Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #5

Men and Things on the Other Side of the River.

A GROUP OF MEN was sitting around a table in a hotel cafe opposite the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday, when old Joe Siegrist came in, and approaching the party cautiously, removed his hat with an airy sweep, held it over his breast with both hands and bowed nearly to the floor. The party was composed of old New Yorkers and men a bout town, all of whom had known the oldest ticket speculator in America for years, and they chaffed him unmercifully for a time. Meanwhile the old man continued to bow low to the floor with the regularity of a clock pendulum until there was a lull, when he stood up straight again, cocked his hat over his eye, thrust his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat and remarked, "Its a curious thing that whenever I leave town these young things over there who think they can speculate in tickets indicating with an airy sweep of the arm the score of speculators in front of the Metropolitan Opera House get done up brown, toasted on both sides and even scorched, before I get back again. It costs them in the neighborhood of a cool hundred apiece while I was in Philadelphia." "How did you come out in the Quaker City," asked one of the men. "Well," said old Joe Siegrist with a sad and unhappy expression, "I didn't do very well there, I only yanked out an average profit of $640 a night on my tickets and the batch of 200 seats which I bought for "Semiramide" at box office rates only fetched $5 apiece. I hope to do better next time, though." Then the features of the old man relaxed into a broad smile, he made a dozen or more profound bows and then tip-toed, with many a backward wave of his hand, out of the door again. His visit was purely a social one, though it was evident that he was anxious to tell everybody of his good fortune in Philadelphia.

 I SUPPOSE Joe Siegrist is worth at least a hundred thousand dollars. It is his boast that Adelina Patti has never sung in America that he has not hear her. When Mapleson leaves New York to go on a tour, old Joe Siegrist is a faithful attendant, buying up the house in Philadelphia and Boston in advance a little custom he has been addicted to for many years now by which scheme the managers to land a small fortune every year, to say nothing of his success in New York. His judgment concerning the drawing capacity of any opera seems faultless. I have never been to the Italian opera without seeing old Joe Siegrist come in before the performance was over. He always keeps one seat for himself in the first row of the orchestra on the aisle. When his tickets are sold out, which is generally a quarter after eight, he buttons the money up securely in his inner pocket, then trots gently and suavely down the aisle, bowing on all sides of him as though he owned the house, sinks into his seat, folds his arms, crosses his legs, drops his bearded chin on his breast and remains lost in a rovery until the performance is over, when he trots off home again. If any one speaks to him on the way out, as nearly every one does, he will exclaim earnestly and repeatedly, "Elegant; very elegant performance, indeed?"

SOMEBODY HAS BEEN WRITING to the papers about the tricks which theatrical ushers practice in order to turn a penny over their salaries now and then. Among other things, it would seem that there are a great many men who go into the theaters by paying a simple price of admission and then secure a good seat by tipping the usher twenty-five or fifty cents. There are always a number of unoccupied seats, unless an extraordinary piece is playing, and the usher pockets the tip and takes care of the man who bestows it on him, so that the outerprising theater goer saves fifty or a hundred per cent. on the price of his seat. It is said that even a cheaper way of obtaining good seats than this prevails. People buy bill board tickets for fifteen or twenty-five cents, are admitted to the theater on them, then tip the usher and get through the evening's entertainment at a very trifling outlay. If anybody had the patience to figure it out, I rather suspect that things come out about even as far as the managers are concerned, after all. The ticket speculators fleece the public, billboard men cheat the managers, the ushers reduce the receipts at the box office, and so on interminably. The old style of usher, by the way, seems to have gone the way of the old style bartender. These gentlemen were formerly distinguished by their magnificent manners and the admirable reared they had for the curl of their hair and the twist of their big mustaches. The important, well barbed, diamond bedecked bartender has given way to a neat and deft young serving man behind the bar, and the very consequential usher of years ago has been superseded by deft boys, white or colored, respectful young women and agile and unobtrusive young men. Very many of the reserved and pompous managers of today were ushers ten years ago.

A YOUNG MAN with a blonde mustache and the blasť air of a man of the world strolled in the Russian baths yesterday and sat down, in a gingerly air, on the edge of a marble slab, while he rubbed a swollen eye with one hand, with great tenderness and delicacy. Both eyes were in mourning and the youth moved as one who was full of aches and pains. The attendant asked him if he wanted to be scrubbed and the bather looked at him for a moment and then said: "Scrubbed? No thank you, that is, unless you can scrub me with something soft, like a spray of cologne or a bit of cotton. I can't stand any bristles now." "What's the matter?" asked the attendant, sympathetically. "Did you meet an accident?" "No," said the young man, "I met a bartender. Some very fresh friends of mine had fun with me, a few nights ago, at an uptown hotel. I had just come from Montreal, and was wearing a fur coat which cost me a cool $200, when I fell against the boys. Nothing makes the boys so unhappy nowadays, you know, as to see a fur overcoat on another man's back. It's the fad of the season. But when I put my overcoat on that night after sitting with my friends for a couple of hours, I went uptown to make a call on some ladies. They crowded around me when I got in the house, and began to admire my overcoat, when I discovered a most astounding smell of cheese. it was awful. Everybody smelled it and I was obliged to get out in the open air to catch my breath. It wasn't until an hour afterward that I found Cheese wrapped up in napkins in every pocket of the coat. When I got home I found a letter from the proprietor of the hotel, asking me to return the napkins, calling me a thief and promising to proceed against me criminally. It was late then, but I put on a pea jacket and went around to lick the proprietor. I struck the bartender first." Here the young man sank abruptly into silence, the attendant leaned over sympathetically and waited for him to speak again. He waited and waited, but not a word was uttered. Finally he said: "Well, sir, what occurred?" "I don't know," said the blonde young man, sadly. "I saw 296 bartenders come for me at one fell swoop, and when I got up out of the gutter two blocks below the hotel, I made up my mind that I'd had all I wanted that night."

A THEATRICAL MANAGER said a day or two ago, "I don't know whether you know it or not, but nearly every prominent star, and many of the most successful theaters, are not run by the men whose names are printed as managers, half so much as by some quiet individual who holds the position of the power behind the throne, and who is not generally known to the public as the head of the firm. For instance, Dan Frohman, a quiet and unobtrusive gentleman, who works night and day, is entirely responsible for the vast success of the Madison Square Theater, just as Theodore Moss is the proprietor and owner of Wallack's Theater. In the same way, John Duff is the man who has enabled Daly's Theater to succeed, and Billy Connor was for many years the cause of the great success which attended John McCullough's tours. I mention these few names casually, but the most pronounced instance of all is that of the mother of Lotta. Lotta has two brothers, both of whom are in the theatrical business. They are clever enough young men, but they have no more to do with Lotta's business than she has herself. Mrs. Crabtree, the aged mother of the famous star, has entire control of the finances, and is the business woman of the whole Crabtree family. She is extremely sharp at a bargain, and much of the great fortune which Lotta has accumulated is the result of the keen business insight of her mother.

THE DEBUT OF THE LYCEUM SCHOOL, as the support of Mr. Barrett in the play of "Julius Ceasar" the school played the mob was a striking instance of the propensity which all dramatic students have to overact. The most volatile, mercurial, excitable and sensational of Roman mobs was cold and impassive compared with the mimic mob on the state of the Star Theater. The pupils of the school had a change to spread themselves on this occasion, and they did it. There was more acting to the square inch during the Forum scene than has ever been known on any other modern stage. When Brutus or Anthony besought the mob to weep, the pupils of the Lyceum School wept with a bevel edged intensity which caused a general air of dampness to pervade the whole auditorium. When they were roused to anger, they lashed about the stage in a manner truly awful to behold. There were a few praiseworthy members of the school who subdued themselves and acted in concert with admirable effect. But a great many of the pupils displayed a tendency to slink off into corners and act by themselves, which distracted the attention of the audience from the main interest of the play. Half a dozen of the male and female members of the mob would glide away whenever the opportunity came, tap their breasts think deeply with their hands on their foreheads, hold their hands tragically and wander about as though conjuring schemes against the State, more monstrous in their effects than those of Cassius himself. These few pleasant remarks refer entirely to the first performance. I am told that after the experience of a nigh: or two, the pupils improved greatly. Mr. Barrett gave his now well known rendering of the part of Cassius without change or deviation from the characterization which he gave it in the famous performance of "Julius Ceasar" at Booth's theater ten years ago. No one who saw that beautiful spectacle then has forgotten it. Brutus was played by that admirable actor, E.L. Davenport; Barrett played Cassius, Banga was the Mark Anthony and Levick the Julius Ceasar. The processions were magnificent, and the Forum scene was an impressive sight. No sub-sequent performances of "Julius Ceasar," have reached the high standard of that historical one.

THE DEATH OF THE COLORED LAWYER, Quarles, adds another to the long list of locally well known men who have been carried off during the past two weeks. Few men of his race have been more highly respected than this well bred and clever negro. He was conspicuous by reason of his standing among lawyers in conjunction with his color, and nearly every public man in America knew him. Like most men of his race he was fond of talking, and it was no unusual sight to see him on a corner on Broadway, in a elevated car or at a public meeting talking suavely and courteously to a group of a dozen or more men, who listened to him with the utmost respect. He was regarded with more favor by white men than by the people of his own race. This is nearly always the case with colored men who have risen above their fellows. The sentiment of jealousy and envy rises against them. B.H.


Website: The History
Article Name: Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #5
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle February 1, 1885
Time & Date Stamp: