This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Maurice Dolbier introduces the day's speakers.
First, Frederic Morton, author of "The Rothschilds: Portrait of a Dynasty" discusses the Rothschild family, and particularly their love of fine food.
Jane Jacobs, author of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" talks about city planning and urban renewal, and the unexpected outcomes of this type of project.
Finally, Dolbier introduces Patrick Dennis and Cris Alexander. Dennis, author of "Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television, Belle Poitrine" discusses his work of fiction and he and Alexander perform for the audience.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 43470
Municipal archives id: LT9522
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
A new novel it's been published called rich is better. If rich is better than rough child a best of all across the country according to the best seller jobs people who might be arguing about that household budgets are making out that income tax returns I having a happier time reading about Nathan Rothschild four as a minor part of his magnificent it was just a had a Japanese garden which drew from the audience basket of the Macondo the comment we have nothing like that in Japan on about Alfred Rothschild who kept the symphony orchestra as a private hobby conducting it with an ivory baton and circled by diamonds it is a remarkable story of a remarkable family Its author is a young critic a novelist named Frederick. He was born in Vienna but you left as a child and I think that in nine after the gentleman from illiterate time in London way worked as a bank as apprentice and then with his family came to the United States in one hundred forty to be financed a college education here by working in bakeries and restaurants majored in biochemistry and psychology he may be the only person in the country and majored in both this country others that at the City College of New York and received just Bachelor of Science degree in one hundred forty seven this was the same year that his first novel The Hound won the dog made it literally fellowship for the best novel by an undergraduate later novels including the doctors below as thought and desire and the witching shift. Now in his first nonfiction book for Rothschild's he has written a study that is sparkling and smiles and it is just a fascinating and contest. Thank you Lisa. Very. Very. Family. Bound up. From the. Sublime. But it seems to me. My parents would sit down to table they know very well the strange playing myself and the great. Things to Eat twenty years ago when I was a child I stood in the. Palace in Vienna I had crashed into high society surroundings at a very early age but the circumstances were. Just people such as my family passports. The line which we had to stand was long and the wait was many hours and as we inch along alabaster. We finally got some sandwiches and began to much less so my first child. And then we have a change of scenery. And a little. Providence become an American and that is talking. But there was still child involved we're having lunch and we're discussing it which I'm about to do for holiday magazine on the Ross child and the question. Is. For a book. About the queen. And I'm off to the races. And then the. First family member I mean. And intelligent and well child balance. My life. And I have a character a jewish. Family and it so happens. That on. Into the book. And for some reason seems to be eating the story. Very much and she's fought for the. Doubt in my Jewish. Very gracious table matters and it dawned on me later on that if perhaps in the course of that during any one of those meals. The slightest. Perhaps. Research that I started at that point would have been but I went on to my historical research of the family. And its effect. History as you may know the roster. Of Franks who was smart enough to capitalize on a principle which is operating in this room at this very moment and the principle is that. Most agreeable state and he's least likely to object to objectionable things. With such admirable patience and old. Speech. He was trying. To. Make him. What time. The. Happy coincidence started. The single most dramatic event which. Began. On Sunday and. This was a weekly habit. On that Sunday. Telegram from. The. Israeli asked the question how much. Child's. Parents. The. Group called. The suspect. Came and went. And when the brand. Was one hundred. Pounds. The next two days that follows were ones for all kinds of. Elementary ones because all of the principals involved they had to make a decision. Decided. The. Great strategic property that the English but Paul you might was not in session they could not appropriate any money no bank in England except one could put such. Such short notice and forty eight hours after that main course and Lionel's house a messenger arrived and Linus office in London saying Could government have four million pounds in cash by tomorrow please when I was in a London bank two years ago the great grandson of my online showed me the desk where Lionel sat still. Now as a matter of fact beautiful thing and. Bowl. Which And we are back again to. Found why no. He said. And then he spat out. And said shall have and that's how Suez became English as you see. My character. But I think the circumstances forgivable when we come to living Rothschilds it seems to me that most of my experiences with them. For example my wife and I stayed. During the Christmas week and a half ago the meals. And the winds of course were even more so. But since there was usually champagne. Three. During the course of the meal. It came with the cheese. Which was fine except. A very kindly elderly lady it was terribly upset by this. And at last she asked me why I was doing this. I told her that I was a writer and I was doing a biography and I didn't want my faculties. But wind. Were very acute. And she couldn't quite understand what I tried. By saying well my job as I was my job was right. And. Right. And the next. Place. And at one point she even pushed me into became. And it turned out that she thought that only all of us could make me feel go across child while writing her. That made me do this. A sense that I thought maybe she's entirely right writing is. Probably good for the rest of your life. No I have not run all my champagne yet perhaps because of a disease called speaking but it too is a very enjoyable one to suffer through and I was very happy to share some of my Rothschild waffles with you today thank you. Back in the late one nine hundred twenty S. a play called The House Beautiful opened on Broadway and a lively minded lady named Dorothy Parker Center review it reported to our readers the House Beautiful is the play lousy live reminded lady named Jane Jacobs feels much the same way about the city beautiful all the city radio or any such concept of theoreticians we look upon cities as abstractions and forget that they are places made not merely to be looked at but to be lived in day in day out year in year out by people the city beautiful may be a great place to visit but not to dwell it unfortunately these theoreticians have been given the money and the power to put their theories into practice with results with which we're all painfully familiar this is Jacobson associate editor of the magazine architectural forum as in the death and life of great American city has written a book that if I may quote my own review of his time at dances with the controlled and implacable power of a bulldozer against the principles and aims that have shaped modern orthodox city planning and rebuilding it is a book tool that offers constructive suggestions for a kind of city planning that takes into full account of the city's chief purposes of existence and its unique qualities This is Jacob says in a New Yorker for twenty seven years and loves it loves it enough to fight for it not only in print but at the barricades. She played a major role in the successful campaign of the Committee to Save West Village from a slum clearance and housing project in this corner with a stranger. I. Thank you very much Mr. The very worst form of this terrible and incurable disease called writing that Mr Morton referred to is probably book writing and I don't know how I contract at this. Out of it's kind of mixture of bafflement and curiosity equal parts I was working for architectural for a magazine. Writing articles about buildings and so on and one fine day put me on an assignment about some planning. And some urban renewal projects that were being done in Philadelphia as a matter of fact so I went there and found out what they had in mind and what they were planning to do and how it was going to look according to the drawings and what great things it was going to accomplish and I thought this was just great so I came back and wrote enthusiastic articles about this and subsequently about other ones. And all was well I was. Very very cold with planners in the project. I suppose my readers I must ask them to forgive me whatever they were but I expect they were mostly the same planners of project who were telling me how good it was going to be any. Time passed and some of the things were actually that I had written about. And this was a great shock to me because they didn't look at all the way at all the the way they should have looked they didn't work at all the way they should have worked people didn't use them the way presumably people were supposed to use them and the city around them didn't react the way see a radically the city around them should have reacted well this struck me as of course disappointing but also it was very interesting. How was this. Why for instance people working in the areas that are all the artists conceptions full of happy prominent outers they weren't back. Why did stores that look very cheerful and were supposed to be doing a great booming business and finance actually go empty or languish. Why did they look so grim to well I would bring these questions up with the people who had been responsible for the planning and building of these places and I could get them very interested in these questions I got quite a lot of alibis mainly boiling down to. People are still but they don't do what they're supposed to do. This. There was plenty of bafflement and this was where curiosity came in that didn't seem like a sufficient answer I didn't know what the answers were I didn't know why. People weren't doing what they were supposed to do but I did know this much that if people weren't behaving in a perfectly natural every day way the way they were supposed to be then something was a fault with the theories about how they were supposed to be. About this time gentleman came into the office of the architectural farm his name was William Hurt he was head worker at a settlement Union settlement in East Harlem he came in because he was very much worried about East Harlem here in a rather small area about three hundred million dollars worth of rebuilding city rebuilding money had been put to work there were no hand of housing projects there was a new large park and all been refurbished all manner of things had been done and his distress was this that as a settlement house had worked or they could see that their problems were growing greater than they had ever been and hats. Instead of. Rooting out of and clearing away of the old song which had which was bad and had many many severe problems that the routine a way of this was adding no problems but nobody had ever anticipated and he had begun he thought to see why this was soft he had begun to see that things were not being done the right way well of course. This was exactly. In in tune with what had been troubling me so. When he came into the office and. My auditor and I sat around with him and he showed us a map and he told us some of these things. I events the great deal of interest and he said he would show me around the style and show me what he meant I know I'm on the board of that settlement now and I know how busy he is and I can't imagine how he took the time but whenever I got a few hours that I could take off from work I would call him up and he would walk around East Harlem. He didn't sit down and lying about what he was showing me. It all seemed very famous in a way we would just walk and since he was our public character we would stop every little while or somebody would stop him I would drop on the conversation. We would stop in stores we'd stop in at housing projects he'd point out local landmarks which a local landmark maybe a candy store you know and nobody else would notice it tell me a little about its history what went on there and at first I couldn't understand what he was getting at why exactly he was telling me these things except they were all very interesting but it was a little bit like a big basket of dried being thrown up in the air and what do you make of that but gradually. It began to make sense to me I began to see just out of the accumulation of all of this that I was beginning to understand. How things worked in that area many many little details of cause and effect. Actually saying things in slightly different detail but the same principles were at work in the area where I live but I just had and in many other places but I just had not thought to look at them in this way what I was seeing in fact was. Part makes very good order of the setting this has to do with the quality that's called. Rather vaguely urban ism and I think it has been mostly thought of in the past as a kind of atmospheric and rather mysterious thing it's like somebody having personality or they don't have personality and how do you explain it or. An intangible sort of thing well I think it. Sort of. Very explainable. Studies are extremely physical places. People in cities are not just masses of people they are people. People with certain relationships to each other it's a very good place it's not and mass it's enterprises and people reacting in certain ways to each other and supporting each other. The first thing in a way that I began to look at in a systematic way was how this. Works not what it is an atmosphere but how it actually works as certain forces certain forms of behavior certain things happening then. And I began to say that to make it work properly and wherever it did work properly there seemed to be an awful lot of diversity. Many different kinds of enterprises many different kinds of people in a small geographical area. Supporting and supplementing each other but you can't get such a thing by wishful thinking. Of things working like this where they do in real life don't just happen to because you wish they would and that was another thing that began to disturb me I began very carefully and descriptions urban as. To this quality of cities at their liveliest and happiest and most convenient and so forth and then noticed what pretty scriptures were given to this and the prescriptions just as the projects on the rebuilding had been seemed to me. Thinking they had nothing to do with the conditions that actually exist in areas of cities that are successful and lively and convenient and well. So then I began to try to see what makes what conditions are necessary to produce urbanism to produce diversity and actually when you begin to look and look at successful city areas it's not hard to find these. You just look to see where the where cities are successful and see what goes on there and why and I found four conditions that I thought were necessary to make urban. Now if there is a date of this kind of planning that we ought to have should not be planning this but begins with what is nasty here what do we take out but rather what is missing here which of the conditions that are needed to make this a lively and convenient place that works as a piece of city are missing and then figure how to insert how to get those into it at this point I might have been guilty of some wishful thinking myself. Specifically But if you work something out and you explain why I things that have been tried are failing everybody they're failing you claim why they're failing and then go on to explain why it should be done instead and try to make this clear as possible. Well then the people responsible for these things will change their ways and. Start doing it the right way I've had a little experience that. Saved me from that wishful thinking and it was precisely the articles that I had been writing for the architectural forum shortly before. I began my book I had been writing there for architects and planners and saying a few of the things I would get a big hand from them what good ideas how right you are yes indeed and then nothing would happen everything would still be done as always so I decided that really if anything was ever going to get changed it was going to have to be changed by citizens. Resisting what was done to them and by citizens understanding. And insisting that the right things be done in their areas you know that that thing about an inert object Well there is nothing nothing more inert than a bureaucracy than a government bureau there is nothing more in earth than a planning office it gets going in one direction and it is never going to change of its own accord the only way it well ever. Ever reverse itself and start in new directions and also the legislation and all these things that go with it will begin to change is when the planning offices and the government bureaus and the other people concerned with planning our studies get so frustrated because of resistance to them. At least this was my theory Incidentally the response that I had to my book fairs this out to me very much I get very intelligent letters from citizens of all kinds. Talking about cities about the subject matter I have I get lots of letters from planners but I have yet to get a single letter from a plan or the talks about the subject matter of the book city. They talk about. Planning methods and how good planning is and planning careers and planning training and they just talk about themselves but not about the subject matter of cities it almost makes one think they aren't interested in studies but only in planning in any case I got the book finished finally and thought Now I can think about something else and for three weeks I did think about other things. Then I opened the New York Times one morning and found that our own area the West Village was going to have an urban renewal project on it so I suddenly had to put into practice my own premises but if anything was going to. Happen to reverse the way things were being done the citizens had to take some initiative in the citizens have to frustrate the planners and thereupon began to devote myself to frustrating planners. To the end and so did the whole neighborhood I couldn't possibly do it by myself we have a great neighborhood. And we finally won just about a year later we won and we're now embarked on the next stage which is to try to get the things done right the next stage of what's missing what should go in there I don't know what success we will have on that during the. During the West Village by. I don't know whether to be amazed or I suppose I should be flattered that word got around that I had somehow whipped up this book during the fight as a campaign document. I would love to be able to carry on a job and fight against the city and with a book at the same time but as a matter of fact I guess for most writers and certainly for me writing a book is a very long and lonely process you feel as if you are talking to yourself in terms of life. It's an act of faith you wonder. Whether you'll ever really be talking to anybody else. Besides yourself. Here after two years of talking to myself. I cannot I cannot tell you what is going to happen in the next twelve minutes all that I can do is tell you who is going to make it happen first there is Patrick. Born at whatever kind of but it was also written under the pseudonym of Virginia wrote a pseudonym taken when his publisher rejected his own suggestion offense and had. As Patrick done as he wrote If he doesn't mind hearing it mentioned again Mame and most recently his courageous attempt to end all the as told to a series a series that he regards as ten percent ignorance ninety percent Hugo and one hundred percent nonsense this book is called Little Me The Autobiography of cretin I was told to Patrick Dennis this book is a mythical movie stuff with Pitt and many imaginary movies this has not prevented a number of citizens from writing to Mr Dennis tell him that a member of her well and also some of her film Plutarch's Lives saw them. Smashing sequel more. Accompanying Mr Dennis in whatever is going to happen in the next twelve minutes. Chris Alexander. An actor singer dancer painter photographer. To conduct shots illustrate things story. Was to have a. Voice coach who wrote the music for. Whatever is going to happen in the next twelve minutes. And now direct from the successful gateman at the Miles Hilton. Just the satellites through from outer space. Genesis ministers juggle them all systems are go over. Than. That but we don't know that that's right. Him. Somebody. Actually I'm going to say it for anybody else does nothing more boring than an author of fiction talking about his own book Jacob and Mr Mark have real thing real people to talk about. We have just invented and know how and are and we are not going to mention it at all except it's five ninety five at your nearest book though. So I thought that today we would just talk about you because of of the letters Mr Jacobs think she gets a laugh if you should read ours and I have a fair sampling I got some too I used to get that story like that that lovely one day. That the gruff politest in the house didn't have this one we got for I will do number one. It's addressed to you Chris It says Why do you wear that mangy. Good question oh wow. Well I think somebody had gotten the cover. Up one day dear Mr Alexander would you kindly call for the double breasted tuxedo you left for all through my fifty a commitment to. Look nice on you to our set that a here one. It's from a Mrs John Bird shot Locust Valley. Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party. Don't don't get rid of. Them you. Never. Hear that I am your greatest fan I have read every one of your books least a dozen times I worship the ground. I get that pattern high. Tonight I had a very in various free from of the go when I played all girls that everyone said that I am a born writer but I just don't think the age of the words down on paper the reason why I'm writing you not head up with all the reader mail it gets down to the topic. Here and that is that I would like you to collaborate with me on my interesting story then I would be happy to give you at least five percent of the proceeds as well as well of the round trip there to interview me here in Fairbanks Alaska. May I hear from you by return mail my time is very valuable. Clearly most definitely pretty isn't that not it's. No I mean this is pretty No no I didn't they get this one of the Agnus. And I do not use the term advisedly I have been employed in the department of the Herald Tribune for many many. I have tried to read your book Little me and it seems to me that a couple of you can write a bestseller Why can't I. I'm closing a list of my qualifications as a novelist I'm here again topic a right I expect an immediate answer as I'm on my lunch hour in the auction pages and a terrible mess. If you do not answer you will be reading things about yourself that you do not wish to read in The Herald. And it won't be classified it at a. Time is ready now it. Won't tell me how you want. To know. All right. More towards the works of us. As well that. Little. Satire. People are just looking at live picture. Words and words. By the word. Remember. If you're. Right about your older brother. Who writes. Just. Rot in the. Hope soon done by some through it riled up. Well I don't know whether. There's nothing about her life it's very readable printed look at Henry Miller. In the right my life in court that's next year. Well. She would like to write something big something something that would make people think. She comes up with something like the making of the president. Tell me. Wherever you are how do you politically I mean I'm sure Mr Gooch is not. In. Problem. I have to read. Iran. Or want to Cal but who. Were the. Air. The big. Jet and the famous. About the. Low rate. I'm afraid that's not the kind of thing probably worked. Out about. Politics never to discuss any. For. Those great. Bruce Taylor Caldwell. Millions and millions of copies. Related related Moses Jo'burg engine nothing like religion. For a guy from. The. Hurry. Or are. You. An upright. Repeaters are by. And Bird typing your. Think of the movie sale after that. Sunday school teacher in Alabama. You. Already. Heard it. Here mentioning her childhood. The broken. And the spine. Sorry. We lived in an air conditioned apartment. But what about who. Papa daddy laying in the back room with. Your father. On. Human. She says I was an only child but all those. Sorry Mr Dennis much about it. You're making it sound like a hatch remember he works for The Herald Tribune. She just doesn't want sixty I'm sure she does not well she went back a couple of generations and combined some of your ideas there must've been some interesting people. Living down there on this. Was on the river come in and go. Away. Oh all the other good life down there the great revival. Children. Go on. Then the union troops coming out of the home. And nobody's got the guts to say the civil wars of. The Yankee common pedo. That helped me get the Family Herald. Oh. Now that catalog. Nearly. All that's up. To me. By. Our body. I wonder. I don't know I'm not everyone else as. Close as a brief outline of her and all I can. Well begin calling. Start out with a girl named. Long hair green I. Highly bred the. Setting is just this side. With side trips to mad. Men. On the stand to Anna she's madly in love with a Yankee. Do sister and just to forget she laughs. I'm drunk. Let's bring the gorges of the great. One all of the barges in the water on the road. Flour. Pies and now we're seeing a ten. Year old daughter with a lion and. Richard the second coming home. Sir Lancelot was thirty. Burned in the San Francisco fire and years ago our Lord without hope. Says. Well I got. On a camel with. A ride hell for leather through the heather and they finally. Have a moment. Of the present. But still. Roll in. An advisor to Harry S. Truman. With. Red peers. To. Electronically sending the Kremlin sky high What a beautiful ending. Just about do it for twelve. God I just will love it and. I hate to riot he will say that or that. He says that the work of perfection you've got I mean it I've already seen in. My. Lack. Of. Reading Here's a tip him right for the giant prices out of down all day it makes no sense but am it's a novel that will sell and. It's good you do that right now or you don't have to be. Married very bright even you can write out the bestseller but they're harder to read and write yes they're hardly heard you. Can do. That. Well ladies and gentlemen there's nothing left for you do to do now but to go home and write a big bestseller. And this is to kluge the luncheon for to day I hope we will see you at the final luncheon in April April seventeenth Thanks. You. Can.