From ch. 5 of John O’Hara’s BUtterfield 8 (which is not a typo). Clipped cataloging can be such effective satire and O’Hara pans across 1930s New York as effectively as Juvenal did 2nd century Rome or Alexander Pope Augustan London.
She went home and there was a telegram there from Liggett, asking her to meet him at their favorite speakeasy at four. They had told her at his office that he was out of town, but her life was full of inconsistencies like that.
She was there before four, and took a small table by herself and watched the world come in. That afternoon the speakeasy was visited by a fairly representative crowd. On their lips soon would be her name, with varying opinions as to her character. Most of these people were famous in a way, although in most cases their fame did not extend more than twenty blocks to the north, forty blocks to the south, seven blocks to the east and four blocks to the west. There were others who were not famous, but were prominent in Harrisburg, Denver, Albany, Nashville, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Portland, Me., Dayton and Hartford. Among these was Mrs. Dunbar Vicks, of Cleveland, in town on one of her three or four visits a year to see a friend’s private collection of dirty movies and to go to bed with a young man who formerly worked for Finchley. Mrs. Vicks was standing at the bar, with her back to Walter R. Loskind, the Hollywood supervisor, who was talking to Percy Luffberry, the director. Percy owed a great deal to Walter. When Percy was directing “War of Wars” he had small charges of explosive buried here and there in the ground, not enough to hurt anyone, but enough so that when the charge was set off the extras in German uniforms would be lifted off the ground. The extras had been warned about that and were being paid a bonus for this realism. It went all right until Percy decided he wanted to have one extra crawling along the ground instead of walking. When the charge was set off the extra lost both eyes, and if Walter hadn’t stood by Percy, Percy would have been in a hell of a fix. Seated directly across the room was Mrs. Noel Lincoln, wife of the famous sportsman-financier, who had had four miscarriages before she found out (or before her doctor dared tell her) that a bit of bad luck on the part of her husband was responsible for these misfortunes. Mrs. Lincoln was sitting with pretty little Alicia Lincoln, her niece by marriage, who was the source of cocaine supply for a very intimate group of her friends in society, the theater, and the arts. Alicia was waiting for a boy named Gerald, whom she took to places where girls could not go unescorted. Bruce Wix, the artists’ representative, came in and tried to get the eye of Walter R. Loskind, but Walter did not look. Bruce stood alone at the bar. Henry White, the writer, was told he was wanted on the telephone—the first move, although he did not know it, in the house technique of getting rid of a drunk. On the way out he bowed to Dr. (D.D.S.) Jack Fry, who was arriving with one of his beautiful companions. It was afternoon, so the companion was not wearing the Fry pearls, which Dr. Fry always loaned to show girls and actresses while they were out with him. Mr. and Mrs. Whitney Hofman, of Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, arrived at this time, wishing they had been better friends so they could find something to talk about without self-consciousness. They were joined by Whitney’s cousin Scott Hofman, a cross-eyed fellow who at the age of thirty did not have to shave more than once a week. Mike Romanoff came in, looked around the room, and went out again. A party of six young people, Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer House, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Whitehall, and Miss Sylvia House and Mr. Irving Ruskin, were told at the door that they could not come in because they had not made reservations. They had to make way for a Latin-American diplomat whose appointment to Washington showed what his country thought of this. He had had malaria before he caught siflis, which is the wrong order for an automatic cure. Inside again, banging on his table for a waiter, sat Ludovici, the artist, who had several unretouched nude photographs of Gloria which she wished she had back. He was with June Blake, show girl and model, who after four days was still cheerful over winning nearly a thousand dollars on Twenty Grand. The bet had not been made through a bookmaker, and involved no cash outlay on her part. It was a slightly intricate arrangement between herself and Archie Jelliffe, the axle man, who told June he would place the bet for her if she would agree to bring to his country place a certain virgin he wanted to know better. Was it June’s fault that the former virgin was at this minute in a private hospital? Robert Emerson, the magazine publisher, came in with his vice-president, Jerry Watlington. Emerson was trying to make life pleasanter for Watlington, who had just been blackballed at a good club which Emerson belonged to. Emerson sincerely regretted the blackball, now that he had put it in. Mad Horace H. Tuttle, who had been kicked out of two famous prep schools for incendiarism, was there with Mrs. Denis Johnstone Humphries (whose three names seldom were spelled right), of Sewickley Heights, near Pittsburgh. Mrs. Humphries was telling Horace how she had to drive around in a station wagon because strikers stoned her Rolls. The worst of it was she was riding in the Rolls at the time, personally holding her entry for the Flower Show, and when the stones began to beat against the car she had presence of mind enough to lie on the floor, but forgot about the roses and crushed them. Her story was not interrupted when Horace nodded to Billy Jones, the gentleman jockey, who walked quickly to the bar with two dollars in his hand, had a quick double whiskey-soda, and walked out, with the two dollars in his hand. The bartender simply entered it against Billy’s account—Billy was supposed to be a little screwy from knocks on the head. Kitty Meredith, the movie actress, came in with her adopted son, four years old, and everybody said how cute he was, what poise, as he took a sip of her drink.