Times Square Tintypes: Patrick Cain

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles Patrick “Patsy” Cain, a man who made a living storing the scenery from closed Broadway shows.


An author spends months writing a play. A producer stakes everything on it. Days and nights of weary rehearsals with stars sweating. The play opens. Evening dress and silk hats. Speculators selling tickets on the sidewalk. Everybody is so happy. A few months later a truck backs up at the stage door. The path of glory leads but to Cain’s.
Caricature of Patrick CainPATRICK CAIN is the owner of that theatrical storehouse. Everybody calls him Patsy.
He attended P. S. 32. Bows his head shamefully when admitting that he didn’t have the honor of receiving a diploma.
His father, John J. Cain, a former policeman, started the trucking business forty-two years ago. He used to help his father just for the ride.
Seldom goes to an opening night. Producers, considering him a jinx, shoo him away. He has attended more closing nights than any other man in the world.
Has a broken nose. This he received in his youth during a block fight.
His warehouse is located at 530 West Forty-first Street. Directly opposite is an old brewery with a statue of a fallen man holding a schooner of beer. He seems to be saying to those show entering their final resting place: “Here’s to Better Days.”
Is happily married and the proud possessor of four children. Has his own home in Flushing. It was built especially for him by a stage carpenter.
He doesn’t drink, smoke or use profane language.
Rarely eat in restaurants. Has breakfast and dinner at home. Has lunch at his sister’s, who lives two blocks from his place of business.
The storehouse consists of five stories and a basement.
The fifth floor is for the shows of Aarons and Freedley, Schwab and Mandel, Gene Buck and the personal belongings of W. C. Fields and Laurette Taylor. The fourth floor holds the last remains of Florenz Ziegfeld‘s Follies and George White‘s Scandals. Their mighty efforts for supremacy rest in peace. The third floor is for Sam H. Harris, Douglas Fairbanks, A. L. Erlanger and the Paramount Theatre. The second floor is occupied by Richard Herndon and others. The basement is for the canvas “drops.” They are rolled neatly and lie row on row. Their tombstone is an identification tag on which is scrawled in pencil: “Garden Drop—Follies—1917.”
He drinks two chocolate ice cream sodas every day. On Sunday evenings he takes the entire family to the neighborhood drug store and treats them to sodas.
Employs only four men—a night watchman, a day watchman, a bookkeeper and a superintendent. He hasn’t a secretary. But the superintendent, attired in greasy overalls, takes great pride in referring to himself as “Patsy’s typewriter.”
He hires his help by the day. Employs exactly the number he needs for that day’s work. While on a job if the men eat before three o’clock they must pay for the meal. If they eat after three he must. Every day he phones his men at exactly one o’clock and says: “Boys, I think you ought to knock off now and get yourselves a bite to eat.”
He has eight gold teeth in his mouth. They make him look dignified.
Reads only two things. They are the dramatic reviews and the cartoons in the New Yorker.
Has the same amount of strength in his right hand as in his left. He can write just as unintelligibly with both.

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Times Square Tintypes: Arthur Hopkins

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles theatrical producer Arthur Hopkins.


ARTHUR HOPKINS. The sphinx of the show business.
Caricature of Arthur HopkinsHe scares people by saying nothing.
Was born October 4, 1878. His father was a doctor. He has seven brothers. All, with the exception of one, are professional men. The one, William Rowland Hopkins, is at present City Manager of Cleveland. This corresponds to the title of Mayor here.
Is a conservative dresser. Generally wears a derby or gray felt hat. He always wear a bow tie.
He was the first director in America to permit an actor to talk with his back to the audience.
Was once a reporter. Is noted for invading the Polish district of Cleveland and capturing the only photograph of Czolgosz, the assassinator of President McKinley. Every newspaper used this photograph, giving due credit.
He is the author of the book, How’s Your Second Act?
Loves to play golf. Two of his best friends are Sam H. Harris and Arthur Hammerstein. They are known as “the Three Golfing H’s.”
His office is a cubicle room in the Plymouth Theatre. He sits in his chair there, saddle fashion. His desk is piled high with manuscripts. Occasionally he gets reading jags and does nothing for days but read plays.
He is stubborn.
When he first started producing his efforts were rapped by the critics. He said: “I will be producing plays when all those boys are gone and forgotten.” The critics of that day were DeFoe, Reamer, Dale, Davies and Wolf. They are all gone. Years later the same Mr. Hopkins wrote: “I want no praise for bad work. If they find me careless or gross, cheap or vulgar, my head is on the block for them.”
His middle name is Melancthon.
Whenever he discovers what he thinks is an “author” he goes nuts.
Lives in Great Neck. Among his prize possessions there are a baby grand piano, a victrola, his wife—Eva McDonald—and a handsome mahogany poker outfit.
He bought On Trial by giving Elmer Rice a $50 advance. Then produced the play under the Cohan and Harris banner by giving them a fifty percent interest in the play. During one of the rehearsals he thought of the revolving stage. This made it possible to do the now famous flashback in twenty-six seconds.
Gets a big kick out of doing things people don’t expect him to do.
Is more agreeable when he has a flop than when he has a hit.
He never wears jewelry.
When rehearsing a play the stage curtain is always down. He sits in a chair or stands in the wings, smoking. Sometimes it is days before he says a word. For at least seven days the cast merely sit and read their parts. When he thinks that they understand the play thoroughly, he allows them to act. He never tells an actor what to do, but what not to do.
He tells the truth or nothing at all.
Has a terrific admiration for Robert Edmond Jones, Isadora Duncan and Raquel Meller.
Is the only producer who quotes himself in advertisements.
When he produced What Price Glory he thought real soldiers could play soldiers better than actors. Every soldier in that play, with the exception of the principals, had done service abroad.
His great passion is discovering new talent.
Has the ability actually to forget things he doesn’t wish to remember.
He writes most of the statements that are issued by the Producing Managers Association.
On the opening night of a play he does one of two things. He either sits in the light gallery, which hangs over the first balcony, and watches the play and the audience or sits backstage, near the stage door, with his back to the players, listening to the lines and the applause.
His favorite haunt is the Lotus Club.
Once one of his brothers visited him at the office. It is said that both sat there for half an hour before either greeted the other.
He keeps a cow on his estate at Great Neck because he insists on fresh milk every morning.
He knows more than he will talk about. Therefore, is given credit for knowing much more than he says.
The rest is silence.

Times Square Tintypes: Elmer Rice

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Elmer Rice.


THE 1929 Pulitzer prize play winner: ELMER L. RICE. He was born September 28, 1892. The locale: Madison Avenue near 106th Street. Until he was twenty-six he lived within a radius of two miles of his birthplace.
Caricature of playwright Elmer RiceHe has red hair. Shaves at least once a day. However, he has to be told to take a haircut.
He likes to go for long walks, wander through museums and look out of windows.
Graduated from public school. Went halfway through high school. He has no recollection of learning anything there of value to him. Later studied law. When he was admitted to the bar he quit the profession.
He is married and has two children—Robert, aged twelve, and Margaret, aged nine.
Hates to get up in the morning. His friends know enough never to disturb him before ten-thirty.
When he finished writing Street Scene he was critically ill. His wife peddled the play, bringing it first to the Theatre Guild. They rejected it and so did John Golden, Jed Harris and Arthur Hopkins. The news that Street Scene had been rejected by these producers was kept from Rice until he recovered from his illness. An agent sold the play to William A. Brady.
He has never been to a night club and never intends going.
Doesn’t care for the theater. He attends about three times a year and then sees musical comedies. Recently, because he has to cast two plays next season, he has been going to the theater three or four times a week. He has yet to see the third act of a play this year.
His name was Elmer L. Reizenstein. The L is for Leopold.
He owns some bum oil stocks.
The first time he ever went to the theater was when he was eighteen years old. Three years later he wrote his first play. It was On Trial. Similar to Street Scene, it was rejected by almost every producer, and then was a big hit when finally produced by Arthur Hopkins. William A. Brady was one of the many who rejected it.
Is especially fond of fat German pretzels and beer.

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Times Square Tintypes: Roxy

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles Samuel L. “Roxy” Rothafel, the impresario who was responsible for the legendary New York movie palace that bore his nickname.
Roxy also was one of the men behind Radio City Music Hall, a theatre he intended to be a live performance space but which quickly came to be used, for the next 47 years, as a grand and glorious movie palace. The Music Hall opened late in 1932, the year Skolsky’s book was published, which explains the fact that it isn’t mentioned in this profile.


He wanted a monument, so he built the Roxy Theatre and called it, with his usual simplicity, “The Cathedral of the Motion Picture.”

It is a living tribute to a great man. It oozes his personality. It is so great that it has even absorbed the man. He lives in his monument. Has an apartment adjacent to his business office on the sixth floor. The man—oh, yes, Samuel Lionel Rothafel. Everybody calls him what he calls his theater, Roxy.
He averages eighteen hours a day in the theater. When asked to make a speech on, “What I Do With My Leisure Time,” he was obliged to change the subject.
His favorite food is hamburger steak chopped very fine with onions. His favorite delicacy is hot dogs.
He has clothes in four places. At the theater, at home and at two golf clubs. Recently it took two men four weeks to make a complete inventory of his clothing.
In the motion picture industry his position is unique. He is the leader of presentations, the originator of the atmospheric prologue. Also, institutional movie houses, introducing staff uniforms and military ushers.
Has a habit of putting a final touch to a discussion by saying, “Applesauce. Bunk. Baloney.”
The first movie house he ever owned seated two hundred fifty people. The chairs were removable. Every time there was a big funeral there wasn’t any show. They needed the chairs.
Calls everybody by their first name or not at all.
His mascot is a black cat called “Lindy.” The cat walked in from the street the day Lindbergh hopped off for Paris. In has been there ever since.
He speaks with a lisp. Always has a sob in his throat. It’s a great radio voice. “Hello, everybody!”
His favorite eating place is a lunch wagon.
Every Thursday he spends the entire night rehearsing next week’s show. During rehearsals he is a fiery dynamo. Exhorting. Scolding. Unreasonable. Demanding the impossible and getting it. He always refers to his actors and stage crew as “My Children.”
In his apartment at the Roxy he has a valet, a chef and a butler.
His ushers are put through drills by a “Devil Dog” every morning.
His favorite exercise is handball. Is very proud of the fact that he plays well enough to beat Benny Leonard.
The orchestra pit is so large that Arthur Hopkins once remarked to him: “Don’t let the Shuberts see it or they’ll want to build a theatre there.

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