Times Square Tintypes: Paul Whiteman

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles rotund orchestra leader and the King of Jazz (or so he was once known), Paul Whiteman.
 

A LEADER AMONG MEN

PAUL WHITEMAN. Let the most important fact come first. He weighs 248 pounds.
Caricature of Paul WhitemanHe once studied to be a mechanical engineer.
He has a passion for striped ties and flashy autos.
Was born in Denver, March 28, 1890. His father and mother were both six feet tall. His father was director of musical education in the city schools. His mother sang in the choir.
Once he enlisted in the navy. Then he organized a naval jazz band.
His prize possession is a photograph of himself at the age of three. Here he is seen wearing green velvet pants and playing a toy violin.
He can lead an orchestra by merely shrugging his shoulders or moving his thumbs.
Was a viola player in the Denver Symphony Orchestra and drove a taxi on the side to make money.
Custard is his favorite dessert. He calls it “gap and swallow.”
The Prince of Wales is his pal.
He is married to Vanda Hoff, dancer. They have a son, Paul Whiteman, Junior.
One of his first jobs in a jazz band was in a honky-tonk in San Francisco. Here the folks threw coins in a barrel if they liked you. These coins were your salary.
He plays golf and has one friend he can beat.
Will pay any price for a musician he desires. Often takes men getting only $60 a week away from another band by paying them $250 a week.
Made his New York d&eacutebut at the Palais Royal.
The first place he heard jazz was at Capper’s Neptune Palace in Africa.
Has a remarkable memory, never forgetting the smallest detail. Commenting on this trait, a wisecracker gagged: “Oh, well, an elephant never forgets.”
Never passes a street musician without slipping him a bill.
Whenever he attends the opera he cries. His favorite opera is Parsifal.
For relaxation he will sit before a victrola listening to records of his band playing.
Eats very little for one of his size. Some of his choice dishes are chicken and cream served at the Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis; hot cakes, doughnuts and strawberry shortcake at his relatives’ in Denver; wienerwurst and sauerkraut at Joe’s in Minneapolis and antipasto at Sardi’s.
The first record he ever made was “Avalon.” It was spoiled in repeated trials by the audible soft oaths of players cursing their own mistakes.
The first of the Whitemans spelled it Wightman.
He wears pink nightgowns that fall to his ankles and a tassled night cap.

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That’s one beautiful five-and-dime

May 1940, Indianapolis, Indiana.


Hi-res view

Hoo-boy, do we love this photograph, which is from a 35mm nitrate negative taken by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration.

The bird’s-eye POV, the pristine quality of the building housing the Woolworth’s store, the amazing automobiles. It’s so perfect, it almost seems artificial—like an artist’s handiwork in miniature.

Pitch perfect: communities

As the Pitch Perfect series continues, today we feature a 1949 collection of advertising slogans used to market cities and civic campaigns.

America’s birthplace (Plymouth Colony Assn.), Plymouth, Wisc.
America’s dairyland (Wisconsin).
America’s home town (Plymouth Colony Assn.).
America’s lake country (The Thousand Lakes Assn.), St. Paul.
America’s Mediterranean (Miami Shores), Miami.
America’s only tropics (Coral Gables), Miami.
At the seashore, in the country, near the city (Lido Beach), New York.

Birth state of the nation (Pennsylvania).

Center of scenic America (Salt Lake City).
City that does things, The (Norfolk, Va.).
City of destiny (Tacoma).
City of industrial opportunity, The (Warren, Pa.).
Clean up and paint up (Nat. Clean Up Campaign Bureau), New York.
Clean, paint up and fix up (Nat. Clean Up Campaign Bureau).
Climate best by government test (Redwood City, Calif.).
Cool off in Colorado.
Cordage city, The (Auburn, N. Y.).
Crossroads of the Pacific (Hawaii).

Dallas is the door to Texas.
Double crossroads of America (Indianapolis).
Dynamo of Dixie, The (Chattanooga, Tenn.).

Enchanted land of opportunity, Florida.

Find your place in the sun (San Francisco Peninsula).
For cleanliness, thrift and civic pride (Nat. Clean Up Campaign).
Forging a share in victory (Thompson McLaughlin Co.), Portland, Me.
Forward with Memphis, since ’69.

Give them life and make it worth living (United Jewish Appeal).
Give to conquer cancer (American Cancer Society).
Good citizenship is good business (Nat. Clean Up Campaign).
Great state in which to live and work, A (Rhode Island).

Heart of America, The (Missouri).
Heart of the fruit belt, The (Benton Harbor, Mich.).
Help others help themselves (Salvation Army).
Hub city of the southeast, The (Spartanburg, S. C.).
Hub of the Americas (New Orleans).
Hub of the highways, The (Cape Girardeau Bridge, Mo.).
Hub of world flight (Mass. Development & Industrial Comm.), Boston.

Inside the sins of adventure (Manitoba, Canada).
Isle of June (Nassau Development Board, Nassau).
It is profitable to produce in Massachusetts.
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Snapshot in Prose: Red Nichols

This week’s Snapshot in Prose captures cornet and trumpet player Red Nichols at a relatively early point in his career, though he had already made hundreds of recordings under a variety of band names. But, to a certain degree, the more traditional jazz he favored, with its Dixieland flavor, was on the verge of being replaced by the new swing craze.

But Nichols survived and even thrived, continuing to record and perform until his death in 1965. In this 1935 profile, Nichols looks back at his salad days in the world of jazz.

Who plays the red-hottest trumpet in captivity? Red Nichols! Who has the grandest, wavy red hair and come-hitherest laughing brown eyes? Red Nichols! Yet, this utterly charming and totally unaffected young maestro, who became famous from the hour “Red Nichols and His Five Pennies” lit on Broadway, is almost shy.
The day, recently, when this fascinating, slim young leader celebrated his thirtieth birthday, he was also congratulated upon having devoted a quarter of a century to the art of playing a trumpet!
The “veteran” is of medium height. He doesn’t tan tan but red, and his face retains its ruddiness from one season to the next. While Red is remarkably good-humored, he literally sees red when he has to do with chiselers and liars. For the big red haired boy is a square straight-shooter himself.
He was born thirty miles from Salt Lake City. He lists Brigham Young among the half-dozen greatest men in history. However, the Nichols family were not practical Mormons.
Red’s father, E. W. Nichols, was professor of music at Weber College, Ogden, Utah, and at the State University in Salt Lake City. When little E. Loring (Red, to us) was three years old he was running around with a silver-plated trumpet in his mouth. At five, he played “America” before Weber’s entire student body.
“I always loved the cornet best. My trumpet technique improved under the guidance of Captain O’Callaghan,” he told me.
The boy was a good student. He also excelled on the track, and at basketball. A military career loomed ahead. For strangely enough, Red’s parents strenuously objected to their son having a musical career, unless he would devote himself exclusively to the classics.

“I ran away from home, the summer I was sixteen, to join a dance band at Piquet, Ohio,” the affable leader said. “It was called the Syncopating Five. We got stranded in Indianapolis. There was no work. I wouldn’t go home. Washed dishes in a lunch room for three weeks for my food.”
“Then, with nothing at all, I got Ralph Dunkee, of the now famous Sisters of the Skillet and organized a cooperative dance band. In Lake James, Indiana, we found ourselves broke. Luckily, about that time along came the Syncopating Five, and asked me—” Red gave us one of those priceless, roguish looks, and went on, “or rather I asked them, if I could have a job again.

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