This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Van Doren introduces Whalen, who talks about his autobiography "Mr. New York."
For more on this segment please see: http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/neh-preservation-project/
Van Doren introduces Higgins, who talks about reporting from Russia.
Van Doren introduces Allen, who talks about his television show.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 48872
Municipal archives id: LT7105
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Our first speaker today is Grove Whalen. His autobiography is an entertaining and strangely impressive book we are apt to give him surrounded by ticker tape with a flower in his buttonhole graciously welcoming important visitors to do Rio We are aware of course of some of the other roles that he has played in our city but I doubt if there's anyone here who would not be vastly amazed by the full list of those roles born on New York's East Side on the day Grover Cleveland married Frances Fossum in the White House he was named Grover by his father a good Irish Democrat. Having studied for the law he became fascinated by merchandising and trained under a great pioneer make sure that John Wanamaker In fact until the death of both John and Rodman want to make his life was connected with a great deal borrowed by first one city service and then another he always returned to want to make is to become in time vice president and general manager of it his love affair with New York or is always been in love with New York again incredibly enough as secretary the mayor highlands who quickly advanced him in his official family and finally appointed him head of the mayor's committee for the reception of distinguished guests. In his autobiography he gave a delightful accounts of some of the more I was standing occasion after the first girl world wall there was a city reception for Pershing the king and queen of Belgium the returning men of a Yes Woodrow Wilson back from the peace conference the visit of the Prince of Wales presented an unusual problem as mayor Highland was Irish and not inclined to I'm a British prince. It was to make the prince's welcome spectacular in the face of this grudging attitude that Mr Whalen organized a word of mouth campaign in downtown New York and the ticker tape blizzard came into being one of his biggest achievements with the world which you all remember that was a staggering job of salesmanship and diplomacy after three years of work at a cost of one hundred fifty five million Flushing Meadow a three and a half mile long smelly dump was converted into a wonderland. By thousands of trees with a numerable flower who by clashing fountains and lagoon and bright with the flags of forty eight foreign nations the history of the fire as told from behind the scenes is fascinating reading as indeed is the whole genial account of the life of a distinguished businessman who has his city in various capacities under seven million the record makes delightfully clear why he deserves the title The publishers have given his book Mr New York and happy to introduce to you girls of great. Distinguished authors on my right or left wrong way. I think publishers. Great readers. I understand that this audience is made up largely of the intellectuals. Therefore I should not have attempted even or even accepted this author to speak before you because he will sense soon discovered that I am not one of them. I am happy to say that I've lived in this little town here no you are and enjoyed every moment for a few years don't pay any attention to that date on which I was blown I'm just mentally but then there's sort of an interesting factor I'm not as old as that but. The fact that I have my own name of Grover kind of spoils a little bit of my story I follow of being a good Democrat and couldn't think of any other name when I was gone except the name of Grover because Grover Cleveland was being Mary and White House on that particular day so I became Grover but I came from rather a religious family and my. Two sisters who had entered the convent decided that. That wasn't a good start because they never knew of a sane program. And some of my friends have said that they haven't heard of one sense. But sound wise to suspect that up when I was. Christened so they gave me three sayings names after that Michael St Michael's saying I guess this isn't saying now which is. Fixed up grow around the fall of. Love it took three saints to fix up Rover and knock him over but I sailed holding forth that perhaps rover will still survive the. Little log. I never. I had any ambition to write a book although. Men tend. To do is or was many years ago. Came down to want to make others and insisted that I had something to write about while I was sort of busy in those days and felt that I couldn't spare any time away from my job on my young family and so put this job put the very pleasant task off on for about one dollar couple of years ago and at nights and Sundays and holy days of obligation I. Wrote the story that you read which the publishers have very kindly called Mr New York I'm rather rough around the proud and very happy that they did because it identifies me and I thought perhaps I might think I was Mr New Jersey or something of that kind bought as I travelled abroad on business and pleasure through the years I found that. The solo to that we gave to distinguish men of. Governments abroad and who had accomplished much in the diplomatic on the diplomatic scene or much appreciated by and read by. People in all the countries of Europe largely And I also found that they were interested and I felt that it gave New York a better life let me offer would be understood that it. Unfortunately it was my impression from my travels that. New York was not considered a cultural city and then the sense of the word. It was a city that was simply after the money everybody that lived here was after money and money was their God and money was their artistic atmosphere and everything else so that I hope that in the little contribution that I was about to make that we make hospitality that we welcome everybody here and I learned that from my early days on the Lower East Side where. People from foreign lands came and settled as man and some of you may remember the the Germans settled up towards Yorkville and the Jewish folks settled down on the Lower East Side and mingled with the Irish that also stepped off the boat and stayed on the lower east side so that. I was able to mingle with the peoples of the world that came from the world and I learned a great deal from them and I felt that this great city of ours should be a hospitable city and that is the reason and the excuse for my getting into this thing called the mayor's committees for the reception of distinguished guests but before doing that we also wanted to. Make our own troops who went to war and well while one. That the people of the United States is represented by New York in this particular instance appreciate the sacrifice that they have made and the great contribution and made to the world in that unfortunate conflict and so the troops were welcomed home in New York and from that grew this great desire on the part of the people largely that this attitude of New York would continue to be hospitable and to welcome those from foreign land and so will we if you look through the on the outside cover of the vote of mine you'll find that you can run down from Pershing to Woodrow Wilson all the way through the great events of history that are important to us all today to kill only since we are in a very serious moment at the present time in world history and so those people that were making the history for our country at that time we stopped long enough to have them discuss it for a moment to the world in New York City and that was Woodrow Wilson's first stop when he came home after the Versailles Treaty and told us what the treaty contains and it was one of the greatest events in my life in those own early days and in history as to the analysis that Woodrow Wilson that made of great historical events and so even then we had. Problems of protocol and the protocol that I tell you about in my book where we attempted to have the ladies occupying the boxes and Carnegie Hall Mrs Wilson the Jackson two it she wanted to sit with her husband and stay on the platform but unfortunately there wasn't any room because of the great numbers of diplomats and foreign representatives and United States senators representatives all of whom had come to New York for to hear the president speak after he came back from his visit in France and so the problem making New York better understood started then and I think it was completed when we secured the United Nations here because New York today is the world's center of information Washington of course is our capital but if you examine the information services that we have here on World News they're all located right here in New York and because it is the central place and because World News is not it is made here and with the United Nations it will remain here I mean I'm sure it might be interesting for you to before I conclude for you to tell to tell you rather about how the United Nations came to New York they didn't want to come here. The committee that was appointed wanted to be in some far off place called Connecticut. And they wanted to be exclusive wanted to be have no contact with the world at lot but rather to be able to study their problems. In a place that no outsider could come on there was a man by the name of that since he. Go well of it rather who is chairman of the planning commission that came here and I found out that he had a child up at Columbia all during the war so that even though he was against New York and against the lead out going against San Francisco he still wanted his child to be educated at Columbia University here in New York during the war so that when it came to discussing the location of the United Nations we plan to put them where they know you are where I was say I was in one thousand nine hundred eighty nine and we were able to command to convince that distinguished. Gentleman called Mr Robert Moses who has contributed so much to New York that he could give a supply piece of his part without injuring his reputation that nothing but playful purposes happened in parts. And we were to develop the plan which the. Temporary commission turned down and of course if you remember John D. Rockefeller made possible the present site of the United Nations and I think that as we add up the. The pros and cons of what it has spent a good thing for us to have it here because if the United Nations have learned anything from the first contact that I had with them is this they wanted to be alone off by themselves. Where they wouldn't be in contact with any of the people of this country and make all the decisions on the other hand they've been in New York now and they robbed elbows with all of us and found that we don't hurt them we probably won't convey to them occasionally the thinking of all the peoples of the world because we have all the rare races of well represented well represented here and New York and I assure you if I were to select one. Action that was taken by this city and doing everything possible to bring the United Nations here it is true it is that one action and credit must be given to all those particularly Mr Rock Solid made the site available and to the Manor and the various other. Pablo's rest that were working with it. To make this site of a level for the United Nations I hope that as the years go by that we shall find that the United Nations will be wealthy of the great faith that's the whole world is put into it thank you very much. Thank You are still my life. Marguerite. Has a fine international background particularly for a newspaper moment. One is tempted in fact to read into a responsibility for some of our more flamboyant achievements. Born in Hong Kong Incidentally she does not speak Chinese stories to that effect notwithstanding I'm an Irish American father and a French mother she was educated in France England University of California and the Columbia School of Journalism after working on the Herald Tribune in New York she was sent to Europe toward the end of the wall and Diana buy back your hard work courage under conditions of physical danger and a no lose when news she was made head of the Tribune Berlin Bureau some of her early stories such as her account of a half million big Nazis tracking the Munich in full battle dress on god of the liberation a book in World of Gehring suicide and later her reports of the Berlin I had lived for shadowed her reputation as a daring and exciting World reporter. So often has only sure journalistic instinct letter to the story of the moment that it has been said about by her colleagues news go where Maggie goes writing lecturing reporting her reputation has spread fast and far in the years of a newspaper career ten years of a newspaper career she jumped to has chalked up ninety nine citation prizes and I'm of the collect a prize for distinguished reporting. The Overseas Press Club George Polk Memorial Award in recognition of her courage integrity and enterprise above and beyond the call of duty and again the next year or according behind enemy lines in Korea and other nations. She has been cited by the National Society of Women in journalism I was Veterans of Foreign Wars at a New York newspaper women's club by the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association I the English speaking Union she was named one a member ten women of the year and she received the Dr Humane Letters from Latvia count pretty impressive. Missing in most recent reporting been from Russia. She just returned from another covered ten weeks in which. Thousand five hundred miles through Sabby area Soviet Central Asia the Caucasus White Russia and Ukraine. In her new story which are now been gathered up and expanded into a new book red plush and black brain she's particularly concerned with the way people live in Russia what things cost how credible things are the collective farm the ballet transportation their attitude toward American the relaxation of some talent harshness is small but significant change. In Ireland and particularly happy to be able to introduce to you a colleague a newspaper who by courage. And Enterprise has made byline a million readers. Thanks very much for the introduction ladies and gentleman thinking how to bridge the gap between Siberia and it's a very nice room a wonderful meal I thought perhaps the easiest would be in the form of humor in my first trip to the Soviet Union there was a lot of people would not talk to me except by indirection this time. Not the night of a hundred wouldn't talk to you but maybe that one hundred would have a sense of humor and I even found a couple of Russians at the Moscow University who got away to net deadly seriousness and could laugh at myself I was very surprised and I can assure you it's a very new development to be told this joke by an Armenian student he said that it was current in the universe state I don't know but it both be about the Russian belief that everything is made in Russia or by Russians or first discovered by the Russians quoting to a joke one student has been not seeing the superstitions of religion and saying that the priests are very nationalistic and in fact priests really claiming that Adam and Eve were Russian the other students that are not cricket crazy they were the Russians in that period and the second one says Well I don't know that the only thing that I could raise to make a case for the fact that they were Russian is that they had to share an apple and they had no clothes and they had to say they were living in paradise. I've been accused of making that up. It's not true the whole new thing is a Russian. I have been vast changes of degree I try to make it clear in trying to things that happen to myself. I would I think I better come right out and tell you that first time I went to the Soviet Union back in one hundred fifty four I was scared. Otis was had been let out of jail I was going to the first Daily News correspondent to be given a visa I guess and called a hyena of the pen Friday Russian chief rider Mr Baer and I thought it was fine as an get to see this country but it didn't quite make any sense to me the chance missions this lifting of the I was just beginning I don't know if I would have been invited here today if the chairman had known that I had a criminal record but I started getting my criminal record on that trip. Was a very you know annoyance by comparative standards of things behind the Iron Curtain but in trying to take photographs I was picked up by the thief sixteen times incidentally to show you how the Russians must have have a conscience about the word now to ship when I filed the story I said that I'd been arrested sixteen times the censors I guess were being told already that they would let more thing through than in the past and indeed they only took one they only took one word out of my dispatch they took the word sixty or that one might that reach my editors It said I've been arrested sometimes my editors were fascinated to Cavalier mass manner in which I said Yes it sometimes had been arrested. But a typical example of how those things happened and lifted before the changes was in stone god and I was trying to take pictures of the open marketplace I always carry with me my orders written in Russian showing what I couldn't could not take. So that I could present if there was any difficulty because cameras at that time were still so new wearing them was a matter of the great curiosity and Russians have been a very. Many ways childlike people in the provinces do not hesitate to show their curiosity and taking pictures you've had a crowd around you all the time and if you could be totally in conspicuous with when you're wearing two cameras it is hard you just try to do best you can assess your time I was taking pictures of radishes which I claim are not by any means war material one of B. and B. bean and in a marketplace that's a secret so cortically said some of them wear uniforms some of them don't. This one was in uniform asked me for my credentials and said well you take the pictures and he let me go he said I'd sign of these in order and I walked up the other end of the marketplace trying to evade the crowd that gathered and trying to look in conspicuous to video the background of the last period of Saddam's day the State Secrets Act with test under the State Secrets Act A Russians could be put in jail for giving a former a telephone number that's out strange and it was and till February nineteenth just before no foreigner could take pictures anywhere and if you know that you can mess cameras were banned and the propaganda drilled of course that all foreigners were spies but I'm happy to think you didn't made it and this time a civilian. Im excited to billions in grace to become a golfer style cap and not a shabby great child. Started pointing at me and screaming at the top of his lungs gnashing four and five four and five very difficult looking to do it someone screaming had two four and five. I couldn't tell whether this man was somebody deliberately planted to make life difficult or simply somebody who had who had read so much about foreigners being spies that he decided that I was simply carrying a camera and therefore obviously a spy but by came very uncomfortable because a crowd gathered around and started trying to grab my at my movie camera and exam hours that was hanging around my neck. So uncomfortable it that I didn't say hi to get out of this in a dignified way if anyone ever told me that I didn't plead to see a Russian policeman out he said they were crazy but I was delighted this time and I was arrested and rescued from the crowds but as we walked away. You see I was I had all the ferocity of the dog on the leash I knew I was protected by this policeman so I turned back to my tormentor who had been screaming so loudly at me and used a phrase which came very handy in Russia to face it the first is natural Turney that means not cultured not a lot of Russians in the problems we don't know what culture is that they know it's very bad to be without it because they read about it all the time in profit and the other thing it comes in very handy if you're planning to make a trip is the word candy it's easy to remember to dance I can only mean drunk. So as I was safely being taken off rethinking by the Russian please my turn to the man in the gray suit and I said I am a foreigner and the way you have treated me is very the actual tourney and furthermore I think your cannons. Whereupon the crowd deprived of needed cornet thought this over in the last I saw I was going off big heading off the police station with the hope always proud surrounding men and shaking their fists at him and screaming at him yes will turn you can me. So I had my revenge I want to tell you the sequence to show you how how unpredictable things are in Russia I got the police station and said look I've followed orders in every I've done nothing I shouldn't and so forth. Man said we just a minute well I call it was six hours during a period at six hours I said once Am I under read and he said Of course not I said Well may I leave then that of course not so at the end of six hours he said after a lot of conferring on the cell phone so forth he said you have to give me your your camera and you'll have to give me your film I said look the only color film I've got you know that here the rules I haven't disobey God and exactly what I should have been very careful to do exactly what I should so I'm sorry I have to give me your film. Well an absolute hunch because everything was so at the dictabelt I looked him straight Lee I said Now Mr militiaman if if I tell you that I have not been taking any pictures whatsoever he knew I had this it seems if I tell you that I haven't been taking any security whatsoever could I have my film he said well if you haven't taken any pictures whatsoever of course I will meet your film maker and. So you see it is not always next nations and contest this year following in steps perhaps we'll show some of the differences course last year I couldn't get into the cram and I couldn't get to see any of the top leaders if you were at all the receptions and party which they attended and had a chance to talk to you Khrushchev will go on and on the rest but I hadn't been compared to the conversation that began when I was introduced to a rather oh and conspicuous sandy haired general. Whose name I didn't quite get but who I thought was rather work took rabbit interest because we're talking about the Russian language which I'm trying to conquer I'm I'm not even halfway there yet but nonetheless he said he suggested certain pronunciations and certain techniques of the language and at the many receptions we went to I actually quickly ran into this man and we always were talking about the language and he always took a great interest in my linguistic progress. At the only reception for the premier of Burma I got into a conversation with him again and again about the language and one of the batteries they were coming to the reception bracing reception came up to me and said afterwards you know who that man is that you were talking to when I said no and she said Oh that was all I could get out of it. I walked over to the British ambassador and said See that man over there that sort of that general was a sort of standing here and so forth witty and he said oh he's the head of the Soviet secret police. Their head of the Soviet secret police era would not have been seen around any safety or year ago these are all matters of degree I think as you travel through Russia you find very quickly something that was symbolized to me by the atomic energy plant we went through it I'm not an expert on atomic energy but I I know when something works by pushbutton because I've had experience with the drama the other you push the button and the windows don't go up. Well this was a highly modernized very pushbutton job this atomic energy plant where the Russians of the do think time again it is a peacetime purposes it's polished the people in it are well fed and there's a lot of meaning metals there there are a lot of new mobile charts scientific things that I didn't understand but impress me highly And but what is more important impressed the scientists who went through it you come out of this polished modern push button affair walk out the gate and you're in the priority be Russia they're the shabby ramshackle wooden houses the lack of plumbing the people in the south boots and the torn jacket you have the Russia which has been kept at clarity be level so that they could accomplish the hydrogen bomb they atomic plant and all the rest. It it's clear as you tour Russia that you shouldn't ever underestimate her to a Russia because of the existence of priority B. Russia it's a tendency that you have in the very beginning like a businessman I remember and then and I had looked around the plumbing and said My God we don't have to worry about these people look at these look at this bathroom it's totally and weighted Well he he missed the point which is that under style and bathrooms were were not given to do considerations everything consumer wise was not given due consideration in order that they could have gone one was sacrificed so that the other could be accomplished there Masha you have a sense of great confidence in the leadership Khrushchev and Company I remember the book came out a few years ago about doing a chapter the twelve year old man in the Kremlin you have a sense of twelve a very confident or Levon very confident man in the Kremlin what's going on is a period of consolidation Khrushchev is not a bit hesitant to say what's on his mind and that is he can see really truly believe that Communism is the best way of life you hope to consolidate what he has in Europe and in due time he feels the rest of the world will see the wisdom of communism coming their way as far as a big wars concerned of course the Russians don't want to lose their real estate they never have but two things people usually discover when they go in to build a union one is that the Russians are human and the second is that the average man doesn't want war. The Russian leaders want to get as much as they can as cheaply as possible and they don't want to be a kind of conflict that's going to bring bombs down on live subways we all of them start on auto workers the car cost tractor plant this god of industrialization which is what all the sacrifices have been all about short of sacrificing their own realestate there certainly has been any indication that they would change other tactics except where they thought they could gain more for less pay. When people say invest made. You think we're going to have a real peace in our time I think of the slogans all over Russia which are in the second half of the twentieth century all roads lead to communism and I also think that Malaysia. Started it and Khrushchev is doing it better they're trying by smiles by lifting the I mean to a degree of enough so that they can talk a great deal about it to make their presence their expansion of power more palatable you're much less afraid of Russia if you smile and when she's on the Elbe River. Threatening Russia is something that you would worry about trying to push that the new regime is making me communists road far less bumpy much smoother taking out a lot of occurred and hoping that they can induce the traffic down the road to communism to increase in this way about me in our time I can't believe it that the Russians will do anything less than they say every day which is to challenge is on every front as Khrushchev said today that they give up the communist leader is the day when the chips were there to whistle on the mountain and to the future Russia and I So I think of a. Very good analogy from an old Air Force pout we're to be called a commodity there's a commodity because of his prediction this was way back in the thirty's people would come into this Air Force out and say well what do you see for me he was at West Point and his answer would be but said Mr Smith Miss Let me check it here very mysteriously and say most for you the future's going to be rough but interesting and Wilson would come in and this same superintendent Westpoint would say to you Wilson which is going to be very rough but interesting and then somebody else you Kayla should go and I say for you going to be very rough but interesting little thirty's people would get together and say This man is off to his crazy there we are different individuals different personalities totally different types and yet he says that for all of us it's going to be to St The church is going to be raw and interesting but he turned out to be right of course because you had Hitler you had the Second World War you had the bombing you had the at atom bomb you had the loss of a hundred million people of Eastern Europe five hundred million people of China and of North Korea and of northern India China and. Tippett And so on and now you had the Soviet possession of a hydrogen bomb and became the international ballistic missile So for all of those. If Russia as not just. As a bridge consolidation point for a. Russian I think for all of us. Not only the crisis. But especially the sixty seven. Rap but interesting. Thank you much. Five nights a week not eleven twenty on Channel four there is a T.V. show called simply tonight most of you know it so you don't watch it every night I hope you wouldn't get enough sleep if you did as one of the Valentine's complain last night. Steve Allen story has been told many times but perhaps it wouldn't be amiss to give you the bare outlines of it again the only child of a boat a bill comedy team whose father died when he was here in the house. Steve led a somewhat unsettled childhood often on the road with his mother part of the time in the homes of relatives or in body schools. He went to ten grade schools six high schools in two colleges. The financial family finances were equally unsettled fluctuating between scarcity generally and plenty occasionally. He long ago taught himself to play the piano by ear but he can't read notes so someone has to transcribe for him the songs which he turns out by the hundreds. He now has a contract for two more pictures a renewed N.B.C. contract and he's made several new record album. All this naturally spells success to his fans and to his friends but there is another aspect of him another talent that they know little about though it is the him an important one his skill as a writer from any school days he meant to write and he's never given up that ambition he was recently he has recently published the book of short stories we are here today fourteen vote tonight stories written with delicacy seriousness and a sensitive perception he has achieved glibness by hard work he has built relaxation into an accomplishment yet behind it all is the intellectual curiosity the imagination and achievement of the mind in high gear How does he do it perhaps he will explain to us and while you're watching him on your screen tonight don't forget that he's worth reading to. Thank you. Van Doren thank you very much for that the medical report. Very touching. I stand before you today and great ill health and. I feel all right I do want to thank you for the very very kind introduction I was advised by Mrs Van Dorn earlier that we run someone a rigid time schedule it's five minutes to three and my time is about up. The So thank you very much for. The props I should go I had for a few minutes. Actually I'm not going to take to much of your time has been said on many occasions. But one thing I don't I don't have an act I'm not the sort of performer who has a prepared routine nor do I have anything really prepared in the way of a speech today because for one thing I didn't realize I was going to be called upon to the pot eight weeks ago. And. With one thing and another time to sort of visit I didn't come here today actually to talk about myself. And really not too interested myself and I spent a lot of time with me and I'm very interested. In books this is a very new experience to me this whole field. First of all I think I should say it's very fine to be invited to speak to you today I think you to be highly congratulated for the wonderful work you're doing. I don't know what it is. But. You must be doing something. I see almost all of you are women. I guess men aren't reading anymore. And that's aright. I have made it a habit to Kazan late to discuss books on my television program as a matter of fact is one of the regular features on the show that involves my recommending very sim