365 Nights in Hollywood: A City Without a Pawnshop

Jimmy Starr began his career in Hollywood in the 1920s, writing the intertitles for silent shorts for producers such as Mack Sennett, the Christie Film Company, and Educational Films Corporation, among others. He also toiled as a gossip and film columnist for the Los Angeles Record in the 1920s and from 1930-1962 for the L.A. Herald-Express.
Starr was also a published author. In the 1940s, he penned a trio of mystery novels, the best known of which, The Corpse Came C.O.D., was made into a movie.
In 1926, Starr authored 365 Nights in Hollywood, a collection of short stories about Hollywood. It was published in a limited edition of 1000, each one signed and numbered by the author, by the David Graham Fischer Corporation, which seems to have been a very small (possibly even a vanity) press.
Here’s “A City Without a Pawnshop” from that 1926 collection.


The boulevard was black and cold and shiny.
Once it had glittered.
Now it was deserted—unfriendly.
The rain tapped an incessant tattoo upon the street, the buildings and the window panes. It was a Ben Hecht rain—it was different.
Larry sat huddled in the doorway of an exclusive men’s furnishings store. The noise of water rushing down the metal drain-pipe kept him awake.
His shoes were oozing with water. His thin face was covered with a two days’ growth of beard. His colorless lips were tobacco stained.
What a creature!
A massive enclosed car swished by. Larry shivered and moved closer to the door.
The rain slackened. The sky was slowly growing gray. A heavy mist began to fall. The awning shook water on Larry’s haggard face.
He heard the scuffle of footsteps down the street. The street lamps seemed to be fighting for justice against the thick mist.
Larry was damp. He ached.
Old Joe, a studio watchman, stopped and looked at Larry. His blue eyes seemed to gleam in the obscurity.
“‘Lo Joe,” said Larry weakly.
“What’s the matter, son—no bed?”
“Hell, no, the damn car I slept in the last couple o’ nights at the auto park was sold yesterday and the rest of ’em have leaky tops.”
Larry grunted disgustedly.
“Well, come on, son, let’s have a cup of Java at John’s down the street.”
Larry shook himself as they entered the deserted cafe. Old Joe climbed upon one of the high stools at the counter.
A sleepy waiter set glasses of water before them.
“What’ll it be?” he asked.
“Cup o’ coffee for me,” muttered Larry.
“Naw, wait a minute,” interposed Old Joe, “make it two orders of ham an’ eggs. Do you want yours over, Larry?”
“Yes, thanks, Joe.”
The waiter slouched his way back to the kitchen. Soon he rattled a skillet.

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Times Square Tintypes: Molly Picon

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles actress and star of the Yiddish Theatre Molly Picon.


MOLLY PICON. The darling of East Broadway.
Caricature of Molly PiconShe is not quite five feet and weighs a hundred pounds. Wear a size eleven girl’s dress. Her toes never reach the tip of her stockings.
She is always asking questions.
Her one disappointment in life is that she wasn’t born a boy.
Made her stage début as an infant prodigy at amateur nights. In those days she was “Baby Margaret.” Ten years ago in Boston she deserted vaudeville for the Yiddish stage by joining a Jewish burlesque show. She speaks English better than many actors on Broadway.
Has a mania for French dolls. Her apartment is cluttered with them.
She writes the lyrics of all her songs. For every show she learns something new. She can sing, dance, perform feats of magic, play six different musical instruments and do acrobatic tricks.
Hates to talk on the telephone. If she is home alone she never answers the phone but lets it keep on ringing.
In every play she wears a dress suit. She owns one dress suit with three pairs of paints.
Always sits with her feet on the chair.
She is married. When she first met her husband, Jacob Kalish, he never combed his hair, shined his shoes or pressed his trousers. She told him that if he dolled up she’d marry him. He immediately bought three suits and invited her to his house. He then changed suits every half hour. There was nothing left for her to do but marry him. She proudly states that he can make love to her in six different languages.
She carries Jewish luck charms given to her by rabbis.
Whenever she has a new dress she goes to the Royal Café. This is the Reuben’s, Sardi’s and Algonquin of Second Avenue.
Is always putting her fingers in her mouth but never bites her nails.
When it comes to naming a favorite actor and actress, Charlie Chaplin and Helen Hayes head her honor roll.
She has performed in Russia, Roumania, Galicia, Jerusalem and Austria. The results of this tour were a gift from Queen Marie of Roumania, the finding of Joseph Rumshinsky (he now writes the music for all her plays) in Vienna and the naming of two gardens after her in Jerusalem.
During intermission she always drinks a glass of tea with lemon.
Offstage she never uses powder, lipstick or perfume. She doesn’t smoke.
She wears both nightgowns and pajamas. She buys neither. It is the custom of the Yiddish theater to have a “Testimonial Evening” once a month. On these occasions she receives nightgowns and pajamas from admirers.
When she was born the midwife looked at her and said: “Nebesh—poor kid.” Her mother didn’t kiss her until she was a year old.
Is actually afraid of people who talk figures. Has no head for business. Her husband arranges all her financial affairs.
She gets a big kick out of reading poetry and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her favorite author is Ben Hecht. In her opinion One Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago is one of the finest books ever written.
D. W. Griffith is her most ardent admirer. He intends to star her shortly in a talking picture.
She lives with her husband, mother and sister. Her husband is a part owner of Kessler’s Second Avenue Theatre, where she performs. Her mother is a wardrobe mistress at that theater. Her sister does the cooking for the family. They keep a kosher house. Outside, however, Molly loves to go to a Chinese restaurant and eat roast pork.

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In Your Hat, pt. 2

Here’s Chapter 2 of In Your Hat, the 1933 tell-all memoir by Hat Check Girl to the Stars, Renee Carroll:

     I DON’T claim that Ziegfeld missed a bet when I decided to become a hat check girl, but I fill a spoke in the wheel, and most of the boys want to go around with me.
     Honestly, though, I can’t say I hate it when for no good reason at all Buddy Rogers kisses my hand as publicly as if we had been on the Roxy stage. Two girls who were squashing their noses against Sardi’s window well-nigh swooned when that happened, and I’d be fibbing if I said I was far from pulling a faint myself. Only a few weeks before I had been standing at the stage door of the Paramount Theater waiting to catch a glimpse of America’s Boy Friend, reveling in the usual girl’s thoughts about swinging in a hammock with Buddy Rogers at my side, or is it paddlin’ a canoe or listenin’ to the moon? I’d heard lots of people call the tall dark boy Bloody Rogers in jest, but it isn’t fair.
     Well, anyway, he came into Sardi’s, handed me his hat, and then, inquiring after my health in a most solicitous manner, touched his lips to my hand. Maybe it’s true that a couple of the Broadway wise boys who were sitting in the restaurant did make noises that sounded suspiciously like Bronx nose blowing, but it was a dream of a moment. For a second I forgot that I was supposed to be sophisticated.
     And Bob Montgomery, before he became what he is, and you know what that is, was just another of the nice Broadway gang. He was one of my “promissory nuts”, as I called the boys of that class, who were always promising things for the dim future.
     In Bobby’s case, it was always the generous tip he was forecasting because he didn’t have even a dime in his jeans to leave for checking. Not that I minded at all, but business must be on the level. And whenever he’d pick up his hat, after unsuccessful attempts to land some work by being seen at Sardi’s during lunch, he’d say: “Put it on the cuff, Renee.” Unfortunately, I wear no cuffs except mental ones, and I keep remembering little things like that.
     Especially I’ll never forget the little fellow who was so near-sighted that he once tipped me a penny, certain that it was a dime. And ever afterward, recalling his mistake, he would come into Sardi’s every day and say: “You remember me, don’t you, young lady? I’m the man who gave you a cent by mistake!” As if I’d ever forget a penny tip!
     Tipping is a great art if you know how, and getting the tip—particularly from a celebrity—is even a greater one. Getting a man to tip without his being conscious of the amount is the most delicate and subtle operation in the world. Some day I’m going to write a book on “The Technique of Tipping.”
     I’ve been talking a lot on this subject to professional waiters. I don’t mean the boys who are helping Mother along by taking up the table as a sideline, but those whose front handles are usually Oscar or Fritz, and in whose families waiting has been a profession for centuries. One of our waiters was so proud of his serving lineage he claimed that one of his ancestors served spaghetti on the Santa Maria!
     People naturally hate to tip, especially when they have a Gallic strain in them. Generosity is not usually governed by economic conditions. Even when a man who tips a good amount ordinarily is almost broke, he will not let this be a factor in keeping him from tipping his usual amount. It’s the habitual tightwad who’ll skimp on service and then go out and let his girl friend rook him for some matched sables.
     One day Walter Donaldson, the songwriter, drove up to the restaurant with Maurice Chevalier. It was summer, and as Chevalier came out of the auto, he took off his hat and threw it on the back seat. Donaldson kept his on.
     I believe in the equal distribution of wealth, and when the two approached my booth, I stopped the inimitable Maurice.
     “Mr. Chevalier,” I began. “I paid a dollar to see your newest picture last night.”
     “Oh yes? And how did you like it?”
     “I thought it was fine,” I told him.
     “Thank you very much.”
     “But, Mr. Chevalier, after I paid a dollar to see your picture, do you think it’s fair for you to leave your hat in the car to save a dime?”
     I knew it wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but it worked like a charm. The Frenchman ran out into the street, retrieved his hat and deposited it with me.
     “It will never happen again!” he assured me as his famous underslung lip curled forward in its traditional smile
     “Merci, mille fois.” I told him in my best French. He tweaked my cheek and marched on. Walter Donaldson thought it was a riot and didn’t stop laughing for two days.
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