Harpo's autobiographical book
If you've already read the book, congrats! I'm glad you found the time to read such a large, dictionary-sized book. Wasn't every bit of your persistance worth the effort?? And if you haven't read the book, are you hoping it'll fall into your sock from Sandy-Clause on Christmas morning? Get the darned thing! If $20 too much to spend for a new book, Amazon.com also has used copies for around $5! Not only that, but Amazon.com also allows you to read the first few chapters of the book. I know that this is sounding like an advertisement, but it's been awhile since it has been advertised ANYWHERE, so I think a lil' plug wouldn't hurt. The two photo sections in the book are wonderful, showing the Algonquin Round Tablers with Harpo while on holidays relaxing, early family photos, and Harpo playing outdoor sports, indoors playing card games, and more.. complete with his own captions!
Ok, enough of the advertisements...
Why was this page started?
This project began with reading the autobio. Unlike Groucho's books, Harpo wasn't afraid to mention names and places. One place he mentioned, "Kalamazoo, MI", had me remember that I had once visited a historic old theatre in Kalamazoo. I have a deep neverending love for historical places, so naturally I was itching to find out of if the theatre I had visited was the same theatre the Marx Brothers performed in, and more importantly, if it wasn't, does the theatre the marxs performed in still exist?
I looked around the internet and found the website of the theatre I had visited, only to find out that it was built in the late 20s (which was too old for the Marx to have performed there). I emailed a local Kzoo newspaper movie-reviewer, and he told me the building no longer existed and that the only historic theatre left was the restored 1927 State Theatre. I began to wonder if any of the other places were torn down, so I started this page.
I'm going to attempt to complete the history of the places Harpo mentioned in the book, and help you visualize what Harpo was seeing in parts of the book. This page is for those of you who are about to read the book or have read it before (it may entice you to read it second time!). Since Alexander Woollcott started to do his own research on some of the people in Harpo's stories, I decided to carry the torch and try to help finish the job of finding out what happened to some of the people, places, and old traditions in Harpo's life. Think of this page as a Marx Encyclopedia.
There were many big places that he repeatedly refered back to, but Harpo mentioned alot of places in short paragraphs, too, which are also mentioned here. The ones that are labeled "Unknown" are ones that I have researched online so far and cannot find anything about them. Mind you, the question of "Still exists?" is in reference to the building itself, not the company.
*HELP* I am hunting for photographs of the places he went to in the 1920-30's (or modern photos of what it looks like now), and I want to know if any of these places still exist. The only way I can research places is over the internet (since I do not live in New York). It may be easier for some of you to reach these place, so if anyone can help me with this "project", I'd appreciate it! You must remember that if you don't know for certain which theatre or place it was, ask the local shop owners or your older relatives who might remember. Indoor or outdoor photos are accepted, (basically anything that will give us an idea of the environment Harpo was in, no matter how battered and trashed it looks now).
93rd and Lexington: (map: 179 E 93rd St New York, NY 10128) The buildings were refaced. The Brownstone houses no longer have flowerboxes, but you can visualize them being there. There are some photos of the outside, curb, and the Brownstone apts at HarpoMarx.net. Still exists? Yes!
Ehrets Brewery: (website)(photo,1949) (photos, 1876) (clocktower artical) Located at 193 Melrose Street in Brooklyn. Ehret sold this building to Ruppert Brewery company in 1935. Ehret then moved to Union City, NJ. As for the building, the Schlitz company had it until around the 80's, and when Schlitz joined the company Stroh's, this building was included in the move. When Stroh's closed down in 1999, Schlitz closed down for good, and now I haven't a clue as to what happened to the building or if it is owned. Still exists?"Unknown"
Brewery stables: I'm not sure if even the brewery buildings are in tact. The stables would be a waste of space now, so I doubt that they exist either. Still exists? "Unknown"
Excursion boat: On which many families travelled to have a picnic. East River.
Jake Ruppert's mansion, corner of 93rd & Park Ave: Click here for info and photos! Still exists? no.
Ice works on Third Ave: I need info. Still exists? Unknown
Hockshop at Third & 63rd: One of the places Chico would haunt. Still exists? Unknown
Novelty shop at 86th: Bought items for cheap. Still exists? Unknown
East River: Well it was still there, the last time I checked. I would like photos from 1890-1919.
Tammany Hall: ?
Central Park: (website) (photo, 1895) (photo, 1860) There are over 30 tennis courts now, on the west side of the park, near 96th Street. A map of the layout is veiwable at Central Park's website. The Bethesda Terrace fountain still exists and the website says is a good place to people-watch, which (I'm guessing) he might've done to spot gangs, collect dropped items, or watch for funny people that he could later practice copying faces of. In the film "Love Happy", when the scene opens with Harpo trying to cheer up the girl, the bench and stage set is supposedly Central Park and the park carousel can be heard in the distance. Since he wrote the film's story, you get the chance to see what he would've liked if he was able to live inside his childhood hangout in Central Park. Also, in "Animal Crackers", Groucho mentions the park reservoir when having a confusing conversation with Chandler.
New York Public School No. 86: corner of E. 96th Street and Lexington Ave. Samuel Seabury playground was built where the school once stood (much to Harpo's delight, no doubt!) Still exists? No.
Goodkind's Bakery: Still exists? Unknown
Geiger's Dairy & Dried Fruits: Still exists? Unknown
Cigar store on Lexington Ave: (source) A cigar store, with card games, bookmaking, billiards in the back room. The place where The Gookie was born. Still exists? No.
Fieste's Oyster House: Nothing came up on internet search engines! I'm guessing that it was somewhere near Lexington Ave. Still exists? Unknown
Happy Times Tavern: Merrick Road, Long Island, NY. Still exists? Unknown
Max's Busy Bee: A diner. Still exists? Unknown
Neshobe Island: Lake Bomoseen in Rutland County, Vermont. (old paintings and artical) A family from Argile, New York currently owns the island. Still exists? Yes!
Fountain of Brussels: from the "Somewhere in California" army story (pg. 424). This fountain is known to the people of Belgium as "Manneken Pis", but Harpo has nicknamed him "pisseur." Legend has it a witch turned the poor 5-year old boy into a statue for peeing on her door, and he's been doing it for centuries since. Strange child..
San Simeon: (photos) Hearst Castle, California. For a 1930s tour of the Castle (as well as footage of Harpo Groucho & Chico chillin' poolside at Cary Grants pool party, and Groucho & Harpo soapbox racing against a kid), check out the great video of "Hollywood Without Make-Up" (Cover: Harpo sleeping in a beach-chair by Cary Grants pool), which also shows on TCM. The photos link will show you the infamous dining room, though you can't see the fireplace very well, you can see the flags. This place still exists and has many tourists per year, check out their website here. I reccomend paying attention to the Gothic Library, dining room, Neptunes Pool, and the many statues surrounding the property (on which Harpo might've put a fur coat on?)
Hillcrest Country Club:
Garden of Allah: California. Where celebs and dames crowded the pool and threw wild parties. Unfortunately its a strip-mall now. Click the link for history, photos, etc. Still exists? No.
George S. Kaufman's home: New Hope, PA. In 1953, after a divorce to his second wife, George auctioned the pool, mansion, out-buildings, and the 29-acres it sat upon to Mr. Bradford Green. 22-acres more of his land was auctioned to a neighbor, and the rest of the land was sold in smaller units in the same fashion. All of Beatrice's furniture/decore for the farm was auctioned too, which George felt "indifferent about", caring only about an autographed drawing of Mark Twain. Sad, really. Anyway, Mr. Green sold the farm to the Mills family, who transformed it to a "bed & breakfast", and then sold it to the Suess family. The Barley Sheaf bed & breakfast and all its buildings and pool still sits in perfect condition. (more:"Of mice and men" and Kaufmen's farm) Still exists? Yes!
Plymouth VT cemetery: (photo1)(photo2) It is actually called The Notch Cemetary. John Calvin Coolidge's gravestone. The first photo shows the Coolidge row in autumn, just like when Harpo and Aleck visited it in 1934. The second photo shows the headstone as Harpo saw it, flag attached. Still exists? Yes!
El Rancho Harpo: Cathedral City, Calif. Harpo's last home, horse ranch, and golf course.
For other places, from the race track in "A Day At The Races", to the Marx's drawings and handprints in Mann's Chinese Theatre, visit Seeing-Stars.com
Theatres and Performance Halls
Henderson's Music Hall (Coney Island): (bowery photo) (recent photo) (recent photo) It's trashed by what I've seen in photographs, but the building indeed does still exist! In the 1906 bowery photo, you can see the sign on the side of the building down the street, say "ersons". The insides of the building were torn out to break the place up into different shops, so now it is just a shell of what it once was. (Thanks to Joan for sending the 2 recent photos!)
Kalamazoo MI Theatre: This place, sadly, no longer exists, nor do I have any idea of what the theatre was called. Source: I asked James Sanford, the movie-reviewer from the Kalamazoo Gazette (the same newspaper who wrote the artical on the Marx Brothers act at the theatre in the early 1900s). He said that it was once located across the street from the gazette building, and that it was closed down a long time ago (like all the other old theatres in town). Still exists? No.
Pantages Theatre: For "Fun In Hi Skule", 1912.
Orpheum Theatre: (artical) Hannibal, Montana. For "I'll Say She Is". According to the artical, the Marxs performed at this particular Orpheum theatre. The theatre is being restored and will become a functioning performance theatre again, in which will include Vaudeville acts, among others. Hurray for restorers! Still exists? Yes!
Casino Theatre (Broadway): (details) For "I'll Say She Is". The place where Harpo met Alexander Woollcott and was reviewed in the Morning Sun newspaper. Still exists? No.
44th Street Theatre: (details) For "Animal Crackers", says the website. Still exists? No.
In reguards to the "circuits" that the Marxs played in, visit here for clippings, photos, info, and more (click "Stage"). I also reccommend visiting the Truman page which shows many memorable moments, and a photo of Harpo at Trumans Forest in Israel!
Election Day Bonfires: An online schedule for Hamilton County, NY mentioned for Dec 6, 2003 "Ceremonial bonfire at dusk. Kiddie shows. Buffet dinner. Fireworks and live entertainment 9pm - 1am." So it sounds like the tradition is still being carried. It'd be great if someone could tell me if ALL counties in New York do this and if it's controlled in one area (i doubt they allow it to happen on the streets of todays busy world). Here's an artical from 1896, showing that not all children were like Harpo on that night back then.
"Time For Beany": (photos) Believe it or not, Harpo loyally watched this puppet show and so did Albert Einstein, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, and Groucho Marx with his daughter Melinda. The show was only on for 15 minutes each day, but both kids and adults gathered around the TV set to watch a boy puppet named "Beany" and a sock-puppet named "Cecil the Seasick Sea-Serpant" go on short adventures to strange lands. Harpo's favorite character was Cecil.
This area is still being constructed. Eventually I'll have almost everyone here (including page numbers), making this a page index because the book doesn't have one. If I could find photos of any of the local townsfolk, I'm lucky. But I thought I should try to look anyway. (After all, Harpo thanked them!)
Algonquin Round Table & Woollcott Crowd
Alice Deur Miller: Nicknamed "Butch" since she could hold her own with the Algonquin crowd, as well as Woollcotts little private club.
Hillcrest Round Table
Mildred Dilling: harpist who helped Harpo
Art Fisher: Vaudeville monologist. Gave the Marxs their stage names.
Nick The Greek:
Amadeo Gucci: (link) the cigar-roller who sparked Harpo's interest and made him an instant comedian. Last name mispronounced as "Gookie" by local kids. (says the New York Daily News) I would love to find a photo of this fellow! Click the link for a letter about his name and the store.
Mr Burns: brownstone british-cut fellow (carried a cane w/silver handle, worn a dirby hat). retired attorney who lived across the street from the Marxs on 93rd & Lexington.
Sam Mertes: The left out-fielder for the NY Giants. (pg. 40)
Mr. Ehret: Owner of Ehrets Brewery.
Mr. Ruppert: Owner of Rupperts Brewery
Marie Wagner: tennis-player
Miss Flatto: teacher at P.S.86 elementary school.
Mons Herbert: brave vaudvillian whose act was to play "" by blowing on forks and knives, and finished his act by blowing up a turkey until music came out of its rump; also card player.
Mrs. Shang: tavern/brothel-owner
Kaiser Wilhelm (costume): (website)
The painting shows the metals and costume. The cartoon shows the spiked helmet.
Outdoor and Indoor Games
"It's sad to realise that today, three decades later, when there's supposed to be more of everything.... Famous Persons, Anagrams, Murder, and croquet are lost in the TV shuffle, and that's an aweful shame. My G-d, those games were fun!" -Harpo
Why not awaken this old tradition and play it with the relatives or at your annual marxist parties? These games were mostly played on Neshobe Island by Aleck Woollcott, Harpo, Neysa, Alice, Beatrice, and other guests. The card games are too complex, especially if you don't know any basic card games, so I will leave it to other websites to give the basic and in-depth descriptions. Most of these descriptions were taken out of Harpo's book, while other games I referenced from websites. It's a very good idea if you read this page BEFORE you read the book, so that it is less-confusing when he mentions a game you aren't familiar with.
-"Murder": A marvelous game that was a favorite indoor sport by the Neshobe Islanders. Requires at least 5 people to be fun. Put slips of paper into a bowl, one that reads District Attorny, one Murderer, and leave the rest of the papers blank. The Murderer and the D.A. do not reveal what they are. Then, allow the guests continue doing what they were doing. Eventually, when the Murderer is able to be alone with someone, he points to the person and says "You are dead!". The Victem slumps down, and is forbidden to move or make a sound until he is discovered by a party member. When found, the D.A. lets himself be known and then goes to each person, asking each party member questions, and everybody (except the Murderer) has to answer the D.A.'s questions as best to his recollection, as to where they were at any given time, who they were with, and what they were doing. The D.A. must then deduce from the pattern of answers and alibis who is lying, and is therefore the Murderer. Time limit depends upon the party members and the Murderer, obviously.
-"Anagrams": (website) Aleck's favorite party game. Involves taking one word and changing the letters to make another word. (Example: the word "PLAYER" can be switched around to form the word "PEARLY" or "A REPLY".)
-"Famous People": The Neshobe Islander's own version of this game. You give the first letter of the famous persons last name, and what made them famous in the form of a riddle, and other party members have to guess the person. (ex. describing Harpo's film character. "last name starts with M, and was a famous women-exerciser, face-maker, and instrument-weilder.") If you stump the guessers, you win.
-"Ghosts": (website) a word-building game.
-"Cribbage": (website) Aleck's favorite card game who often won it. Click the website to learn how to play cribbage.
-"Poker": (website) Well-known card game, played throughout Harpo's book. It's mostly based on luck-of-the-draw. You can lose easily in this game just by getting dealt a bad hand, over and over again. Some people use poker chips instead of money. The rules are complex when it comes down to which hand beats what, so click the website for full details on how to play poker. I am unsure as to which version of this game they would play.
-"Pinochole": (website) I will have to see if he played a certain variation of this game. Click the website if you want to learn pinochole, you can choose three different variations.
-"Bridge": (website) Isn't mentioned in his autobio (that I know of). However it is played by Harpo and Chico in "Animal Crackers", plus Chico sat in at a bridge game with Irving Thalberg resulting in their switch to MGM, and also Chico and Harpo were in an episode of "Championship Bridge" in 1960. Harold S. Vanderbilt in 1925 created a new variation of Bridge that came to be known as "Contract Bridge" (which in "Animal Crackers", Chico bases a joke off it, saying "he thought it was contact bridge.") Click the website if you want to learn Bridge, you can choose three different variations. The game they played in "Animal Crackers" was either Chicago Bridge or Rubber Bridge.
-"Pool": or "Billiards". (website) A game where on a felt-covered table, you hit a white ball with a stick, causing the ball to hit colored balls (either solid or striped) into the pockets of the table. The rules vary, depending on which game you play. Harpo wasn't specific about which games he would shoot. Click the website for lessons in learning objects used in pool, pool lingo, and how to play different games of pool.
-"Golf": You hit a ball with different sized sticks, over long distances and try not to land in sand traps and areas with long-cut grass. Good enough explaination? Harpo was used to 18-hole courses, playing on the greens of places like Hillcrest Country Club and his own course at El Rancho Harpo. To learn how to play golf (not putt-putt golf, but the country golf with sand-traps and roughs), ask a local club if they hold golf lessons.
-"Croquet": (website) Another sport where you hit a ball with a stick (or "mallet") on grassy turrain, played in teams. This sport is a bit more complicated, though. Click the website for lessons in learning how to play croquet.
"The Holy City" music by Stephen Adams (1893), an Easter song. The link is for a website which plays the song in the background.
"Love Me and the World Is Mine" (audio clip) music by Ernest R. Ball (1906), a barbershop song. Period sheet music cost 50 cents. On some lyric sheets, it says "sung by Miss Celia Ghiloni, Mabel Morgan, Robert Needham, Charles Howard, etc.". Click the audio clip link to hear it sung in Swedish by Jussi Bjorling (from Amazon.com), you need RealPlayer to hear it. If I can find one in English or solo piano, I'll post it here.
"Waltz Me Around Again Willie" hear it sung by Billy Murray. Warning, it's catchy and somewhat addictive. The link takes you to HarpoMarx.net.
"Dixie" (still searching...)
The Yellow Jacket: Harpo didn't understand what the story was about, so we wern't able to learn what it was about either. He played a small role as "Property Man", with Alexander Woollcott playing "Chorus". Click the title to learn the basic storyline (version from 1912)
If there is anything else you would like to know, and cannot find out anything about, please email me! I will add your suggestions to the list and we will help you look for it. Email me!
This page is not completed yet, still much research and book-probing to get done. Help us complete this page by researching the things that I can't find or have listed the final result as "unknown". If you can find sheet music of a song listed or can make an audio file of a song, do it! If you know one of the people mentioned, and can fill in the blanks of their lives, please tell us! Every Harpo-fan thanks you for filling in the spaces in Harpo's autobio and updating the information. It truly helps everyone understand the world Harpo lived in and what happened to that "world" over the many years. That is our only purpose.
I must be going