Journey back in time to a grand metropolis of daring flappers, silent movies and speakeasies with Islander Kevin Fitzpatrick at Friday Night Dialogues at the Library at 7 p.m. on October 16. He’ll discuss his book, “The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide,” leading a virtual tour of the Jazz Age’s grand city, teeming with hidden bars, luxurious movie palaces and dazzling skyscrapers.
Founder and president of the Dorothy Parker Society and a licensed New York City tour guide, Mr. Fitzpatrick tells delightful tales of the goings on at the Algonquin where Dorothy Parker and her legendary cohorts sharpened their wits, polished their writing and captured the energy and elegance of the time.
It began inauspiciously with a few magazine writers lunching together at a nearby hotel — and having such fun all returned, again and again and again. Thus, the Algonquin Round Table was born. Leading the list of memorable members of “the Vicious Circle” is Dorothy Parker, who wrote for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines, earning everlasting fame (but rather less fortune) for her award-winning short stories and unforgettable poems.
Other members included Robert Benchley, Parker’s best friend, who became the first managing editor of Vanity Fair before Irving Berlin spotted him onstage in a Vicious Circle revue and helped launch his acting career; Edna Ferber, an occasional member of the group, author of the Pulitzer-winning bestseller “So Big” and “Show Boat” (on which the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II musical is based) — and also collaborated on hit shows with George S. Kaufman; Jane Grant, who pressed her first husband, Harold Ross, into starting the New Yorker; and Neysa McMein, who (it is said) “rode elephants in circus parades and dashed from her studio to follow passing fire engines.”
Alexander Woollcott, the centerpiece of the group, worked as drama critic for the Times and the World, wrote profiles of his friends for the New Yorker, and lives on today as Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner”; and Herman Mankiewicz, saw it all and put it into his screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”
The book — and Mr. Fitzpatrick’s discussion of it — retraces the footsteps of the Round Table regulars while relating the colorful careers and private lives of the men and women who lunched and laughed at the Algonquin. He explores their hangouts and haunts, many salons and saloons that are still standing, and shares current information on all locations, revealing markers of a golden age that still surrounds us.
Mr. Fitzpatrick is also the author of “Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide.” He and his family divide their time between New York’s Upper West Side and Shelter Island.
The foreword of “The Algonquin Round Table” was written by Anthony Melchiorri, former general manager of the famous hotel who created and hosts the Travel Channel’s hit show, “Hotel Impossible.”
Come to the library to revisit the golden age of Gotham and bask in the antics of its leading revelers. Autographed copies of “The Algonquin Round Table” will be available for purchase. The Friday Night Dialogue series is free, with contributions gratefully accepted.
Note: Portions of the description of Mr. Fitzpatrick’s book have been excerpted from the publisher’s website, lyonspress.com.
Coming up: On October 30, the Community Room will be transformed into a nightclub where film critic Jeffrey Lyons will talk about his book, “What a Time It Was!: Leonard Lyons and the Golden Age of New York Nightlife.” Appropriate refreshments will be served. RSVP to the library at 749-0042.