Bomoseen is an old lake created by sliding glaciers scooping earth and pressing clay into shale.
My favorite historic character lived on Neshobe Island, but you likely never heard of Alexander Woollcott.
“Alec” built a stone house, club house, croquet court and an isolated respite for himself and friends who were the stars of literature, stage and radio.
Woollcott is practically unknown to the general public today, but in “his day” was the brightest of the bright literary stars.
He was a heavy, rumpled man with a collapsing face supporting round-rimmed glasses.
People read for entertainment; radio was the rising media, and the visual entertainment was the stage.
Actors, writers and performers were literate, well-spoken and owners of sharp wit. They manipulated words and built word-pictures.
Consider entertainment today — television. To attract a large audience, TV shows present a simple story line in basic language. We’re dumbed down by it. TV attracts people who operate at a low educational and vocabulary level.
Woollcott was drama critic for the “New York Times,” a founding writer for “Stars and Stripes,” wrote for newspapers and magazines. His radio show “The Town Crier” was heard nationally. His single book was “While Rome Burns.”
Among drama and literary critics, he was at the top of heap.
“Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or fattening.” That’s Woollcott.
He was a member of “The Algonquin Round Table,” a group of loudmouths who met daily for lunch and bantering at the Algonquin Hotel for a decade. The group consisted of drop-ins and a core anchor group.
The group was nationally known via syndicated newspaper columns,and references on radio shows. Many people took lunch at nearby tables to be entertained by the urbane wits.
Dorothy Parker might be the most quoted woman on earth and is known for, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses,” and “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”
Robert Benchley, actor/humorist, his grandson Peter Benchley wrote “Jaws.”
Robert Sherwood, playwright/screenwriter; Franklin Pierce Adams newspaper columnist; Harpo Marx, comedian; Edna Ferber,author/playwright; George S. Kaufman, playwright/author; Lynn Fontanne, stage star; Heywood Broun, columnist/newspaper editor, father of sportscaster Heywood Hale Broun; actress Tallulah Bankhead (daughter of Alabama Congressman Bankhead for whom “Bankhead Highway” was named) was niece and granddaughter of U.S. senators; Charles McArthur, newspaper/short story writer/playwright. His adopted son James McArthur was “Danny Williams” on the original “Hawaii Five-O.” James was also his natural son by a woman other than his wife.
The masters of acerbic quips are nearly gone. Comedian Don Rickles remains. To know members of the round table, multiply Rickles by 10.
I believe we have fewer good writers because we have fewer people who read good writing.
Woollcott was a great writer who established cultural resonance with readers.
George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart preserved Woolcott in the character of “Sheridan Whiteside” in the play and movie “The Man Who Came To Dinner.”
Actor Monty Woolley became famous playing Whiteside/Woollcott, but Woollcott played himself in west coast productions of the play.
He never married.
His ashes arrived for burial at his alma mater, Hamilton College, with postage due.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at email@example.com.