, you big giggle-turd, and I’ll tell the world you piss on shoes. Don’t you dare test me on this.”

  I can’t believe that Jonathan would have demonstrated such animosity toward a man so loved by millions, and especially given the fact that Jonathan was known to urinate on his own feet on occasion when his mind would wander. Nor do I find Jonathan to have ever been the vindictive type. My guess is that he simply felt the Chamber of Commerce could easily raise money for the pool on its own.

  In any event, Jonathan Blashette was never a featured subject of This is Your Life.

  6. “Je suis debout.” “I am standing up.” The four-foot ten-inch Miss Piaf didn’t see the humor.

  7. This was followed by another visit from Mister Zoster. The shingles was much more localized this time, confined almost entirely to the right testicle.

  8. Davison left the lunch meeting much later than the others. While Jonathan was battling his third outbreak of shingles, Davison was experiencing a new bout of dietary priapism, a condition which generally kept him in phallic straights for several hours at a time. Especially troublesome was the fact that the causal meal took place in the dining room of the Manhattan Tennis Club and Davison hadn’t had the foresight to change out of his tennis shorts. Abashed and dangerously crotch-tented, Davison was eventually able to draw a favorite waiter into his confidence and enlist the gentleman in securing an accommodating sweatshirt—in this case one that had been left on the premises by either Sydney Greenstreet or Alfred Hitchcock. However, the rescue wasn’t effected without a little good-natured fun at Davison’s expense. “Trick knee acting up again, Mr. Davison? Can’t get up?” “That’s right, Benito. It’s hard. Very hard. Now will you hand me the damned sweatshirt before I get myself arrested?” (Cubby Tertwillinger, Victual Viagra: Fifty Stories of Dietary Priapism, Fully Illustrated [Knoxville: Ogilby and Bibb, 1999]).

 
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