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 “The Orange Cure” from that 1926 collection.
THE ORANGE CURE
The last of the bright lights on Grant Avenue had just flickered out. Jerry Thorn half fell through a dark doorway to the sidewalk. The street was deserted and unusually quiet; it seemed uncanny that a street like this—the main thoroughfare of San Francisco’s Chinatown—could be so completely abandoned by the denizens of the quaint city.
Jerry shook himself and turned up the lapels of his much-worn coat. A heavy fog was coming in; a wet one. As he looked down the hill, he could barely see the illuminated clock of the Ferry Building. It was about one o’clock, he thought. The small dose of opium he had would last only about five hours, and he had dreamed off about six o’clock.
Jerry Thorn, once a famous clubman and society idler of the petted circles of San Francisco, was now a forgotten person. It had been nearly a year since he had sat in a wicker chair at the Polo Club near Half-Moon Bay. He had been a handsome chap then.
Ten months of cheap food, bad sleeping quarters, a nightly four-hour dose of dope and the thoughts of being a failure had made Jerry a hollow-cheeked person with sunken eyes. His once brisk, energetic walk was now a shuffle. His once erect carriage was now round-shouldered and slow. His once immaculate suits were now wrinkled, torn and ill-fitting.
Yes, Jerry had been a failure in business as well as in life. He was now as low as a man would go,—a fiend, a dirty, mind-wandering dope fiend. His name now meant nothing at the club, where once it had been mentioned with pride.
He leaned carelessly against a lamp post. The fog was extremely thick now. He was unable to see the end of the short street. The sidewalk was wet and the light made the small drops of water glisten on his coat. He fumbled in his coat pockets for a cigarette.
Jerry was at the stage where his body craved at least four hours of dope sleep a day. The other hours were spent in wishing for the next session of peaceful living and sleep. He was in a pitiful condition and there was none to care.
The big form of Harvey London, patrolman of the section for ten years now, came within Jerry’s view.
“Howdy, Jerry. Howzit tonight?”
The big officer stood in front of him, adjusting his heavy raincoat tighter at the neck.
“Not so good. Just got kicked out for the night.”
“Too bad, kid. Y’ought to get a home somewhere.”
Jerry struck a match and lit a pocket-worn cigarette.
“Thaz all right. I’ll get along, I guess. Sorry I ain’t got another fag for you, Harvey.”
“Never mind that; come on down and have a cup of mud at Charley’s.”
Together they walked down the slippery cement to the only all night cafe in Chinatown. It wasn’t like the old days, when they were open all night and slept all day. Times had changed this little city, especially the closing of the Barbary Coast. The tongs had departed and there was very little of the old life evidence.
Charley’s had just six customers when they entered. Jerry recognized two dope peddlers and three pickpockets. The other man was like himself,—a bum, a drain on the kind persons who inhabited the section.
Jerry drank his coffee slowly, while Harvey munched on two stale doughnuts. The officer then called Charley over to him. They were sitting a small table on the side.
“Charley, I want you to let the kid here sleep in that piano box of yours in the back. It’s gonna be a cold morning and he’s out for the night.”
Charley nodded and went back to his place behind the long counter. Jerry remembered that Charley had once been a prize fighter. Anyway he looked the part.
Presently Jerry wandered over to him.
Charley threw a dirty dishwasher’s apron at him and pointed to a pile of unwashed plates, cups and silverware.
It was two-thirty when Jerry had finished his work. he stacked the dishes in their places and went back to Charley in the kitchen.
He heard the front door open and the sound of loud female voices; voices hardened by cigarettes and modern gin. He turned, and recognized two former clubmen of his, another insipid chap and three scantily clad young women.