This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Charles Bennett hosts.
Hershfield answers questions about his duties as toastmaster and experience with mayors.
Panelists: Maureen O'Neill, Ursula Mahoney, Robert Krauss, and Martin Birmingham.
James Walker was the NYC mayor with the best sense of humor. The current mayor, Mayor Wagner, has a wonderful form of ad lib. A story about meeting Soviet representatives with Mayor La Guardia at City Hall. La Guardia was murder on toastmasters because he never showed up on time and came up on stage whenever he wanted to - "And you can't give that warmed up soup again." Tells a story about Mayor La Guardia and Commissioner Valentine being stuck in a secret elevator in police headquarters. Story about Harold Hoffman. Comments on his Abie Kabibble comic strips. Al Smith's favorite of his stories.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72022
Municipal archives id: LT2989
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Sorry you're still the white mayor Jimmie Walker like to dish it out could you also take it how do you like me on the quad you make life miserable for Toastmasters How was Mayor Wagner sense of humor is there still when you don't have the speakers you're introducing at dinners how do you know how much praise should be bestowed upon. Your city station presents another in the prize winning transcribe series of capice press conferences and these broadcast college newspaper editors interview prominent personalities in the New Years from the point of view of our younger set asides acting as moderator and host of the capice press conference is Charles Bennett a staff writer for The New York Times and here now to introduce his panel of capice editors and their guest is Mr Bennett Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen the voices you heard at the opening of our program or those of college editors who make up our panel currently of course these young people are on vacation but campus press conference does not take a vacation neither does humor which is the substance of our program today here to bring us humor in the full measure for a truly laugh with it so action is Harry Hershfield cartoonist Rocca Toastmaster extraordinary from his inexhaustible fund of stories he will bring us anecdotes of many of the great and the near great he has known especially the mayors of New York City. From mayor Highland on down Mr Hershfield has known our chief magistrates intimately and we should say here that mayors have never objected to having him tell stories on them very very old we are told that your speed is a smile a minute did you manage to get down here this afternoon without encountering something funny when I did hear this from Charlie that said quite interesting I came out of my cab and it was halted in a procession and that one Katmandu the other cab man and you know he says How do you keep your car so nice and shiny and if it is so they keep pushing through the crowds. And I had another thing you just earlier this morning Bill you got here about a civic pride of a great city you know naturally we're proud of New York but don't want to have a good attraction it's goes off the beam a little and at forty second a Broadway. New Bridge gentleman came over into a cop and he said just a cop where I lie and that cop probably stood up and said you're at forty second Street and Broadway Asiatic crowd at details what city. Well perhaps that will give you an idea here to tap this reservoir which for college editors making up our panel they are Maureen O'Neill the problem the university Ursula Mahoney one hundred college and Robert Kraus and Martin Birmingham of New York University that should take care of our introductions and I see that Mr O'Neill has the first question as to his failed but Mayor of New York City has had the best sense of humor well without hesitation I would say James Walker. What what if some of the story well it was there of course these fabulous see one of the great characters of work but one of the things I'll never forget one day I heard a woman actually say to Mayor Walker It must be very hard task to be the mayor of the city of New York and Jimmy Walker says yes there's a light in my office long after I've gone for the day. And I know I've had a lot of experiences with him we want to give us a true story about him that is people that hardly believe this about this man Jimmy Walker we were holding a. Contest for field in which we were going to pick two girls one of two girls are won first and second just girls of New York miss nobody from nowhere you know one of these things and remember we had a big very big panel of jurors a member Mrs Vanderpool I think it was Mrs William Kay Vanderbilt and it was Vincent Lopez representing his there were ten of us and Jimmie Walker was the mayor and I was one they contested representing the newspapers himself but it was one of the has to hotel and we had made a decision Jimmie Walker made the decision for some reason he said it had to be new and that unanimous decision he would have it in a way so they all agreed Well the girl who won it she was not the best dressed but she was the most beautiful and when he came to the boat at twelve o'clock and all during that time we'd had a few drinks and everything it was a nice party at gas from. When it came for the vote it was eight to two you me walk in myself voting for the second growth and the other eight voting for another but had to be unanimous and finally it got two o'clock in the morning and a few more drinks getting the same vote. A to do Jimmy says we cannot we cannot stay and don't worry but dad will get a decision and he says Call up your wife and tell her that you're not coming home this evening because this is going to be a long session so we cut there and finally call up my wife and I said I wouldn't be home and then finally got around four o'clock in the morning everybody weary Mrs Vanderbilt was falling asleep Lopez was falling all falling asleep and finally the vote came and they voted our way unanimously and the girl who we picked it was Hazel Forbes that married she became Hazel for she had another name then Hazel Forbes who became Mrs Harry Richmond and she went to the follies So this is now four in the morning and Jimmy says well you're not going home he says let's go to a restaurant and go to a turkey bat because some of the first time that we did say that he said because at nine o'clock in the morning I've got to meet the crown prince of Sweden and city hall so he said I want you to be there with me so at nine o'clock at night we had no sleep weary. The conference of Sweden arrived in city hall and James Walker made the greatest speech on Sweden I ever heard one you'll never see. And when he got through the crowd Prince grabbed ahold of Jimmy Walken he put his hand drama said that is the greatest speech I've ever heard about my country but look at your poor weary eyes you must have been up all night doing research. Oh it would I think we see how a series of questions turns from the Mr history of being our discussion of New York mayor's up to date and. How was the sense of humor of our present weight mayor Mr Wagner great sense of humor you know he has a form of ad lib did you use these wonderful right at your Inner Circle dinner Mr Charles meant that great inner circle dinner you're referring to the organization of present and past political writers and city hall reporters and you ARE YOU were the president yet and he pulled a line that was great. He did dips here they are as they read you to the limit if the inner circle did it no respecter of persons and they had the truth in most cases and he pulled a line that was wonderful he said it is better to have a linen wash in this country than have a brain or so they have it over there and it was strictly an ad lib line and I think that was a wonderful line that's the first of you feel that politicians in New York City need a sense of human to stay in power as much smaller. Your first name is personally Yeah so this is. If you did they you know if you didn't have a sense of humor you couldn't be good politics you know that. Well they've all they've all have a sense of humor nearly all of them because there's a lot of give and take to politicians they've got to be able to take it and they've got a sense you know what about Mr Walker that's most only you know yes Walker could take it but he took it now a peculiar way I saw him one night for one afternoon reading that he was a Toastmaster to begin fair at the want of a story you and a comedian. Got up there and with the worst taste I ever saw of anybody this comedian start rising Walker about the boodle in politics and all those things that it was it was just bad taste and it wasn't funny and when it was all over everybody was embarrassed by the thing and Jimmy Walker the toast Mr when he got through he said I will not answer this man. But here's what I will do I will cleanse the microphone and we'll start a new letter and he did his handkerchief and he just seemed very carefully at the microphone and the people applauded and that was the greatest of answers you say about taking it but taking it under pressure and that was where he was great. Say that about Mr Birmingham you have a question you want to ask or you said takes a sense of humor to go into politics how about Mary Highland mayor Highland Internet Lee No he was a very very serious man incidentally. One thing that was Could his credit to Mrs Hyland and credit to his administration was never true it was not true and though that remains a legend that was one of the present Duke of Windsor was then the Prince of Wales who finally became the King when he came here on a visit and. He was looking at the Woolworth Building. And they said that he said what too wonderful structure that's the greatest building I've ever seen and she's supposed to say you said a mouthful PRINCE Well she never said it and it wasn't true and you see it repeated all the time I think Oliver you never know that's not true. Yes there are many of those and I want to know you learn about how to see Sarah we do know it is not true and you did resist but I tell you how serious he was the Salvation Army were having a drive for five hundred thousand dollars and a point in the Chairman of the special Dr Who came to City Hall and I went to see Mayor Highland I saw him before he came out on the steps to make his speech and he asked me what it was all about the drive and so on so for five hundred thousand and he said well what will I say what what's the general tone of the thing what it would be nice it would just say that this great organization that it's wonderful work in the First World War everything that find what they represent the helping of the needy to fall and keep the very general he said yes and he went over it with me when he got down there if I got just what he wanted to say and he finally took out fifteen dollars and he says Well money speaks and he speaks louder than words so I make my speech with fifteen dollars that's all he said about those bits of salvation I'm going to ask Bill to politicians and so on I need the advice if you were asked when and yes they do you'd be surprised the amount of men including President Roosevelt who were asked for jokes to be used during campaigns. Mayors congressmen senators who asked different comedians for my I know that President Roosevelt himself I'm part of it has me four stories I know two stories that he used during the campaign one story though he made a speech and will be going to the empty room he asked me to give him a little gag to open it up with and I told him he went over it and as we went to that day as he made a speech tremendous tremendous applause and he was dejected because he had forgotten to put on the gag though he was the president of the United States now here is that he is that gag he finally used he spit because it pertained to politics and that's what he wanted this gag about and it was the politics was likely hillbilly was calling on a girl for a year and finally the fall of the girl said to the hillbilly you've been calling on my daughter now for a year are your intentions to are honorable or dishonorable Hill but he said You mean I got a choice. And then he'll use another gag he used it during three times in the keep campaigns are memories Lou you just fires the last campaign and that was he was comparing as a situation in the world and he said there was a fellow who couldn't hear very well or see very well and he went to a doctor doctor said Are you a drinking man he said yes I drink quite heavily he said that's the cause of your failing of eyesight and hearing you're going to stop drinking so a few months later he meets this fellow on the street this doctor meets him and his followers you need brigaded he said one and I tell you to stop drinking that's what's interfering with you just hearing and seeing if I was as well as him. What I've been drinking lately is so much better want to be in searing hearing I'm very good at doing. What other politicians in your written comedy material for you know well he nearly anyone you can mention what is happening here is to Martin. Mr Percivale you ignore the story you tell us about the represent the Soviet Union might have been received in York City Hall Yes Bob I was here when it happened I was with Marilyn bloody He had he said he was expecting to hire represented the Soviet government and in those days we didn't know how the so it would dress or anything you know that we just knew in the representation and he I would start to leave and he says no you stay here you might want me to miss work. And up the steps. Such taurine perfect gentleman two of them with high heads collars Ascot Taichi white vest and cutaway coats and spats and carrying canes and when they came up and introduced themselves. Look already you looked at these two fellows and you said so you are the two representatives of the Soviet government and you looked at his own brown bag he said I must represent the proletariat. And mysterious reader of manly Why are you being around a colorful name or do you feel that he gave Toastmasters a hard time oh he was murdered on Toastmasters because he never showed up on time and a Toastmaster might be right in the middle right in the middle of introducing somebody else he didn't care who it was he would come right on that day snatch it would get tremendous applause break up the whole thing you have to start all over when you can't give that one over soup again when you're introducing somebody it's not good but I myself stop you know some funny thing about why do you he could take it from me he I could kill him and he would take it and one day I introduced him and I said there's only one way to introduce you there live why are you the kind of a man you are you know what kind of a man you are man you're the kind of a fellow asked a man a question answers it fine and says he's wrong. Could look why do you. Take the jokes that have been on him oh years he could be glad you could take jokes he'd very incidentally I want to tell you somebody you only like five cent cigars if you gave him a good cigar he said he would break out and right he would know he said take the cigar says Cheney and give me a nickel cigars nickel cigar smoking so many. Well Mr Hershfield you're a very familiar figure around city hall you probably come in there often enough so that the young couples come in and ask you where the marriage license bureau is which is the most frequently asked you question me about what I want to wonder do you know of any instance where City Hall has been mistaken for some other structure Oh yes not so long ago. A couple passed city hall here out of town couple and they looked at and said they saw the queue Polo and the design the colo