Excuse my Dust: The New York Life of Dorothy Parker

Creators
Amelia Catalano and Alison Rhonemus

One of the most frustrating things for Dorothy parker, in her mind, is that she was not born a “native New Yorker.” Despite her protest, Parker would come to embodied all that forms the mythology of what it is to be true New Yorker.

Dorothy Parker was born on August 22, 1893 to Henry and Eliza Rothschild, in East End New Jersey, two months premature, and while the family was on vacation. Of this Parker would say “it was the last time I was early for anything”. Parker’s family would return their home on West 72nd Street shortly after her birth, and young Dorothy would spend the majority of the rest of her life in the city in the city she loved, save for some stints in later life when she lived in L.A., and while attending Miss Dana’s Academy, also in New Jersey, until 1906.

From 1906-1914, the Rothschild family moved from apartment to apartment, taking advantage of the incentives offered by upper west side building owners to lure middle class families to their residencies. Her siblings started their own lives at this point in time, and upon her father’s death in 1913, it was down to Dorothy to earn money. After doing a handful of random jobs, Dorothy parker submitted what would be her first published work in 1914 to Vanity Fair magazine, one of Conde Nast many publication. It was accepted, and a whole new chapter in Dorothy’s life began.

Parker famously got paid $12 for her first poem, which was about two weeks worth of wages. Bolstered by her accomplishment, the 21 year old parker marched down to the Conde Nast head quarters, 19-25 west 44th Street, and asked a job by the accepting editor, Frank Corwninshield. She got a job at Vouge, another Conde Nast publication, at $10 a week as an editor, and took up an apartment at 103rd and Broadway. The position at Vanity Fair would be the most important turn of events in Parker’s life, not only would this launch her literary career, but the job would introduce her to two fateful and good friends: Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood.

Circumstances would make it such that shortly after their meeting at work in 1914 the Algonquin Hotel would become the trio’s place of choice for extended lunch breaks, and a convenient one, located at 59 west 44th street. However, it wasn’t until other’s started to join the group, mostly based on professional collections, that the true round table would be formed. Soon to join the group would be Fanklin P. Adams, Alexandar Woolcott, Edna Ferber, Heywood Broun, and George S. Kaufman. The groups wit became legendary, especially Dorothy’s, who would later be credited with more famous on-liners than any other member of the table.

The twenties were good to Dorothy, and she would work as a theater critic for Vanity Faire, though famously being sacked for insulting one of Florenz Ziegfeld’s productions in one of her reviews. Dorothy would also produce a collected volume of poetry and another of short stories. On top of all this she would also be one of the first contributors to the New Yorker magazine, 25 West 45th Street and then 28 West 44th Street, newly formed in 1925 by fellow round-tablites Harold Ross and Jane Grant. Apparently, at this point, all at Conde Nast had been forgiven.

The End of the 1920s brought about many ends. Not only was it the end of the economic upswing which had subsidized the roaring 20s, but the end of the decade also marked the slow death of the roundtable, attendance fell off subtly till there was no one left. Though Dorothy didn’t feel the impact of the depression as harshly as some at the round table, and she would be one of the only members to be in continuous publication until the time of her death in 1967 from a coronary.

Dorothy would come to exemplify what it is to be a New Yorker, a clever mind that could cut glass, framed by an elegant sense of fashion, and charismatic personality that could not fail to make her renown. As Dorothy Parker said as far as her ending was concerned “Excuse my dust.”

Bibliography and credits
AP/Wide World of Photos, & Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). The Algonquin Hotel. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 37.

Born Today. (1930) Robert E. Sherwood [photograph]. Retrieved April 20, 2012. From http://www.born-today.com/Today/04-04.htm.

Brown Brothers, & Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). Edna Ferber. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 42.

Brown Brothers, & Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). Frank Crowninshield. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 50.

Brown Brothers, & Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). Franklin P. Alan. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 46.

Catalano, A. (Speaker). (2012). Excuse My Dust: The life of Dorothy Parker. [electronic recording].

Cotton, S., Droste, M., Ivenson, H., Ivenson, R., & New York: Villard Books., M. (1987). Twelve Year-old Dorothy Rothschild at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, January, 1906. Dorothy Parker: What fresh hell is this?, p. 237.

Dorothy and Robinson, (2004). Dorothy Parker and her Dachshund Robinson (1962). Dorothy Parker: In her own words, p. 95.

Dorothy Parker in 1921, (2004). Dorothy Parker in 1921. Dorothy Parker: In her own words,
Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). 19-25 West 44th Street. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 32.

Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). 214 West 72nd Street Today. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 21.

Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). 25 West 45th Street. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 48.

Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005).A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York. Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press.
Freepedia. (1935) Portrait of Heywood Broun [photograph]. Retrieved April 21, 2012. From http://www.freepedia.co.uk/DIRUSAbrounH.php

Joplin, S. (Speaker). (1900). Original Rags (1900, piano roll). [electronic reproduction]. http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Joplin/Frog_Legs_Ragtime_Era_Favorites/09_-_scott_joplin_-_original_rags.

Los Angelese Times, & Meade, M. (1987). Dorothy and her Poodle, Cleche (1962). Dorothy Parker: What fresh hell is this?, New York: Villard Books. p. 236.

LA. (1940). Dorothy Parker [photograph]. Retrieved April 19, 2012. From http://fashionablethings.com/2012/03/26/your-random-style-icon-dorothy-parker/dorothy-parker-2/

McMein, N. & Meade, M. (1987). Dorothy Parker Oil Painting (1923). Dorothy Parker: What fresh hell is this?, New York: Villard Books.p. 141.

Meade, M. (1987). Dorothy Parker: What fresh hell is this?. New York: Villard Books.

Mirimax/Freeline/Kobal Collection, & Fitzpartick, K. C. (2005). Dorothy Parker, 1932. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 124.

Morrow, W. (1978) George S. Kaufman while at Columbia University: 1915 (As reproduced in the Book ‘Mank”). Retrieved April 22, 2012, From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:George_S._Kaufman_ca._1915.jpg

Parker, D. (2004). Dorothy Parker: In her own words. (B. Day, Ed.). Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Pub.

PBS: American Masters, (1989, Nov. 8). In Algonquin Hotel Round Table Mural. Retrieved Apr. 20, 2012, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/the-algonquin-round-table/about-the-algonquin/527/

the Roy Schatt Photo Archive, & Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). Dorothy in April 1953. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 14.

Photofest, & Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). The Upper West Side in 1884. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 19.

the Long Branch Historical Association, (2005). West End New Jersey. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, p. 6.

Roy Schatt Photo Archive, & Fitzpatrick, K. C. (2005). Dorothy in April, 1953. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press. p. 108.

Scot, J. (Speaker). (1908). Pine Apple Rag (1908, piano roll). [electronic reproduction]. http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Joplin/Frog_Legs_Ragtime_Era_Favorites/08_-_scott_joplin_-_pine_apple_rag.

White, E. B. (1949). Here is New York. New York: Harper.

Van Vechten, C. (1939). Portrait of Alexander Woollcott [photograph]. Retrieved: April 22. 2012. From http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/vvhtml/vvres.html.

Inspiration
P. 38 “I burned with a low steady fever just because I was on the same island with Don Marquis, Heywood Broun, Christopher Morley, Franklin P. Adams, Robert C. Benchley, Frank Sullivan, Dorothy Parker…”

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One comment

  1. Sydney

    Great piece. I’ve always enjoyed Parker’s writings as well.

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