In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles William A. Brady, prominent actor, theatrical producer, and sports promoter and father to Hollywood actress Alice Brady.
“THE GAMBLER FROM THE WEST”
William A. Brady. Everybody calls him “Pop.”
He owns five watches but never carries one. Always guesses the time, and is fairly accurate.
Was born in San Francisco, June 19, 1863. Until he was five years old he had a Chinese lady for a nursemaid.
Lost a million dollars many times. He owned Within the Law and sold his rights to Arch Selwyn for $10,000. The play netted over a million. Jeanne Eagels brought him the script of Rain to produce. He said: “I no like.” Had Broadway in rehearsal and shelved it on the advice of George M. Cohan. That was another million. He was to be one of the promoters of the Carpentier-Dempsey fight. Had words with Jack Kearns and withdrew. The gate for that battle was a million and a half.
Last year while in a hospital nursing a broken leg, his doctors allowed him to read plays instead of taking sleeping tablets. He the much rejected Street Scene. He is now on his way to another million.
That A in his name is for Augustus.
Always has been interested in sports. He managed James J. Corbett, Jim Jeffries and Youssouf, “the terrible Turk.”
He wears a large brown felt hat. Always has a cigar in his mouth. Even when sleeping. Once was discovered in bed in a mass of flames which a friend put out with a fire extinguisher.
His idea of a good time is to buy champagne for the house. His favorite drink is a tall glass of rye. During the Corbett-Sullivan fight he consumed two quarts of whiskey.
Never carries a cane. Except when looking for a fight.
Alice Brady is his daughter by his first wife, Rose Marie Rene. William Brady, Jr., is his son by his present wife, Grace George.
Hasn’t an automobile, although he did own one for twenty years. His doctor ordered him to give it up because he never took a walk. He seldom crosses the street alone. Always waits for the red light.
He once cut cards with Arnold Rothstein. One cut for $45,000 and won.
Is sad because he isn’t allowed to attend prize fights. He takes and gives every blow himself. The last fight he saw was the Dempsey-Sharkey encounter. After it was over he was so exhausted that he had to be carried three blocks to a taxi.
Loves music. His favorites are “Faust,” “Killarney,” “Massa’s In The Cold, Cold Ground” and “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms.”
He likes to act and resents being called a ham. His most recent performance was in A Free Soul. Jumped into the leading role on only an hour’s notice. Placed the script on a table in the scene. Whenever he forgot a line he walked to the table.
When a young man he was a natty dresser. Today clothes don’t interest him. Used to wear many diamonds. Recently gave them all to Grace George for a necklace.
Reads all newspapers, trashy magazines and the highbrow ones. His favorite reading matter is the Congressional Record. Reads every line of it during sessions of Congress. Senator Heflin is his favorite comic.
Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover are the Presidents he knew and knows personally.
His choice of food depends upon what he is drinking. Has a cast-iron stomach. Is especially fond of Mexican tamales.
He claims the toughest job he ever had was managing Louis Mann for five years.
With Sir August Hannis he sneaked into Windsor Castle and disguised as a chorus man appeared before the King and Queen of England in a command performance of The Bohemian Girl.
Once desired to be the youngest man to climb Pike’s Peak. Halfway up he changed his mind and took the train back.
Can recite offhand any speech that Shakespeare ever wrote. Loves to see Shakespearean plays, but not to produce them.
Was arrested and put in prison once. That, when he broke up a street meeting of Dowie, the Evangelist, who was lecturing in front of the old Madison Square Garden.
He started wearing glasses at forty. He was told to do so when he was twenty.
Lives in a penthouse atop a fifteen-story building owns in Fifty-Fifth street. Spends his evenings there listening to the radio and looking out over Broadway. Wants the last thing he looks at before he dies to be a flash of the White Lights.
His credo is, “The Lord is always good to honest gamblers.”