Times Square Tintypes: Jim Tully

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles Jim Tully, hobo, pugilist, journalist, and author.


The American Gorki. He found that hoboing was the road to success. JIM TULLY
The first thing one notices about him is his flaming red hair. He is five feet three and weighs 163 pounds. His skin is sun drunk. His hands are small and pudgy. He has the thighs of a burlesque queen. Standing, his body like a question mark, he appears ready to leap.
He works and talks at a breakneck pace.
He bites his finger nails.
His mother died when he was four. His father was a ditch digger. His uncle a horse thief. He was in an orphanage until eleven years old. Here, for his ability to memorize the preacher’s sermon and say catechism he won a rosary. But a more pious kid stole it.
Wears only five-dollar neckties and has his suits made to order by an anarchist tailor in Hollywood.
Is very proud that Mencken and Nathan are his pals and drink beer with him. Is prouder of this than their esteem for his books.
Started his literary career by writing fake stories for a “True Confession” magazine. One of his prize yarns was The Memoirs of a Japanese Geisha Girl.
His philosophy of life is: “What the hell—the grave ends everything.”
As a youth he looked forward to becoming the world’s greatest bank robber. Gave up the idea when told by a railroad detective he would be caught easily. Because no other person on earth could possibly look like him.
His first book, Beggars of Life, he submitted to four publishers simultaneously. The four accepted.
Likes to write in the first person. Believes a direct lie is always more convincing.
Was once a prize fighter. His pugilistic career ended in a California ring when he was knocked out in the first round and remained unconscious for twenty-four hours.
Combs his hair once a day whether it needs it or not.
The only thing he fears is a smart-aleck interviewer.
He has slept on a park bench, in H. L. Mencken’s bed, under a freight train, at the Algonquin, and on cold, barren ground, his closed eyes staring at the stars. No matter where he sleeps, he snores.
His name when a hobo was Cincy Red.
Always finds out where people were born, their ages, likes and dislikes, and secret sorrows by the second meeting.
He would like to conduct a society column for a newspaper.
Never wore a dress suit in his life. Thinks he would look like a chorus boy if he did.
His father, 78 years old, is still alive. He sends his dad press clippings, good and bad, periodically. His father is a bit disappointed because Jim didn’t become a champion prize fighter.
James Branch Cabell is his favorite American author.
He is very moody. Has intense fits of melancholy and terrible laughter.
Doesn’t think he should be judged by what he says about former friends in interviews but by the way he writes.
When interviewing he never takes notes. A week later he writes the interview from impressions.
He easily recognizes his own ability and is annoyed by those who don’t.
He wears high-laced tan shoes. They are made to order for him and imported from London.
From force of habit he greets an old friend with: “Did you eat yet?”
He lives and works in Hollywood. Writes in a big, oblong room on the second floor of his house. The room is lined with books from floor to ceiling. Has a flat, square desk with a swivel chair. A beer barrel is within swinging distance. He calls his house “One More Illusion.”
In writing a book he does not strive for literary style. Claims he writes naturally. Just as if he were writing a letter to a harlot.
He doesn’t smoke.
Jarnegan is his favorite character in all history. Claims that whenever he feels lonely and depressed he sits down and talks things over with him.
Makes women think his novels belie him because of his soft speech with them. When with men, however, he is just like his novels—turbulent and violent and cussing.
The two greatest guys in the world as far as he is concerned, are George Jean Nathan and Oklahoma Red.
He has a yen for beautiful and beautifully dressed women.
He dreads the thought that some day he won’t be alive.

Times Square Tintypes: Samuel Shipman

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles Samuel Shipman, a playwright of some prominence in the first half of the twentieth century.
SAMUEL SHIPMAN. When he was graduated from Columbia this line appeared under his picture in the college book: “God Makes Some Strange Things.”
His first play, which he wrote at the age of twelve, was something called Justice. It was performed at the Jewish Educational Alliance.
He is marvelously unkempt. Even after he has had a shave and a haircut he needs a shave and a haircut.
As a kid he wore phony jewelry to appear rich.
Writes all his plays in Atlantic City. He engages a suite in one of the exclusive hotels. He always takes two stenographers an a collaborator with him. He dictates everything he writes. Paces the floor and is often in another room shouting the lines. The stenographers work in relays, one resting while the other is taking the dictation.
He never sleeps more than four hours a day. And always one of these hours is between five and six in the morning.
He made a million dollars in royalties from Friendly Enemies and East Is West. So did Wall Street.
Likes to drink and play with tea. Is always pouring the tea from the glass to the saucer and then back into the glass.
Has only one superstition. That is he must start an finish his plays on a Tuesday. It doesn’t matter if the Tuesdays are months apart.
He once taught English in an East Side school.
Everything he does he describes as “terrific.”
Has only one superstition: that is, theatrical notables. Eugene O’Neill, for example, he believes is only an intellectualized Theodore Kremer. Claims the only thing he likes about George Jean Nathan is H. L. Mencken. A. H. Woods is his favorite producer. Because whenever he hands that impresario a flop Woods never cries, but merely says: “It’s all right, sweetheart; try again.”
He rarely eats meat. His favorite meal is one composed solely of caviar.
Likes to go prowling about the city at night and often sets out at midnight, alone.
The sight of fish fascinates him. He is a frequent visitor at the Aquarium.
He never hangs up anything. His clothes are sprawled about the house. On entering he tosses his hat anywhere. His coat is dropped on the living room floor; the vest on the bedroom floor. His trousers he carefully places at the foot of his bed. He dresses faster than a fireman.
To date he has had twelve collaborators. His favorite is John B. Hymer because Hymer understands him.
He wants to know everything before anyone else.
Never reads a book during the winter. Every summer he goes for a vacation in the Catskill Mountains, taking two valises full of books with him.
Doesn’t like young girls. Never goes out with a lady under thirty-five.
Never falls in love with an actress. His sweetheart is a nonprofessional. Her parents, however, dislike everything connected with the theater and won’t allow him in the house.
His ambition in life is to write the libretto of an opera and to have it presented at the Metropolitan Opera House.
He suffers from indigestion. His secretary carries his pills and reminds him when he has indigestion.
At Columbia he studied playwriting under Brander Matthews, who gave him a C minus. He asked that his mark be raised and Matthews asked why. Shipman then pulled out a contract for a play he had just sold. Matthews merely replied: “It’s the old story. Theory is theory and practice is practice.”
He covered the Ruth Snyder case for a tabloid newspaper.
Never cleans his shoes on the outside, but only inside. This, he claims, is healthy for the feet.
He can recite most of Ibsen’s plays from memory. While writing a play his teeth become loose; in fact, so loose that he can pluck them. To date he has plucked six. The minute the play is finished his teeth tighten. He is continually visiting dentists because of this condition.
The greatest disappointment one can get in life, he believes, is meeting somebody one had heard a lot about.
One evening at the Lambs Club Eugene O’Neill was playing poker with a group of playwrights. After losing all his money O’Neill offered to play on his ability as a dramatist. After another hour of heavy losing O’Neill got up and started for home. As he was leaving the doorman said: “Good night, Mr. Shipman.”
The only time he ever combs his hair is before going to bed.