the village square
Wednesday - June 13, 1956
Last Update: 02-07-2012
The most colorful collection of sights, sounds, and smells in New York at this moment can be found on Sullivan Street between West Houston and Canal Streets. Officially the Feast of Saint Anthony, it's actually a delightful mixture of bands, street dancing, sidewalk wheels of fortune, frying Italian sausage, sizzling calzones (something like doughnuts), illuminations, colored balloons, and happy people. Difficult to believe it's really taking place in a big American city. Continues every night through Thursday.
The Seltzer-Bottle Mambo
One of the first times I ever listened to WOR's all-night disc jockey Jean Shepherd, he was talking about hard-top automobiles.
"There's no such thing as a hard-top convertible," he kept repeating. "Get it out of your head." His theory, it seemed, was that the only people who would buy a pseudo-convertible were schizophrenic phonies who wanted to look sporty but hadn't the guts to commit themselves.
The whole subject was a fairly typical Shepherdism, though not necessarily one of his best. Frankly, I don't know what's been his most interesting topic; he ad libs for about 70 per cent of his nightly 5-hour stint, and it's rarely that I catch more than two or three out of the hundreds of subjects he must touch upon.
The Village is one of Shepherd's favorite localities - it forms the geographical backdrop to many of his anecdotes - and though he lives in New Jersey, he spends a great deal of time in Washington Square and points not far west. By the time we met for a beer last week (in the Rochambeau), my collection of early-morning Shepherdiana dated back about one month.
"Well, there's this man who sits outside of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky" (he said one night) "and he sells stalactites as souvenirs. But they're not really stalactites. As a matter of fact, they're not even souvenirs of Mommoth Cave; they're souvenirs of Chillicothe, Ohio, where this man has a factory and makes them out of plaster of paris. Everybody knows this, but they buy them just the same..."
Last Friday as we sat over our beers in the Rochambeau, Shepherd gazed moodily into his glass and asked: "Did I ever tell you about the man who was a connoisseur in ice cubes?" He didn't wait for an answer. "This man." he continued, "used to swill the cubes round in his drink and then he'd take a little sip and look thoughtful. 'Yes,' he'd say, "that would be from a Frigidaire '48 model - one of the rear trays'."
During the hours when all-night shows are on the air there are no Hooperatinge, so that nobody knows what sort of an audience is listening. Shepherd knows he has one, though, because people call him all the time to tell him about new stunts they've devised to shake the faith of the over-confidently smug.
I was listening a few weeks ago, for example, when a caller reported that he'd disturbed the equilibrium of a Liberty Music shop by dashing in to ask for "The Seltzer-Bottle Mambo." Frantic search of catalogues. "'The Seltzer-Bottle Mambo,' sir?" the clerk asked. "Yes - by the Excelsior Five on the Dogmatic Label" Further searching; then: "I'm very sorry, sir ..."
And I was listening to Shepherd again last Thursday as he reminisced about one of his traumatic experiences. " Look out for those radishes," he said. "They're habit forming. I know, I really know. I used to get all radished up on Saturday nights end reel about and fall down and-knock lamps over.
"No one can help you when you get it bad; you have to cure yourself. I cured myself. It's been over six months now. I haven't touched a radish since ...."
That Art Show Again
An exhibitor in the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show who reported to Mercer Street police station that one of his pictures was missing, was told that five or six paintings are stolen from the show every year. If the thief concentrates exclusively on this show, can't you just-imagine what the walls of his apartment must look like? ||
|Not Determined yet|
|Engineer and others in Booth