Author Archives: B.P.

Classic Hollywood #75 – Child Star Jackie Cooper

Young Jackie Cooper Signs A Big Contract With MGM – 1931

Jackie Cooper child star signs contract with MGM Louis B MayerYoungest Long-Termer

Hollywood, Calif – Jack Cooper, seven-year-old hero of “Skippy” and the most promising youngster in Hollywood is earning the distinction of being the youngest star to have a long term contract as he prepares to put his “John Hancock” on the important looking document being held by Luis B. Mayer, vice-president of a leading motion picture company. While the salary was not disclosed it is believed there was an unprecedented number of naughts after the first figure to make him the highest paid youngster in the United States. His first thought after walking around the movie lot following the signing was to organize a football team. – (credit: International Newsreel Photo,  June 9, 1931

Being a minor Jackie Cooper could not legally sign his contract, his parents were the real signers. Continue reading

How Thanksgiving In New York Used To Be Celebrated

Many Years Before Macy’s Held Their Annual Thanksgiving Parade New York City Children Used To Dress In Costume And Beg For Money

A Forgotten New York Thanksgiving Tradition – Ragamuffin Day

New York City children dressed in costume for Thanksgiving 1933 photo Percy Loomis Sperr

On Bleecker Street New York City children dressed in costume for Thanksgiving 1933 photo Percy Loomis Sperr

“Please mister, a penny or a nickel for Thanksgiving?”

This request was once heard all around New York City from children dressed in outlandish costumes celebrating Thanksgiving. It came to be known as Ragamuffin Day.

Thanksgiving subway kiosk 1933

Christopher Street near subway kiosk Thanksgiving 1933

When it started exactly is unclear. It was reported in 1870 costumed men were celebrating Evacuation Day a day early on Thanksgiving, November 24. Evacuation Day commemorated the November 25 anniversary of the British forces leaving New York after the Revolutionary War. Evacuation Day was a major holiday in New York until 1888.

The men in costume who paraded about were called “the Fantasticals.” But why would they be in costume? The answer is somewhat convoluted. The costumes were not really about Thanksgiving or Evacuation Day. This was related more to Guy Fawkes Day celebrated November 5 in England. In the United States, Guy Fawkes day was celebrated with anti-Catholic sentiment, burning an effigy of the Pope. Even though the holidays are weeks apart, the proximity of Guy Fawkes Day to Thanksgiving Day and Evacuation Day is thought to be responsible for the strange combination of these distinct holidays. However the American Fantasticals did not beg for money.   Continue reading

1970s Rock – Foghat Shows What A Great Live Band Could Do

Foghat Gives An Incredible Live Performance – 1974

Why is it that the 1970s produced dozens of incredibly talented rock bands?

Certainly one reason is creative singer-songwriters proliferated and produced songs that have stood the test of time.

Foghat members Tony Stevens, "Lonesome Dave" Peverett, Rod Price, Roger Earl

Foghat c. 1974 standing: Tony Stevens, front l-r “Lonesome Dave” Peverett, Rod Price, Roger Earl photo: London Features

Foghat was one of the many bands that came from England and triumphed in America. Today it has been forgotten that Foghat was among the top grossing live bands of the 70s. Even with one double platinum and eight gold records, Foghat today have been mostly bypassed in rock history as a novelty boogie rock band.

Throughout the 1970s their albums and live performances won praise from music fans. Foghat was constantly heard on FM stations. Radio staples like Slow Ride and Fool For The City are still played today.

And boy could they put on a live show. Foghat were simply beasts on stage in front of an audience.

In this fantastic 1974 version of the Willie Dixon penned blues classic I Just Want To Make Love To You, Foghat makes eleven minutes go by awfully fast. Foghat looks like they are having the best time ever being in a rock band.

This is one incredible exuberant, fun and blistering performance from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Unfortunately the narcoleptic audience doesn’t realize what they are seeing regardless of the added applause track.

What constitutes the ingredients of a great live performance? Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #96 – Rodeo At Bellevue Hospital

The Rodeo Comes To Bellevue Hospital – 1937

Bellevue Hospital rodeo 1937

The Rodeo Visits Kiddies at Bellevue Hospital

New York City – A fancy stepping cowboy band and cowboys and cowgirls in their bright-colored shirts parade before children patients of Bellevue Hospital as they visit the hospital to stage their rodeo which is now appearing in Madison Square Garden. 10/14/1937 credit Wide World Photos

Over 3,000 people, mostly children, watched this performance at Bellevue Hospital on October 14, 1937. If you are wondering exactly where this took place, it is the rear yard of Bellevue at 29th Street facing the river. The East River Drive (renamed FDR after 1945) portion of the highway behind Bellevue had not been constructed yet. The hospital grounds had quite a bit of room to hold a rodeo. Continue reading

Politically Incorrect Bubble Gum Cigarettes

You Won’t See It On Candy Store Shelves – Bubble Gum Cigarettes

Salem bubble gum cigarettes – fun for kids!

If you grew up before 1980 it was common to see this package at many candy shops, drug stores and supermarkets – bubble gum cigarettes. And yes, they were intended for children. There were also chocolate cigarettes and hard candy cigarettes, also marketed to children.

I must have “smoked” over a couple of hundred packs during my childhood.

Somehow it didn’t corrupt me or make me crave a cigarette. As a matter of fact I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.

Shaped as a cigarette with paper covering the gum, it was a way for kids to look and act like adults. The way it was displayed, was it obviously bubble gum? Only if you looked at the top and side of the packages.

For any kid, the best thing Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #95 – East River, The Harbor & Brooklyn c. 1892

A Very Early View of Lower Manhattan Looking East Towards The East River & Brooklyn circa 1892

This magic lantern slide overlooking lower Manhattan along with the East River and Brooklyn is pre-twentieth century. Where exactly; when it was taken; and where from, was a mystery. But some things to take notice of:

1- there are no buildings exceeding five stories. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #94 – The Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction

Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction As Viewed From The East River 1901

From a personal photo album comes this previously unpublished 1901 view looking north from the East River.

Besides all the vessels navigating the heavily trafficked waterway, we can see the completed towers of the Williamsburg Bridge. The cables of the bridge have been completed but the roadway beneath the span is absent.

The first bridge crossing Kings County to Manhattan was the Brooklyn Bridge, opening in 1883. It would take another 20 years before the next great span, the Williamsburg Bridge was completed. Continue reading

What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Columnist Rian James Shares His Picks For The Best Restaurants in New York City in 1929

Rian James (1899-1953) may not be a well known name today, but back in the 1920s and 30s, he was a widely read journalist and  “man about town.”

In 1933 James took a stab at writing for the movies. He wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street, one of the most successful and popular films of the 1930s. James would go on to write over three dozen screenplays.

As a columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1928-1935, James rambled all around New York City. Along the way James hobnobbed with everyone: the well-to-do, the hoi-polloi, actors,  and bohemians, in the process, hitting all the night spots. The stories James gathered made for a widely read column about the city he loved.

Four times a year the Eagle published a small guide Going Places With Rian James casting his top picks in New York City food and entertainment.

For the Summer 1929 Going Places, a good portion of  James’ 32 page booklet is devoted to dining. Unlike the modern Zagat restaurant guides or Yelp, consensus was not considered. The only thing that mattered was James’ opinion. James knew all the “in” places, the haunts of celebs, the exclusive, the ribald and the popular.

Proving he’s no snob, the best New York restaurant according to James is not at a high class hotel or Madison Avenue establishment. It’s Feltman’s, originator of the hotdog, in Coney Island that wins the prize.  James writes, “The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place.”

This is a New York booklet written for New Yorkers.

James offers a unique slice of the New York dining scene just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The good times were to end soon after.

While there were a ton of contemporary guidebooks published about New York City, very few delved into the restaurant scene. James’ punchy one line descriptions tell you a lot more than many a detailed review.

The writing has some jazz age jargon such as “Beeway” for Broadway and “black and tan” for an establishment that has race mingling between Blacks and Caucasians. Sometimes there’s an “inside”, long forgotten, or even a risque reference such as this one:

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

In other words, where you have the best chance of hooking up.

James later wrote several full length books about New York City: a full guidebook All About New York An Intimate Guide; John Day (1931) and another not surprisingly titled, Dining in New York; John Day (1934).

While you peruse this list, you may recognize some names long gone from New York’s glorious culinary past. Other eateries you never heard of just sound like they would have been a blast to visit.

What is stunning in the transient world of dining, is that there are a small number of restaurants that are still in business nearly 90 years later.

We have left Rian James’ spelling, grammar and punctuation as it is written in the booklet.

So with that, here is Rian James’ New York City’s restaurant recommendations for the summer of 1929, divided into his appropriate section headings in bold.

Restaurants of All Nations

Name      Address       Nation

L’AIGLON – 55th, E. of Fifth Ave. French
Complete French Cuisine.LUCHOWS – 110 E. 14th St. German
Complete German Cuisine. Try the German Rye Bread. Continue reading

George Steinbrenner May Be Dead, But His Yankee “Hair Policy” Remains In Effect

George Steinbrenner’s “No Long Hair Or Beard Rule” Is Still Followed

Thurman Munson’s 1976 Topps baseball card shows something you won’t see on any Yankee today, a defiant beard.

At Yankee Stadium’s home opening game on April 11, 1973, the new owner and managing general partner, George M. Steinbrenner III was on hand to see his team. As he watched his players line up along the foul lines and remove their caps for the national anthem,  Steinbrenner pulled out an envelope from his suit pocket. He began writing down a series of numbers on the back of the envelope.

After the game the envelope was given to manager Ralph Houk.

“What is this?” Houk wanted to know.

Sparky Lyle 1974 Topps Baseball card showing his “long” hair

Players who need a haircut was the reply.

Still not knowing any of his players names, Steinbrenner had listed the players numbers who had hair that was not to his liking.

Among the stars on the list were Bobby Murcer,  Fritz Peterson, Thurman Munson, Sparky Lyle and Roy White.

Houk posted the list in the locker room and reluctantly informed his hippie players to go to a barber.

Steinbrenner had been perturbed about the long hair since first seeing the Yankees in spring training. Now it was time to do something about it.

This incident marked the beginning of George Steinbrenner’s 37 year odyssey of interference and unpredictability as owner of the Yankees.

To Steinbrenner, short hair and being clean shaven represented order and discipline. No one mentioned to Steinbrenner that baseball was not the military.

Mike Burke, part owner and president of the Yankees, had very long hair himself. Burke was not very concerned about Steinbrenner’s meddling and downplayed the hair cutting incident.

NEW YORK – JANUARY 3, 1973 Yankees President Michael Burke & George Steinbrenner at press conference at Yankee Stadium where the announcement is made that an ownership group led by Steinbrenner are the new owners of the Yankees. (Photo by: Olen Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Burke, who had been Yankee president since 1966, was instrumental in putting the deal together for Steinbrener and his 13 limited partners, to buy the Yankees from CBS. Burke was led to believe he would be considered a co-partner on an equal level with Steinbrenner.

When Steinbrenner spoke to the press on January 3, 1973 , he said he would be an absentee owner and Burke would run the team. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”

Burke should have more concerned about Steinbrenner’s controlling behavior and desire to be solely in charge.  Soon after the haircut incident, Steinbrenner started firing off memos left and right asserting his control of the team. Less than 3 weeks after opening day, Burke resigned. The truth was Burke had been forced out as president of the Yankees and later gave up his ownership stake.

Yankee Third baseman Graig Nettles asked with a straight face, “Was his hair too long?” Continue reading