It's All In The Game
by A. Charles Corotis


It's All In The Game: A selected Collection of Gay Essays
on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Mnemosyne,
Assayed from the Provocative Pages of
New Jersey's Literate Review Weekly, The Argus

By A. Charles Corotis



It was the greatest performance I've ever seen—and I've seen 'em all: Bernhardt, Duse, Nazimova, LeGalliene, Fiske, Cornell, Hayes.

So superb was her pretending that no one watching the little tableau vivant ever would have suspected the tragic truth: that her heart was shattered into smithereens, her soul suffocated by unrequited love.

Who, studying that impassive face, could have known how horrendous was her hurt, the depth of her ardor; how madly in love she was, how fervently, desperately she adored me. I admired her artistry even as my heart felt for her in her anguish.

"Marilyn," said Al Harriday of 20th Century publicity, "this is Mr. Corotis."

I could see passion course through her being with the un­bridled surge of an electric urge; but with remarkable re­straint, she masked her emotions and essayed a deceivingly indifferent, even seemingly annoyed "Who?"

It was almost convincing even to me, who knew all too well her innermost feelings, how profound was her desolation, her despair. Truly the girl deserves an Anatomy Award —what am I saying: Academy Award—for that one bit alone. It was magnificent!

"You know, the one who wrote those pieces about you."

As if she didn't know all the time!

But for the benefit of the others present, she managed a casual "Oh, yeh. Hi."

Brave girl. Gad, how she carried it off.

Without another word she turned and walked away, her shoulders squared, her head held high to conceal the pain and yearning.

Poor thing. I don't blame her for hurrying off with her bitter grief. Skilled as she is in histrionics, there's a limit to human endurance. How much can a crushed heart stand? How much longer could she have contained herself, facing me there in that breathless moment? She knew she had to go quickly, or there'd be a scene that would be grist for the gossip mills all over the world.

And they say Marilyn Monroe can't act!


Blue Boy is dead— a martyr to the cause of manumission. Deep-rooted within him flamed liberty's lamp, a fiery yearn­ing that burns eternally. His self-destruction is proof that the ennobling quest for emancipation is not man's mo­nopoly, by any means.

Washington didn't restrict his pungent observation a century and a half ago to hold that interwoven is the love of liberty with every ligament of the human heart. Dryden wasn't speaking only for humankind when he wrote: "Oh, give me liberty! for even were paradise my prison, still I would long to leap the crystal walls."

No, mankind has no corner or copyright on independence. The passion to be free beats resolutely in dumb breasts, too.

Blue Boy proved that. By his sacrifice he has refuted our smug, supercilious notion that none merits freedom until fit to use it effectively. We might as well deny the seas to those who have not yet learned to swim.

Southey said easier were it to hurl the rooted mountain from its base than force the yoke of slavery upon men determined to be free.

Well, that goes for parakeets, too.

There was a time when our feathered lapis lazuli was content to hop and play within his silvery cage. That was last Christmas, when Ross first acquired him and named him, seeing in his delicately cerulean coloring the aqua­marine brilliance of Gainsborough's famed painting.

But Blue Boy adjusted quickly to his new surroundings, soon overcame his reticence, and flitted around the house like a tiny azure angel. It became commonplace to see him perched on Hazel's shoulder as she performed her household chores, or hanging on a light fixture overseeing Ross' activities in his third-floor playroom.

But, alas, as so often happens with freedom, it is misused. Blue Boy began committing abuses in its name. At the very least he should have returned to his own little home for those certain functions whose delicate nature entitles them to privacy.

In more ways than one our sovereign sapphire turned into a turquoise terror. Not only did he overstep the bounds of decency, he took charge of the household. Hazel couldn't keep him out of the kitchen as she prepared meals. He sampled every dish, nibbled at our choicest viands, and met all protests with an angry tirade. He'd anchor himself on the nape of my neck and peck away at the tender flesh, or right smack dab on the top of my pate, which is just as barren of hirsute protection. Every effort to brush him off produced a raucous scolding, and when finally I'd try to grasp hold of him he'd take off in a flurry of pastel wings and a barrage of indignant imprecations. It reached the point where incar­ceration was the only answer. Our bluebird, once timorous, had become boldly, annoyingly pestiferous.

Now home for Blue Boy was no dingy oubliette. His cage was spacious and attractively done in pale blue and silver, on a pedestal to match his own shading and richly equipped with swings, ladders, baths, and all the trimmings and trap­pings that are supposed to delight an accaiiescent little parroquet.

But Blue Boy had had his taste of unbridled freedom. No longer could he stand durance, however plush and lush. "What is life?" I could hear him chirp with Addison. "It is not to stalk about, and draw fresh air, or gaze upon the sun; it is to be free ... a day, an hour of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity of bondage."

Yes, poor Blue Boy never again could accept the thralldom of confinement. Where liberty dwells, there is my coun­try, he echoed Milton. He'd wing his way around the house, unrestrained and unrestricted, or he'd die in the attempt.

He died. Blue Boy beat himself to death against the cruelly lovely, disarmingly fragile looking glass bars of his cell. One morning when I was out of town, Hazel and Ross found the cold, still little body on the floor of the hated hoosegow. Pathetically thin it seemed beneath the sky-tinted fur. Never again would that lithe little figure streak from one room to another, up stairs and down, like a badminton shuttlecock.

Blue Boy had essayed the role of an avian Patrick Henry. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

Ross was desolate. He wept copious tears through hurt eyes that seemed to accuse us. Murderers, I could read them, tyrants, enslavers. You killed my little friend.

But in the end he could do nothing but give his friend a decent burial as befits a martyr, in a snug little coffin with a marker over the grave that bears the heroic inscription: blue boy—free at last.


I was a teenager again, writing sports for the old Courier, when I saw the fuel oil truck with the firm name obergfell & fisher spelled out on it as I drove along Route 130 (what happened to 25?).

Names to be reckoned with were they in the '20s. Big Bill Obergfell was a plunging, bruising fullback, Eddie Fisher a fleet, elusive halfback on the much-feared Riverside Big Green, a power in semi-pro football back in those sports-thriving days.

Later, Eddie turned to the ring and did well as Kid Fisher, a lithe, fast-stepping lightweight with a kayo punch in either hand.

Bill Connor was a cameraman with the Courier then. I was running the sports department and used to make photographic assignments that would take us out together. There was the time, for instance, when we went to cover a track meet at Camden High's athletic field.

Arriving early on a relaxant spring-feverish sort of day, we stretched out on the grass of Farnham Park under a shady maple. When we awoke the track meet was over! But that's another story.

Well, to the point of this tale: Bill, a Philadelphian, had a friend over there who wanted to carve out a ring career for himself and, thinking he had talent and promise, agreed to manage him. At his request I prevailed upon Basil Cook, then running fights at Fairview, to put him on one of his weekly cards. He did, in the main prelim. And how he did: he matched him with Fisher.

Bill's boy was tall, rangy and fast, and it was a great boxing exhibition for a round or two, with Bill's hopeful step­ping around like a real fancy Dan, stabbing, stabbing the more experienced Fisher with a machinegun-like left jab— until Eddie got inside, nailed the lanky lad with that deadly right, and it was all over but Pose Robinson tolling the fateful ten.

So far as I know, Bill never ventured into the fight managerial game again. He still makes his living taking pictures, at which art he's one of the best.


Never Thought I'd Use It

The handsome youth with the engaging smile approached me as I alighted from the 7th Avenue express at Fulton Street and started for the Hudson Tubes to complete my return journey from Columbia, up at 116th and Broadway, to Jersey.

Someone, I thought, was pulling my leg. The lad looked like anyone's idea of a bright young American but the mumbojumbo he sent smilingly my way was the most broken broken English I've ever heard. He didn't merely fracture the language— he atomized it.

Then I noticed the copy of La Prensa under his arm. "Esta usted de Argentina?" I asked.

If he was aglow before, he was effervescent now. He literally shouted the inevitable "Habla usted Espanol?"

"No muy bien— muy poco," I replied with more honesty than modesty.

"Es bueno," he insisted graciously. I couldn't see if his fingers were crossed.

"Estudo dos anos en la escuela," I told him, "pero es viente y nuevo, mas, triento anos."

But believe it or not, we got along fine, although I could see what an effort it was for him to control his mirth. He must have been saying to himself: "Este hombre crea Yo hablo pasa!"

He was, I learned, a Cuban, dashing as Desi Arnaz, in Nueva York tres dias with a fruit ship and he was trying to get over to Ciudad de Harsay.

I learned a lot about Antilles' Pearl on that brief trip under the river, and before he left the train at J.C. with a cheery hola and an envious bien amor from me, I even had a couple of addresses. I'll bet they're pips, too.

Now let's see, when is that convention in cordialidad y solaz Habana?

Time  Marches On

It was Hallowe'en—October 31—which also doubles in brass for Bruce's birthday. We had just finished a filet mi-gnon meal at the picturesque Millburn Inn overlooking pop­ular Paper Mill Playhouse up in Essex county, the five of us, for we had gathered up the family for this natal occasion.

Deftly our newly nineteen extracted a big Corona from his breast pocket, fingered it tenderly, lighted it expertly, savored of it appreciatively, rolled it around like the sophisticate who advertises Websters on TV.

I couldn't help bursting into astounded laughter,  although not without a touch of admiration, even envy. In all my life I've never mastered the manly art of cigar smoking, and here was my collegian son as proficient at it as Sir Winston.

Oh, they learn a lot in school these days.

It was truly a delightful Sunday. Hazel, Ross and I crossed the Tacony-
Palmyra to Jenkintown to pick up June, at Beaver, rolled northward along broad Roosevelt Boulevard, past teeming Langhorne, bustling with raceday excitement, across the Delaware on the new bridge, through Trenton via Freeway, up Route 1 to the Garden State Parkway above New Brunswick, then over its smooth, unobstructed roadbed into suburban Newark.

The scenery was simply gorgeous. North Jersey wasn't hit at all hard by Hazel (the hurricane, that is), and its mil­lions of deciduous trees on mountain slopes and heights and in valleys and groves were at the colorful zenith of their autumnal splendor.

The day was mild and sunnily bright, the cloud formations voluptuous. So enjoyable was it that the minute we reached East Orange, we transferred to Bruce's convertible, the better to savor of its Indian Summer delights.

Through the Oranges, Maplewood, Short Hills, Millburn, we drove to show Hazel and June the beautiful homes, the lovely shops, stopping at Bill Naue's renowned Chanticler for dinner.

Alas, Chanticler doesn't crow until five, and I'm an impatient man where food is concerned. I, who have been there frequently, took the family through to inspect this elegantly appointed hostelry, probably the most famous spot of its kind in the area. Bill also operates the Roost in Newark, which vies with the Tavern as top restaurant in that metropolis, and in summer the Sea Girt Inn.

Nearby Millburn Inn did quite well by us, though, so we had no regrets, and the scene that unfolds from the porch of this historic spot is one of grandeur.

Followed then our visit to the Playhouse, a turn through the Caldwells, Livingston, Irvington, and back to Upsala; but not without a stop at the superbly majestic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, a tremendously impressive edifice that has been fifty years in the building and still is incomplete. Scaffolding stretches high up in the lofty upper reaches of the nave.

A filial high spot that Hallowe'en, up there with our cigar-smoking sibling. Beaux esprits . . . beaux yeux.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Leon Todd already was in the dining room of Newark's Essex House when I got down the other morning. I slid in­to the chair opposite him and, as if on cue, the waitress sat down in front of me a big, thick, juicy sirloin with french fries, A-l sauce and all the trimmings.

In answer to the query in my eyes, Leon explained, "I'm tired of hearing you complain because you can't get anything but eggs for breakfast and how Reub Lundy has steak for you when you stay over with him."

Essex House breakfasts always have been a controversial point with us. One of my idiosyncracies is an abhorrence of eggs in the morning. I can eat them for lunch, and nothing pleases me more before bedtime than a trilby, but I simply have no stomach for them in the ayem.

Hazel solves the problem by having fish or meat for me, and when I'm away I seek out a place that has kippers or finnan haddie or some similarly delectable dish. But morn­ing menus at the Essex House are strictly fowl.

The night before, we got into quite a discussion on this point at the bar while sipping our after-dinner cognac and comparing the relative merits of Remy Martin and Courvoisier. Hours later when I had progressed to Advet Pere & Fils, I recall that some words of Leon's did penetrate my champagne-induced aura of euphoria as from a far-off, cloud-borne height; something about steak for breakfast.

I mentioned that that very morning Hazel had heated over a piece of porterhouse left from dinner the night before. But I had no idea Leon already was giving the order to Jimmy, our favorite Hellenic headwaiter, to take one of his prize sirloins out of the deep freeze and earmark it for an unaccustomed role as a breakfast entree.

Ah, Lucretius ... ah, Lucullus. While we live, let us live. Dum vivimus, vivamus.