Talking Pictures, Nonsense, and Personal Triumphs
Just this week I saw a new picture at the Victory house and it was just as vulgar as I had feared. I can’t remember the name but suffice to say it was much too long to be so boring. And boorish! Al Jolson is a singer who wants something to do with his mother. It was so obscene to hear his voice coming out of the sound horn it made me ill. He and I had lunch the next day and my man transcribed the whole thing.
“So, Irv. What did you think?”
“Really, Al, what is the point of all that racket? Rag music? More like dish rag music!” He scowled at me. I thought it was a hum ding zinger but he almost didn’t seem to get my joke.
“You see, it’s called rag music but I then belittled it by comparing it to a towel used for cleaning soiled plates, I haven’t ever actually seen one but imagine them to be disgusting. And you know my powers of imagination are more than impressive.” He cut me off there.
“It’s gonna be all the thing,” he said. ” Talking pictures! I’m going to be twice as famous as I am now and that’s saying something.” He looked at me with a conspiratory slyness. “You know, just the other day a lady sent me some under things in the post. She did not include her address, otherwise I would have zipped over there in a jiffy.”
I was appalled. While the admiration of women is nothing new to a man such as myself, I found it outrageous to discuss it out there on the veranda of The White Rose. I did not tell him then but I once had an encounter with a lady who was so bewitched by me that she had hand stitched my name and likeness onto her bodice. The stitching was decent but made my nose look far too jewish.
“Listen Al, I just don’t see it working out. Why go hear a man sing at a picture when you can see ten do it at the theater? And get to see a backflipping dog as well?” I did some writing for a couple of vaudevillians back in my hungry days but couldn’t stand the smell. I wrote a joke you may have heard which went like this:
“Oh waiter, waiter. There’s a fly in my soup!”
“I’m sorry, let me get you another bowl.”
“Never mind that, I just want the rest of the pants so I can wear them out of here!”
I never heard it used on stage but feel certain it would have brought down the house.
Irv in his early snappy-doo troupe,
which led to the invention of ragtime,
and jazz hands
Even so, my rapier wit perhaps would not translate to the stage where there is no way to assure that the audience would be one fully able to appreciate my encyclopedic knowledge and ability to make references to every nook and cranny of history. If I mention any one of the millions of things I know, will they be appreciative? The last stage my charm was displayed upon was in a playhouse where Oscar (Wilde) and I were sharing a double bill. This was before he was known to me as a bugger, though I may have purposely overlooked some obvious clues such as when he and I stayed together in my cabin and he kept mentioning how the Greeks were the greatest of all societies. Over and over.
He was staging the The Importance of Being Everest. I think it was about what would happen if man were to ever successfully scale the tallest mountains. I remember once suggesting that the climbers should be able to have tea up there and reach up just above their heads to pluck cheese from the moon. I do not know whether or not he took my suggestions as I did not care to watch his work. I did an adaptation of his story The Portrait of Dorian Gray playing the titular role personally, and largely improvising the entire show by myself. If anyone intuitively understands the agony of unending beauty, it is I.
I tried to explain all of this to Al but he seemed uninterested. And distracted. As I told him tale after tale, a seemingly endless stream of people, many of them young girls, had come over to our table and barely seemed to notice I was even there. I tried to tell him that this just proved my point but he would not, or could not, listen.
Talking pictures! Nonsense. It will only lead to the horrid insanity demonstrated so plainly by this horrendous crowd. I could see the ankles of nearly every girl there. I thought about them with disgust later that night in my bed, just before I tossed aside my bedshirt and fell asleep.