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



I didn't mind too much when the price of haircuts went to 75 cents, then 85, then a dollar . . . $1.25—even $1.50, which makes the rate to me about 15 cents a hair.

I didn't complain when 2-cent newspapers—which were a penny when I first peddled them—became a nickel, and 5-cent magazines 15 cents. I didn't even object to paying 15—and sometimes 20—cents for a nickel hot dog ... a dime to ride the IRT, to make a phone call.

But when they double the tariff on Man's Best Friend—I rebel. I may even start a movement to have Congress pass a law placing them under controls. Commission to Control Commercial Closets, we might call the administrative agency. Too bad Chic Sale isn't around to head up my CCCC.

I voiced my plaint to Vincent Lopez at the Astor the other night. I had drifted away from the, er— Coffee Shop, and purposefully pushed open the hob-nailed leather door down the hall. gentlemen the sign said, but I ignored that and walked right in, clutching the time-honored 5-cent piece in my eager little hand.

It was all I could do to hold my grip on the coin at what I saw. The little tabs all had been changed. They now read: insert dime in slot. Virtually the last lone remaining us­age to which a nickel can be put was gone. That's carrying inflation too far!

My natural inclination, after bristling and bridling at the effrontery, the inhumanity of the concessionaire, was to refuse them my business. But another instinct, more per­suasive and persistent, vetoed the idea. The rebellion thus quelled I probed into my change pocket.

It was barren of dimes. I rhumbad and sambad all over the place while the attendant tried to make change— unsuccessfully.

Out in the lobby I dashed, to the cigar counter all the way down the other end. When finally I got back to the torture chamber all four places lucre occupied.

Now my question, Mr. Anthony, is this: Have I a case against the Astor that will stand up in court?

Vince Lopez thought not. "You should always be prepared," he insisted between "Nola" and "Kitten on the Keys." "Where's your Boy Scout training? Be prepared. A man should no more think of starting out in the evening without a dime than without his tie."

"In Los Angeles they go without ties," I insisted stub­bornly if irrelevantly.

"That's beside the point," he snorted.

"But it's profiteering," I stormed, "a 100 per cent increase. It's getting so a man can't afford to—well, how can you justify it?"

"Everything's going up," said the pianist soothingly, "look at wages."

"Whose wages?" I demanded. "I've never had anyone yet wait on me in one of those little booths."

"Well, prices are higher all along the line. Materials cost more

"Materials?" I shrieked.

"Never mind, never mind, I see your point. Well, of course there's always one way you can beat them at their own game."

"What's that?" I asked eagerly.

"Take a room in the hotel," he flung over his shoulder as he headed back to the bandstand.

I'll fix 'em. I'll take my business elsewhere.


I wondered why the walls of the Empire State Building's observation tower were given over to a pictorial exhibit of life in Turkey. One couldn't escape the display as he waited his turn into the tiny elevator which shuttles tourists be­tween the 86th and 102d floors.

It was only later that I learned this year marks the 500th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople.

It was 1453 which saw the final eclipse of the Eastern Roman Empire and the ascendancy of its successor, the Ottoman, on European soil. The coup de grace was the storming of the ramparts of Byzantium by the Osmanli of Sultan Mahomat II on the 29th of May. Thus 1453 for the Turks is comparable to 1066 for the British and 1776 for us.

It's a strange and fascinating thing, history. We learned to loathe the terrible Turk and cheer the Crusader; World War I propaganda had us bleeding for the Armenian, persecuted by the ruthless infidel, but now they're our allies and friends and bulwark against Soviet aggression and we join them in paying tribute to Fatih.

Why not? It's a cheap price to pay for Turkey's valuable friendship. For ten years Russia has sought to revise the Montreux pact to restrict control of the Straits of the Bosporous and the Dardanelles to the Black Sea powers, which means her satellites Romania and Bulgaria in addition to herself and Turkey. Since the days of Peter the Great, Russia has sought free egress from her warm water ports on the Black Sea into the Mediterranean.

It is to our interest to see that Turkey succumbs to neither Soviet wiles or pressure. So we celebrate with the Turks in spirit as they illuminate the brilliant ivory facades of the great mosques of Suleiman the Magnificent along the Grand Seraglio, and generously devote our loftiest showcase to her fame.

The Montreux agreement expires in 1956. 


Jessica Dragonette's recent TV appearance—and I don't mean "St. George and the Dragnet"—inevitably recalled the days when she and Frank Munn were the golden-voiced "Olive Palmer and Paul Oliver" of radio's Palmolive Hour in the 20s.

We got into a nostalgic conversation about the great pleasure the two had brought us through the years with their superb singing, and we wondered what had happened to Munn since his beautiful smooth tenor had left the airwaves. For years he was a glorious part of Abe Lyman's delightful "Waltz Time" radiocasts.

He always was something of a mystery, was Frank Munn. He never made public appearances of any kind, confining his artistry to radio and records. The fact that he spurned movies, the theatre, concert halls and recitals where he could be seen led to all kinds of rumors about him. One had it that he was a priest; another that he was a victim of elephantiasis. He seemed to shun publicity and remain aloof from the gossip columnists, too. I never remember reading; anything about his life. All I knew was what my ears told me: that he had one of the sweetest, most listenable voices I've ever heard.

Then suddenly Frank Munn was in the news. A week or so after his partner of so many programs emerged from her own retirement the papers carried Frank Munn's obit. The stories of his death did little to clear up the mystery, except to refute the rumors. He was fifty-eight when he died— somewhat older than I would have guessed—left a widow, and there was no inkling of any disease so horrible as to have confined him to unseen roles.

But to this day I never recall having seen a picture of Frank Munn; haven't the faintest idea how he looked. But I know how he sounded. His glorious voice enriched our lives during radio's heyday. If the angels needed a songbird in Heaven, here's their man.


Sometimes something happens that makes you think the world isn't such a bad place after all. But twice in one day?' Isn't that above par for the be-kind-to-your-fellow-man course?

It started at the railroad station in Newark on a recent Monday. I had to be in Trenton before 5 p.m. so I set my sights on the 3:14 out of Newark. I missed the 3:25— the Nellie Bly— by the minute it took to stop and greet Chet Ligham, the state rent director, as he was leaving the terminal.

The Patriot from Boston, due at 3:44, was half an hour late. Neither it nor the regular 4:14 could get me there in time. My steam was rising by the minute, my safety valve gauge fighting a losing battle with my gorge. I was, in short, about to blow my top when the sleek, silvery Florida East Coast Champion slid in at 3:49, normally an all-Pullman bound for Miami. But as it slithered gleamingly past, I noticed two chair coaches deadheading up front.

Essaying my most forlorn expression that I fancied better typified pathos and pain than Hedda Gabbler's morose demeanor, I sought out the conductor and said appealingly: "Would you take a fellow as far as Trenton in one of those coaches forward?"

"Sure," he replied kindly and immediately, to my amaze­ment, adding: "Just be sure no doors are left open when you leave."

Here I was all alone in this beautiful, luxurious, air-conditioned pride of the Silver Fleet, the last word in comfort and elegance, lovely enlarged Kodachrome cine-scenes of my much adored Miami Beach adorning the walls. As effort­lessly and smoothly as a sail on a becalmed lake we flowed along, to pull into Trenton at 4:19. Think of it: 45 miles in 30 minutes.

Sometimes I love conductors.

When my business in Trenton ended and I started home­ward—I customarily drive to Trenton, train from there—I discovered that the fuel tank was low but my resources even lower. My wallet was home. That's what comes of having two suits. I had exactly 31 cents in my pocket.

Certain I couldn't make it to Roy Hullings' in Moorestown, I pulled into the Bordentown Sunoco station opposite Hamburger Heaven where I refuel occasionally.

"Can I interest you in selling me 31 cents worth of gas?" I asked the owner apologetically.

"Sure," he replied. Then, as the indicator began to go around: "You can have more if you want it."

"This is all the money I have with me," I explained.

"That's okay," he countered.

"But I won't be up this way until Thursday."

"What's the difference?"

"Well, fine, if you're willing to trust me."

"How much do you want?"

"Fill it up, of course, if you're that much of a gambler."

And he did.

Maybe people aren't so cold and suspicious after all.


There's never a dull moment when Atlantic City news­men get together. They're not only able reporters but tops as entertainers. Every time a Jim Hackett leaves for other fielda a Joe Grossman comes along; if a Josh Weintraub isn't available a Reese Smith is.

We were relaxing in the elegance of Haddon Hall's smart Derbyshire Lounge over a Coca-Cola or two while some clients of mine were convening in AC recently. This is one of those modern setups where divans and all kinds of chairs and benches are arranged with studied carelessness in the approximate vicinity of a table, and a party of six or seven sprawl around like the club car of the Superchief.

Jim Tomlinson, the Associated Pressman, and Allan Jones, AC Press staffer and Newark News correspondent, were recalling some of the high spots of newspaper life down there, of which there are none higher, when Joe Grossman of United Press went into the act that enabled him to fight the war as a member of Melvyn Douglas' entertainment unit. With International News Service's Smitty, he regaled the gathering with the tales of a frontline troubador. Ted Gray,, a visiting fireman from Columbus, Ohio, joined the act.

"Tell 'em about the time you started going with girls," prompted Smitty.

It seems that Joe, a handsome, dashing young bachelor, squired Christine Jorgensen around while she was booked into Atlantic City night spots. That's a story in itself—wish I could tell it.

Anyway, came Miss America time and Joe made his own selection. Miss Kansas. They were in the 500 Club when one of Joe's press pals came to their table and in a stento­rian bellow that drowned out the orchestra, roared: "Well, Joe, it's good to see you out with a girl."

What a gang!


It was in the midst of the dinner Senator Hap Farley gave for Paul Troast, with GOPoliticos from all over South Jersey as guests, that a Walt Whitman bellboy brought the message: Call Operator 288 in New York.

Dutifully I went to a phone booth and put in the call.

"This is 289," a voice finally said. "Please call your operator."

I did. Again I got 9.

"Jiggle your hook," she suggested.

"My hook is all jiggled out," I replied in despair. "Can't you help me."

"Certainly not," she retorted, indignation in her voice. "You want eight, I'm nine."

"And I'm tense," I said, hanging up in disgust.

I didn't find out who called. Maybe the Duke of Windsor arrived in town and wanted me to cut a caper or keelhaul a kipper with him, don'tcherknow! Now I'll never know.


Mischa Elman's recent appearance at Robin Hood Dell, a tremendous triumph as always, recalled an anecdote the art­ist likes to tell on himself. I should point out that Elman studied with my uncle and namesake, who used to delight patrons of the Mastbaum in its early days, when stage shows still were the rage, with his violin solos. As a boy he played at the wedding of my mother and father forty-seven years ago; twenty-six years later he played at mine.

Anyway, Elman tells of meeting a dowager, following one of his concerts abroad, who told him: "Mr. Elman, the last time I heard you play you were a curly-haired boy of ten."

"That was a long time ago," smiled Elman ruefully. "Why, I have a son now who is older than that."

"Does he play the violin?" asked the lady eagerly.

"A little," Elman replied.

"How nice," she beamed. "If he practices real hard, maybe he'll grow up to be another Heifetz."