Posts Tagged ‘Jazz Age New York City’

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iridescent city of 1919

March 16, 2011

Author, Lost Generation spokesman, and 1920s Jazz Age icon F. Scott Fitzgerald was once just like millions of New Yorkers before and after him: a struggling writer trying to make his mark.

In a posthumous essay collection called My Lost City, he chronicled his move here in 1919—renting a room, working at an ad agency, and waiting for Zelda Sayre to leave Alabama and marry him:

“New York had all the irridescence of the beginning of the world. The returning troops marched up Fifth Avenue and girls were instinctively drawn east and north towards them—this was the greatest nation and there was gala in the air.

“As I hovered ghost-like in the Plaza Red Room of a Saturday afternoon, or went to lush and liquid garden parties in the East Sixties or tippled with Princetonians in the Biltmore Bar, I was haunted always by my other life—my drab room in the Bronx, my square foot of the subway, my fixation upon the day’s letter from Alabama—would it come and what would it say?—my shabby suits, my poverty, and love. . . .”

“One by one my great dreams of New York became tainted. . . . I wandered through the town of 127th Street, resenting its vibrant life; or else I bought cheap theatre seats at Gray’s drugstore and tried to lose myself for a few hours in my old passion for Broadway. I was a failure—mediocre at advertising work and unable to get started as a writer. Hating the city, I got roaring, weeping drunk on my last penny and went home….”

Of course, Zelda did marry him, and together they defined the excesses of Jazz Age New York.

Any struggling writer or artist can probably relate to what he’s getting at: The awe of being in New York, socializing at all the right places but still feeling like an outsider, pining for success and worrying that the city will defeat you.

A view of nighttime New York in the 1920s

August 18, 2010

Another enchanting drypoint etching by Martin Lewis, titled “Fifth Avenue Bridge.” It dates to 1928.

Was there once a Fifth Avenue Bridge? Looks more like a temporary walkway, but at what cross street is a mystery.

Who murdered the Broadway Butterfly?

June 23, 2010

Dorothy “Dot” King was a 28-year-old Jazz Age party girl with a nominal career as an artist’s model-slash-actress (hence her Broadway nickname) and lots of gentlemen callers.

When her maid found her lifeless body one morning in March 1923—she’d been chloroformed to death in her West 57th Street apartment—all of New York tried to figure out who killed her.

According to reports, thousands of dollars in jewelry was missing from her apartment—perhaps she’d been the victim of a burglary.

Was it an overdose? Chloroform was a party drug in the 1920s, so investigators thought she may have offed herself, intentionally or not.

Dot also had ties to a wealthy older benefactor she had dinner with at the Hotel Brevoort the night she died. He claimed they were just friends.

Police ended up arresting her con man boyfriend, Albert Guimares, but he had an alibi. Other possible killers included an ex-husband and her tough laundress mother.

In the end, no one was ever tried. Three movies based on her case later, Dot’s murder remains unsolved.