IBID, page 17
9. “How often do you masturbate?” Jonathan’s Diary, 13 February 1948. The question came out of the blue. Jonathan responded by removing himself to a seat on the other side on the train. It was several days later, after reading an article in the newspaper, which was accompanied by a photograph of its subject, that Jonathan was able to identify the man as Indiana University professor Alfred C. Kinsey, author of the recently published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. The question, as it turns out, had been strictly and innocently academic.
10. Other investors in the group were Darwin Crawley, grocery store chain magnate Owen Sampson, and Benito Jannuzzi. Rowan, ’Tis Better to Give, 28-46. Friendships with both men were short-lived. Sampson succumbed to a heart attack while attending a performance of Haydn’s Surprise Symphony. Jannuzzi disappeared at sea while attempting to disprove Thor Heyerdahl’s theory on the ancestry of the Pacific Island peoples. Heyerdahl set out in his rudimentary “Kon-Tiki” to show that Peruvians could very well have sailed and paddled their way to, as Jannuzzi contemptuously put it, “Bali Ha!” According to Jannuzzi’s more intriguing theory, Polynesians originally came from France. Jannuzzi’s hand-hewn boat, the “Funny, Little, Good-for-Nothing Mimi” went down somewhere off the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean.
Jannuzzi, incidentally, was the husband of Naomi Fillcrest Jannuzzi, best remembered for walking up to General Patton at a London fish market in late 1943 and slapping him silly with a fresh cod. “That’s for the shell-shocked boy you struck, you insensitive cabbagehead lout,” she snarled as bobbies dragged her away from the red-faced general. Patton allegedly shrugged off the incident, although some witnesses noted that the surprise attack had the unfortunate effect of loosening his bowels.
11. Each new undertaking proved more interesting than the one before. Ibid, 56-57. Another project from which Jonathan drew special satisfaction was the commissioning of a piano concerto for his fellow World War I trenchmate, Adam Hines. Hines, whose hopes of a career on the concert stage were nearly dashed, courtesy of a Hun-launched minnie, asked Jonathan for money to fund a unique commission. Inspired by one-arm pianist Paul Wittgenstein (also a “Great War” casualty) who commissioned composer Maurice Ravel to write a piano concerto for left hand only, the result being the now legendary staple of the classical repertoire, Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major, Hines made an even more audacious request. Having lost all of his left arm and all but one digit on his right hand, Hines proposed what would eventually, through the genius of French composer Henri Bagatelle (member of the junior varsity “Les Dix”), become the “Concerto for Thumb of the Right Hand.” The piece was unevenly received in its premiere performance in Paris on June 13, 1947, although Le Monde was effusive in its praise, hailing it as a “triumph of the human spirit, a testament to artistic ingenuity and brio in the face of missing limbs and digits.”
Despite infrequent performances, a tradition has evolved over the years. In lieu of applause, audience members customarily offer a Caesarian thumbs-up or thumbs-down at the conclusion of the performance.
12. Though he was an avid collector of American art, Jonathan’s preference for the esoteric and unusual placed him, nonetheless, outside the mainstream. I had an opportunity to examine the painting in question, which now hangs in the conference room of the national headquarters for the American Association for the Elderly in Grove Dells, Wisconsin. The folk art primitivism and unnatural perspective of the colorful, well-populated landscape make it doubtful that Frolics in the Spring could have been painted by anyone but Grandma Moses. But another hand—a clearly mischievous one—is also evident, and Jonathan’s charge in an undated memo to Interim Foundation Director Alva Block that someone may have perpetrated a little artistic vandalism is a plausible one.
In the top left corner behind a barn, two tiny naked figures appear to be engaged in some kind of close body contact that may or may not involve copulation. At top center someone has endowed a draft horse with an abnormally oversized equine phallus. At bottom right, a Boschian devil figure is chasing a cow with a trident. Hanging from the roof of a small farm house is a Salvador Dali-like droopy clock.
I asked the Executive Director for AAE, Lemuel Boychoir, if he had ever noticed these anomalies before. He scratched his head and said, “Well, no.” Then he leaned in and examined the painting a little closer and said, “Oh, goodness.”
13. He was laid out for several days with a bout of hepatitis. Davison believes he contracted the disease from a tainted Bloody Caesar he drank at a family wedding reception. Davison’s diary, 20 April 1948.
14. The rash covered his entire body. Jones’s case was an exceptional one. Failing to settle the matter on his own, Jonathan dashed off this final letter, then turned the complaint over to his attorneys.
388 Park Avenue
New York City
May 31, 1950
Mr. Leon Jones
Dear Mr. Jones,
I have offered you more than enough money to cover the cost of your visit to your physician and the prescribed ointments, which, though initially ineffective, have now done the trick. The rash is gone. You are a well man.
I refuse to make an additional payment to you for “pain and suffering.” Even a fool knows that you could have avoided this full body rash if you had simply applied the product as directed—to underarms only. It was your own ill-thought decision to heat the product to a state of viscous goo, then slather great globs all over your body that resulted in the pervasive rash. A part of me wonders if you knew full well the potential for this allergic reaction, but made the application, nonetheless, for the sole purpose of wringing from me a large legal settlement.
Well, think again, Mr. Jones. You would be an idiot on both counts.
If you choose to proceed with this threatened lawsuit, I am prepared to defend myself by whatever means possible.
I stand behind my product and its safety and efficacy under normal use. Only fools (or tort twits) would employ it as you have. I refuse to reward your idiocy and/or greed.
President and Chief Executive Officer
15. The deposition took three days. Jonathan’s relief upon completing the grueling examination by the plaintiff’s attorneys was short-lived. Upon receipt of the transcripts, plaintiff’s counsel immediately moved for the presiding judge to force Jonathan to be redeposed. The court reporter assigned to record the original deposition, a frustrated dramatist, had invalidated Jonathan’s deposition by turning his testimony (and the questions posed by opposing counsel) into a full-fledged play script. A “scene” follows. JBP.
PLACE: OFFICES OF WILLARD, WILLARD AND VOORHEES, ATTORNEYS AT LAW
TIME: THE PRESENT
Percival Willard, counsel for the plaintiff, nattily dressed with patrician bearing
Jonathan Blashette, three-legged corporate executive and defendant, pensive, world-weary
Cyrus Tammey, counsel for the defendant, bulldog store-front type
Court Reporter, ruggedly handsome, rakishly charming, exuding confidence and imperturbability, and possessed of a certain je ne sais quoi that women of taste find seductively irresistible.
AT RISE: A law office conference room. A deposition in progress.
WILLARD (retrieving a piece of paper from co-counsel): Mr. Blashette, I now call your attention to this document, which we will mark “Plaintiff’s Exhibit 14.” Do you recognize the document?
BLASHETTE (with obvious disdain): Yes, it appears to be some form of correspondence.
WILLARD (with obvious smugness): And you contend you’ve never seen it before?
BLASHETTE (bristling): I receive hundreds of letters a year, Mr. Willard.
WILLARD (arching an eyebrow, somewhat wryly): Hundreds of letters of complaint?
WILLARD (obviously finding it hard to conceal his delight in having Blashette “on the run”): But never about a defective product? Perhaps someone didn’t like the design of your package. Perhaps you ran an offensive advertisement—perhaps placed a Colored Pullman porter too prominently in the photograph. That sort of complaint, yes? But never, never about a defective product.
TAMMEY (rising from his seat): We can do without the sarcastic, racist commentary, Willard!
BLASHETTE (to Tammey): It’s all right. I’ll respond. We make a good product, Mr. Willard. But a small number of our customers have allergic reactions. There is not much we can do about that.
WILLARD (animated): That wasn’t what I asked, Mr. Blashette. I asked if this letter—the one I hold now in my hand—(He brandishes the letter.)—may, in point of fact, address the very complaint which my client has made. Perhaps each of these letters—(now holding up several pieces of paper in his other hand)—calls the safety of your product into serious question.
BLASHETTE (angry, defensive): We sell Dandy-de-odor-o to millions of men. A few hundred letters of complaint represent a negligible percentage of our sales.
WILLARD (thundering): YOU STILL HAVE NOT ANSWERED THE QUESTION!
TAMMEY (with growing belligerence): Mr. Willard, my client, who I’m certain resents this assault on his character—
— is not going to sit at this table and admit to you that his product is defective on the basis of a handful of letters from an allergic few. Because it is not. If the product were defective, Mr. Blashette would not be here. Mr. Blashette, sir, would be out of business.
WILLARD (very nearly a growl to Tammey): The question is still a valid one—is still of paramount importance to our pursuit of this claim. Let’s be frank. Dandy-de-odor-o gives men rashes. Even President Truman admitted to such a rash.
BLASHETTE (angrily): He most certainly did not—
WILLARD (interrupting): That isn’t what Bess told the distaff members of the White House press corps!
BLASHETTE (rising): Are you here for purpose of discovery, Mr. Willard, or to take shots at me and my company? (Pulls his extra leg up onto the table.) Why don’t you make fun of my subsidiary leg while you’re at it?
TAMMEY (helping Jonathan remove the leg from the table): We’ve made our point, Jonathan.
WILLARD (snide, to Tammey): It appears that your client has had a bit too much coffee this morning.
BLASHETTE (exploding): OH, YOU THINK SO? Then, why don’t you finish my last cup? (HE grabs up his cup of coffee and flings its contents at Willard.)
WILLARD (crying out from contact with the liquid): AHHHHGGGG!
TAMMEY: Let’s take a break. We all need to calm down.
WILLARD: I’M SCALDED, YOU FREAK BASTARD!
BLASHETTE: You aren’t scalded. It wasn’t even luke—say, what did you just call me?
WILLARD: Freak. Bastard. FREAK BASTARD!
(BLASHETTE snatches up Tammey’s cup of coffee and flings it at Willard, as well.)
WILLARD: AHHHGGG! He did it again! He did it again!
(BLASHETTE settles back in his chair, a self-satisfied grin upon his face.)
WILLARD (turning to the court reporter as co-counsel endeavor to mop up some of the spatter of coffee from his neck, suit jacket and shirt collar): Court Reporter will note that Mr. Blashette has tried to scald Plaintiff’s attorney with coffee. Twice!
COURT REPORTER (with a smile): Already noted.
BLASHETTE (breaking into laughter): Homph, homph, heh, hickle, heh, homph.
16. “I asked him, ‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough? Can you get home?’” Jonathan’s Diary, 10 November 1953. Failure to prevent Welsh poet Dylan Thomas from imbibing that fateful eighteenth straight whiskey at the White Horse Tavern left Jonathan feeling guilty and depressed for days. He subsequently made a pledge to suspend these sodden encounters with the great, the pre-great, and the post-great by avoiding all public drinking establishments for the remainder of his life. Jonathan never lost his taste for alcohol, but he had lost his tolerance for public drunkenness—demonstrated not only by others but also by himself. His vow was put to the test on several subsequent occasions. The following observations (some of suspect veracity), which I have taken from journal entries made during the last eight years of his life, speak to the strength of his commitment. Without a single exception none propelled him, in spite of obvious impertinent curiosity, to accompany the participants and thus go back on his promise.
Singer Harry Belafonte arm-in-arm with British actor Arthur Treacher, singing “The Banana Boat Song” as they stumbled into Philadelphia’s Top Hat Bar and Grill.
Economist Milton Friedman pressing his nose against the window of the L & L in Chicago, licking his lips, patting his pocketed wallet and proceeding into the warm smoky duskiness of the bar’s interior.
French premier Charles de Gaulle, singer Maurice Chevalier, molecular chemist Linus Pauling, Brazilian soccer player Pelé, anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey, and comedian Morey Amsterdam moving in a large boisterous clump into the Oak Bar of New York’s Plaza Hotel.
Actress Elizabeth Taylor flying out the door of the Brown Derby in Hollywood, followed by an angry Debbie Reynolds, swinging a large handbag and snarling epithets.
Deposed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, rock balladeer Roy Orbison, television newscaster Chet Huntley, Ethopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila, singer Ethel Merman, and Harlan Davison glimpsed through the window of the St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis, drunkenly pelting one another with handfuls of beer nuts.
17. “I like bikes. I don’t like Ike.” Jonathan supported Eisenhower until June of 1953 when the president refused to commute the death sentence of the Rosenbergs. Jonathan Blashette to Senator Estes Kefauver, 2 January 1954, carbon copy in JBP.
18. It was another missed opportunity. Davison was never able to tell southern writer Flannery O’Connor how fond he was of her work. Walking up to her house in Milledgeville, Georgia, he tripped over one of her ubiquitous peacocks and was shouted off the property. Davison’s Diary, 28 February 1954.
19. Nor was he able to tell Vladimir Nabokov the same. Settling into Nabokov’s living room Davison knocked over a glass case containing a portion of the controversial novelist’s prized blue butterfly collection and was shouted out of the apartment. Through the heavily accented barrage of profanity, Davison caught the sentence, “Flannery warned me about you!” Ibid., 3 March 1954.
20. “I am the Tenzing Norkay of this organization.” The reference was to Sir Edmund Hillary’s sherpa guide on his successful climb to the summit of Mount Everest. Davison compared his contribution to the health and success of Dandy-de-odor-o, Inc. to that of Mr. Norkay, who, in Davison’s opinion, was equally unacknowledged and unappreciated. Memo to Jonathan Blashette, 12 March 1954, Dandy-de-odor-o Corporate Records.
21. Davison did it again. Griswold Lanham, “Harlan Davison,” Entrepreneurial History, 13 (1990), 25-42. As Davison’s behavior become more unpredictable, Jonathan’s unshakeable allegiance to his right-hand man became increasingly difficult to defend. While none of the Dandy lieutenants ever suggested either publicly or privately that Davison should be asked to resign, they never hesitated to bring his mishaps and increasingly bizarre corporate strategies to the boss’s attention. The following letter found its way to Jonathan’s desk on May 3, 1954.
I REMEMBER MAMA
April 27, 1954
Executive Assistant to Jonathan Blashette
388 Park Avenue
New York City, New York
Dear Mr. Davison,
Thank you for your letter of April 20. I have reviewed your suggestions and shared them with Mr. Nelson and the producers of the television program I Remember Mama. We, like you, are happy that sponsorship of our show has been a successful undertak
We cannot, however, endorse any of the story suggestions you offered in your letter. Without exception, all would be ill-suited for the program, and in some cases creatively counterproductive. As you know, I Remember Mama, is a warm and gentle look at an immigrant Norwegian-American family living in San Francisco at the turn of the century. The story line of each episode is carefully crafted with respect to established characters and milieu, and in accordance with network standards and practices. I am happy to state our specific objections to each of your requests.
1. “Papa should die. Mama, now a widow in reduced circumstances, will be forced to let rooms for the needed income. Thus, opportunities will abound for bringing popular guest stars on the show and for creating many opportunities for shenanigans and hi-jinks. Milton Berle, for example, could play Uncle Oofda, a fishmonger with a penchant for tomfoolery.”
We have no desire to lose the character of the father. He is an integral part of the story. Nor would Milton Berle’s participation be wise. His enormous popularity notwithstanding, he would, no doubt, hijack the program and put everyone in frocks.
2. “Katrin, rather than opening every single episode by leafing dreamily through her family album, should on occasion “remember Mama’ from a sudsy, sultry bubble bath.”
The idea of turning wholesome Katrin into a sex-kitten is one with which none of us would be comfortable.
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