Stories My Father Told Me: Notes from "The Lyons Den" [NOOK Book]

Overview


This amazing collection of choice anecdotes takes us right back to the Golden Age of New York City nightlife, when top restaurants like Toots Shor’s, “21,” and Sardi’s, as well as glittering nightclubs like the Stork Club, Latin Quarter, and El Morocco, were the nightly gathering spots for great figures of that era: movie and Broadway stars, baseball players, champion boxers, comedians, diplomats, British royalty, prize-winning authors, and famous painters. From Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill, from Ethel ...
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Stories My Father Told Me: Notes from

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Overview


This amazing collection of choice anecdotes takes us right back to the Golden Age of New York City nightlife, when top restaurants like Toots Shor’s, “21,” and Sardi’s, as well as glittering nightclubs like the Stork Club, Latin Quarter, and El Morocco, were the nightly gathering spots for great figures of that era: movie and Broadway stars, baseball players, champion boxers, comedians, diplomats, British royalty, prize-winning authors, and famous painters. From Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill, from Ethel Barrymore to Sophia Loren, from George Burns to Ernest Hemingway, from Joe DiMaggio to the Duke of Windsor: Leonard Lyons knew them all. For forty glorious years, from 1934 to 1974, he made the daily rounds of Gotham nightspots, collecting the exclusive scoops and revelations that were at the core of his famous newspaper column, “The Lyons Den.”

In this entertaining volume Jeffrey Lyons has assembled a considerable compilation of anecdotes from his father’s best columns, and has also contributed a selection of his own interviews with stars of today, including Penélope Cruz and George Clooney, among others. Organized chronologically by decade and subdivided by celebrity, Stories My Father Told Me offers fascinating, amusing stories that are illustrated by approximately seventy photographs. He so captured the tenor of those exciting times that the great Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg said: “Imagine how much richer American history would have been had there been a Leonard Lyons in Lincoln’s time.”
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“These stories are wonderful! I saw Leonard Lyons on a lot of nights out in Manhattan and if he told these stories, they're true!”—Kirk Douglas

“Leonard Lyons genuinely admired the people he wrote about. And knowing this, they would open up to him and tell him the colorful stories that were his bread and butter, and that the readers loved.” —Charles Osgood, from the Foreword

“No one did more to promote New York’s deserved reputation as a capital of glamour and culture...a century after his birth, the legacy of Leonard Lyons lives on. The names on the marquee may have changed, but the memory of Leonard Lyons remains a guiding light in New York City’s cultural community.” —New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

“For four decades ‘The Lyons Den’ was an institution and will be invaluable to historians seeking behind-the-scenes glimpses of that long era.” —Clyde Haberman, formerly of the New York Post (1976 tribute)

Kirkus Reviews

A veritable storm of outtakes from Leonard Lyons' "Lyons Den" society column from theNew York Post,which dazzle rather than titillate.

Lyons wrote his column for exactly 40 years, from 1934 to 1974—six columns a week, tallying 12,479 at 1,000 words each—about people in the public eye. He would leave for work as the sun went down, heading for a variety of hot spots—Toots Shor's, Downey's, Sardi's, El Morocco, the Stork Club, the Little Club, or all of them—gathering choice items for his readership. "Leonard Lyons genuinely admired the people he wrote about," writes Charles Osgood in the foreword. "And knowing this they would open up to him and tell him the colorful stories that were his bread and butter." Here, his son, TV and movie critic Jeffrey Lyons, sews together pieces from his father's columns into vest-pocket profiles of the famous, from Irving Berlin to Shelly Winters. For those who have never dined on Lyons' work, this collection is a treat: Lyons was a champion at getting telling quotes, material as pithy and vivid as the Algonquin Round Table—e.g., Lauren Bacall's response to whether she would curtsy to Prince Philip: "If he curtsies to me, I'll curtsy to him. In this world, you get what you give." Or Joe DiMaggio: "Never wake a ballplayer on a rainy morning." There are terrific comments from a stunning range of characters—Einstein, Rocky Marciano, Groucho Marx, Chagall—and if Lyons can seem a bit eager and star-struck ("There was never anyone like Oscar Levant"; "Orson Welles...the most amazing person you'd ever meet"), he takes such obvious pleasure in the telling that readers will be swept along with him.

An intoxicating selection of snippets from a columnist that journalist Pete Hamill called "an ornament to the profession."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789260017
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/14/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 449,913
  • File size: 11 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author


Jeffrey Lyons grew up in a home visited by many of the greats of his father’s time. His forty-year career continues in television, radio, and print. A movie critic and baseball book author, Lyons has acted in two films, reviewed more than 15,000 movies and hundreds of Broadway plays, broadcast baseball for the Red Sox, and interviewed virtually every major star of his own time. Lyons co-hosted three national movie review shows: Sneak Previews, MSNBC's At the Movies, and Reel Talk. Jeffrey Lyons is also the co-author of 101 Great Movies for Kids and three baseball trivia books. He hopes to see his beloved Red Sox win another World Series. Soon.

Charles Osgood, often referred to as CBS News's poet-in-residence, has been anchor of CBS News Sunday Morning since 1994. He also anchors and writes "The Osgood File," his daily news commentary broadcast on the CBS Radio Network.
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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

One day when I was in fifth grade, the members of my class were asked to stand in turn and tell what their fathers did for a living. Back then, there were few working mothers. I remember hearing: "lawyer”; "doctor”; "investment banker”; "painter”; "musician.” Then came my turn, and I said: "Columnist.” No one seemed to know what that meant, so I said: "My father writes about all your fathers.”
My father Leonard Lyons wrote "The Lyons Den” column in the New York Post and was syndicated in over 100 newspapers around the world from 1934 to 1974. His anecdotal style of writing flourished in the Golden Age of the Broadway column. Whereas others dealt in scandal and rumor, he thus stood alone, enjoying a special place in his craft.
"The Lyons Den” became an American journalism institution and our family’s key to the world. My father knew EVERYONE! Stroll down Madison Avenue on a Saturday afternoon visiting the art galleries, and everyone knew him or recognized him or had an item for him. Our home movies, for example, had the usual scenes of my family members sledding down snowy hills in Central Park, tossing a football or baseball, and long-dead relatives mugging for the silent camera. But those color films also showed us with family friends: Marc Chagall, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, Edna Ferber, Moss Hart, Adlai Stevenson, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Sophia Loren, and Frank Sinatra. Oh, and a few others, too: Danny Kaye, Thornton Wilder, José Ferrer, George Bernard Shaw, and Laurence Olivier.
It’s a safe bet that most of my classmates didn’t have such family friends. Nor did they say goodnight to their fathers at 7 a.m.; most fathers would return from work just before dinnertime. Mine, however, worked from mid-day until dawn. He spent every night out on the town—not gallivanting or drinking (he was, as they used to say, a teetotaler) but gathering stories for his next column. We thought playing baseball across the street in Central Park with Paddy Chayefsky on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as showing Richard Burton how to bunt, was normal. We thought a phone call from Hemingway or a late-night call from Milton Berle or a holiday gift from J. Edgar Hoover was normal.
One night, Norman Mailer called, seeking legal advice from my father, a practicing lawyer before he became a columnist. Mailer had just stabbed his wife.
Didn’t everyone’s parents get invited to the White House or attend Broadway openings and movie premieres? Didn’t every family have Nobel Prize–winner Dr. Ralph Bunch, Abe Burrows, and Phil Silvers sit at their seder table every Passover? Didn’t every high school football player get to train with the New York Giants? Or tour Spain with a famous matador? Didn’t other kids know Joe DiMaggio on a first-name basis or get a phone call from Marilyn Monroe on their sixteenth birthday? It never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about such an upbringing. Looking back, it wasn’t just unusual. It was amazing!
In his tribute the day after my father died in 1976, Clyde Haberman of the New York Post wrote that my father "knew personally more names than probably anyone in any country.” He quoted my father saying he understood "the appetites of newspaper readers for the kings and stars and villains and dog-biters.”
"Lyons made the world’s famous familiar to the average subway straphanger,” and, saying his was anything but a gossip column, "there was more news to be made looking at people across nightclub tables than through the keyholes of bedroom doors. He expanded the column from mere show business chatter to include the professional activities of notables in politics, literature, and diplomacy.”
"Carl Sandburg, our greatest historian, called him 'America’s foremost anecdotist.’ He reveled in ironic, sentimental, sometimes dramatic human stories about very important persons, from Broadway to the White House. For four decades 'The Lyons Den’ was an institution and will be invaluable to historians seeking behind-the-scenes glimpses of that long era.”
It was an amazing life he led, from a poor boy born in a Lower East Side tenement in New York (who twice ran away from Fresh Air summer camp because he missed the city) to a dinner guest of the Trumans on their last night in the White House; from the son of a Romanian tailor who died young, leaving his widow to sell cigarettes individually at a candy stand (who later learned to read English so she could enjoy her son’s column in the newspaper) to invited guest at the Monaco wedding of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. From a night-school graduate of the City College of New York to having tea at 10 Downing Street with Churchill. He traveled from winning the Spanish prize pin at P.S. 160 to wearing it on his lapel at a white tie dinner at the Kennedy White House, where the invitation had read: "Decorations will be worn.” It was quite a journey.
If only I’d had that tribute to read to my classmates so long ago!
This is a book about some of the most amazing people of my father’s time and ours: authors, actors, politicians, musicians, and athletes mostly. Stars who’ve risen to the apex of their professions telling you things you never knew about them.
Along with his brother Al, my father went to the High School of Commerce, then to the City College of New York, where he studied accounting; then he finished second in the first graduating class of St. John’s Law School, before being admitted to the New York Bar in 1929.
But journalism would become his eventual calling. While practicing law, he began contributing items to columnists and wrote a column under his original name, Leonard Sucher, for the Sunday English page of the famed Jewish Daily Forward, a newspaper that still exists. The column was called "East of Broadway,” a reference to the Lower East Side where thousands of immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe were clustered at that time. But he kept contributing items to the more established columnists of the day and built up a scrapbook.
Then in 1934, the New York Post announced a contest to find its own Broadway columnist to rival Walter Winchell, who’d created the genre in The Daily Mirror. My father entered, showed his bulging scrapbook, and beat out 500 other applicants to win a job at the Post—the oldest continually published newspaper in America, founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801.
Starting on May 20, 1934, he would write six columns a week for forty years to the day. It was in the age of New York’s so-called "café society.” Soon after he’d assumed his new job, his editor told him on a Friday that come Monday he’d have a new name. "Lyons” was chosen to be the alliterative counterpart of Winchell’s.
But unlike his rival’s, my father’s wasn’t a gossip column by any means. Never once in more than 12,000 columns did he use the word "celebrity.” He abhorred it. He said he’d write about his sister Rosie in Brooklyn if she did something newsworthy, as well as presidents and movie

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Charles Osgood
Introduction

'The Thirties
Irving Berlin
George Burns
Sir Charlie Chaplin
Ty Cobb
Gary Cooper
Noel Coward
Albert Einstein
J. Edgar Hoover
Sinclair Lewis
Groucho Marx and his brothers
W. Somerset Maugham
Pablo Picasso
George Bernard Shaw
The Duke & Duchess of Windsor

'The Forties
Tallulah Bankhead
David Ben-Gurion
Thomas Hart Benton
Ingrid Bergman
Milton Berle
Humphrey Bogart
Charles Boyer
Winston Churchill
Joe DiMaggio
John Garfield
Sam Goldwyn
Cary Grant
Howard Hughes
George S. Kaufman
Danny Kaye
Helen Keller
Charles Laughton
Gypsy Rose Lee
Oscar Levant
George S. Patton
Edward G. Robinson
Carl Sandburg
John Steinbeck
Harry S. Truman
Orson Welles

'The Fifties
Lauren Bacall
Marlon Brando
Yul Brynner
Ralph Bunche
Marc Chagall
Salvador Dalí
Kirk Douglas
Jackie Gleason
Rex Harrison
Ernest Hemingway
Audrey Hepburn
Sir Alfred Hitchcock
Judy Holliday
Grace Kelly
Ethel Merman
James A. Michener
Marilyn Monroe
Lord Laurence Olivier
Otto Preminger
Rocky Marciano
William Saroyan
Phil Silvers
Frank Sinatra

'The Sixties
Brendan Behan
Richard Burton
Truman Capote
Dustin Hoffman
Lyndon B. Johnson
John F. Kennedy
Sophia Loren
Paul Newman
Barbra Streisand
Billy Wilder
Shelley Winters
Peter Ustinov

The Next Generation
Antonio Banderas
Javier Bardem
Cate Blanchett
Michael Caine
George Carlin
George Clooney
Penelope Cruz
Dame Judi Dench
Clint Eastwood
Ralph Fiennes
Dennis Hopper
Samuel L. Jackson
Sir Ben Kingsley
Jay Leno
William Shatner

Epilogue
Index

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First Chapter

Stories My Father Told Me

Notes from "The Lyons Den"
By Jeffrey Lyons

Abbeville Press

Copyright © 2011 Jeffrey Lyons
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780789211026

Introduction

One day when I was in fifth grade, the members of my class were asked to stand in turn and tell what their fathers did for a living. Back then, there were few working mothers. I remember hearing: "lawyer”; "doctor”; "investment banker”; "painter”; "musician.” Then came my turn, and I said: "Columnist.” No one seemed to know what that meant, so I said: "My father writes about all your fathers.”
My father Leonard Lyons wrote "The Lyons Den” column in the New York Post and was syndicated in over 100 newspapers around the world from 1934 to 1974. His anecdotal style of writing flourished in the Golden Age of the Broadway column. Whereas others dealt in scandal and rumor, he thus stood alone, enjoying a special place in his craft.
"The Lyons Den” became an American journalism institution and our family’s key to the world. My father knew EVERYONE! Stroll down Madison Avenue on a Saturday afternoon visiting the art galleries, and everyone knew him or recognized him or had an item for him. Our home movies, for example, had the usual scenes of my family members sledding down snowy hills in Central Park, tossing a football or baseball, and long-dead relatives mugging for the silent camera. But those color films also showed us with family friends: Marc Chagall, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, Edna Ferber, Moss Hart, Adlai Stevenson, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Sophia Loren, and Frank Sinatra. Oh, and a few others, too: Danny Kaye, Thornton Wilder, José Ferrer, George Bernard Shaw, and Laurence Olivier.
It’s a safe bet that most of my classmates didn’t have such family friends. Nor did they say goodnight to their fathers at 7 a.m.; most fathers would return from work just before dinnertime. Mine, however, worked from mid-day until dawn. He spent every night out on the town—not gallivanting or drinking (he was, as they used to say, a teetotaler) but gathering stories for his next column. We thought playing baseball across the street in Central Park with Paddy Chayefsky on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as showing Richard Burton how to bunt, was normal. We thought a phone call from Hemingway or a late-night call from Milton Berle or a holiday gift from J. Edgar Hoover was normal.
One night, Norman Mailer called, seeking legal advice from my father, a practicing lawyer before he became a columnist. Mailer had just stabbed his wife.
Didn’t everyone’s parents get invited to the White House or attend Broadway openings and movie premieres? Didn’t every family have Nobel Prize–winner Dr. Ralph Bunch, Abe Burrows, and Phil Silvers sit at their seder table every Passover? Didn’t every high school football player get to train with the New York Giants? Or tour Spain with a famous matador? Didn’t other kids know Joe DiMaggio on a first-name basis or get a phone call from Marilyn Monroe on their sixteenth birthday? It never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about such an upbringing. Looking back, it wasn’t just unusual. It was amazing!
In his tribute the day after my father died in 1976, Clyde Haberman of the New York Post wrote that my father "knew personally more names than probably anyone in any country.” He quoted my father saying he understood "the appetites of newspaper readers for the kings and stars and villains and dog-biters.”
"Lyons made the world’s famous familiar to the average subway straphanger,” and, saying his was anything but a gossip column, "there was more news to be made looking at people across nightclub tables than through the keyholes of bedroom doors. He expanded the column from mere show business chatter to include the professional activities of notables in politics, literature, and diplomacy.”
"Carl Sandburg, our greatest historian, called him 'America’s foremost anecdotist.’ He reveled in ironic, sentimental, sometimes dramatic human stories about very important persons, from Broadway to the White House. For four decades 'The Lyons Den’ was an institution and will be invaluable to historians seeking behind-the-scenes glimpses of that long era.”
It was an amazing life he led, from a poor boy born in a Lower East Side tenement in New York (who twice ran away from Fresh Air summer camp because he missed the city) to a dinner guest of the Trumans on their last night in the White House; from the son of a Romanian tailor who died young, leaving his widow to sell cigarettes individually at a candy stand (who later learned to read English so she could enjoy her son’s column in the newspaper) to invited guest at the Monaco wedding of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. From a night-school graduate of the City College of New York to having tea at 10 Downing Street with Churchill. He traveled from winning the Spanish prize pin at P.S. 160 to wearing it on his lapel at a white tie dinner at the Kennedy White House, where the invitation had read: "Decorations will be worn.” It was quite a journey.
If only I’d had that tribute to read to my classmates so long ago!
This is a book about some of the most amazing people of my father’s time and ours: authors, actors, politicians, musicians, and athletes mostly. Stars who’ve risen to the apex of their professions telling you things you never knew about them.
Along with his brother Al, my father went to the High School of Commerce, then to the City College of New York, where he studied accounting; then he finished second in the first graduating class of St. John’s Law School, before being admitted to the New York Bar in 1929.
But journalism would become his eventual calling. While practicing law, he began contributing items to columnists and wrote a column under his original name, Leonard Sucher, for the Sunday English page of the famed Jewish Daily Forward, a newspaper that still exists. The column was called "East of Broadway,” a reference to the Lower East Side where thousands of immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe were clustered at that time. But he kept contributing items to the more established columnists of the day and built up a scrapbook.
Then in 1934, the New York Post announced a contest to find its own Broadway columnist to rival Walter Winchell, who’d created the genre in The Daily Mirror. My father entered, showed his bulging scrapbook, and beat out 500 other applicants to win a job at the Post—the oldest continually published newspaper in America, founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801.
Starting on May 20, 1934, he would write six columns a week for forty years to the day. It was in the age of New York’s so-called "café society.” Soon after he’d assumed his new job, his editor told him on a Friday that come Monday he’d have a new name. "Lyons” was chosen to be the alliterative counterpart of Winchell’s.
But unlike his rival’s, my father’s wasn’t a gossip column by any means. Never once in more than 12,000 columns did he use the word "celebrity.” He abhorred it. He said he’d write about his sister Rosie in Brooklyn if she did something newsworthy, as well as presidents and movie

Continues...

Excerpted from Stories My Father Told Me by Jeffrey Lyons Copyright © 2011 by Jeffrey Lyons. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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    Hunting grounds

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