Sunday, October 04, 2009


Damon Runmon was a classic story teller. If you've watched "Guys and Dolls" or "Pocketful of Miracles" or even "Little Miss Marker" (made into a modern film called "Forty Pounds of Trouble" with Tony Curtis and the late great Phil Silvers then you have an idea of what his storyteller. That film is only one of two films to use actually use Disneyland as a major location on a film this one, however the only one filmed while Walt Disney was alive. To be said that your writing is very "Runmonesque" is a great compliment. Remember the film "Yours, Mine and ours with the amazing Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda? Well that was based on a Damon Runyon story. His early years are fascinating: After a notable failure in trying to organize a Colorado minor baseball league, Runyon moved to New York City in 1910. For the next ten years he covered the New York Giants and professional boxing for the New York American. In his first New York byline, the American editor dropped the "Alfred," and the name "Damon Runyon" appeared for the first time. A heavy drinker as a young man, he seems to have quit the bottle soon after arriving in New York, after his drinking nearly cost him the courtship of the woman who became his first wife, Ellen Egan. He remained a heavy smoker.His best friend was mobster accountant Otto Berman, and he incorporated Berman into several of his stories under the alias "Regret, the horse player." When Berman was killed in a hit on Berman's boss, Dutch Schultz, Runyon quickly assumed the role of damage control for his deceased friend, correcting erroneous press releases (including one that stated Berman was one of Schultz's gunmen, to which Runyon replied, "Otto would have been as effective a bodyguard as a two-year-old.")Runyon frequently contributed sports poems to the American on boxing and baseball themes, and also wrote numerous short stories and essays. He was the Hearst newspapers' baseball columnist for many years, beginning in 1911, and his knack for spotting the eccentric and the unusual, on the field or in the stands, he is credited with revolutionizing the way baseball was covered. Gambling was a common theme of Runyon's works, and he was a notorious gambler himself. A well-known saying of his paraphrases Ecclesiastes: "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the how the smart money bets.
Runyon's marriage to Ellen Egan produced two children (Mary and Damon, Jr.), and broke up in 1928 over rumors that Runyon had become infatuated with a Mexican girl he had first met while covering the Pancho Villa raids in 1916 and discovered once again in New York, when she called the American seeking him out. Runyon had promised her in Mexico that, if she would complete the education he paid for her, he would find her a dancing job in New York. Her name was Patrice Amati del Grande, and she became his companion after he separated from his wife. After Ellen Runyon died of the effects of her own drinking problems, Runyon and Patrice married; that marriage ended in 1946 when Patrice left Runyon for a younger man. Damon died in New York City from throat cancer in late 1946, at age 66. His body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered from an airplane over Broadway in Manhattan by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker on December 18, 1946. One of the things that you will notice about all Damon Runmon stories is the near total avoidance of past tense (it is used only once, in the short story "The Lily of St Pierre") is not the only oddity of Runyon's use of tense; he also avoided the conditional, using instead the future indicative in situations that would normally require conditional. An example: "Now most any doll on Broadway will be very glad indeed to have Handsome Jack Madigan give her a tumble ..." (Guys and dolls, "Social error"). There is an homage to Runyon that makes use of this peculiarity ("Chronic Offender" by Spider Robinson) which involves a time machine.
Some examples of Runyonesque slang terms include the following:
pineapple—pineapple grenade
roscoe/john roscoe/the old equalizer/that thing—gun
shiv—knife
noggin—head
snoot—nose
There are many recurring composite phrases such as:
ever-loving wife (occasionally "ever-loving doll")
more than somewhat (or "no little, and quite some")
loathe and despise
one and all -- It's fun stuff to know the origin of.
Other news I have just finished Act one of our new musical called "The Magnificent Confession" John wanted to do an almost all singing show and after some consideration, I came up with an idea: Just as in "The Wicked" what if there were another side to Jack The Ripper? What if there were a real reason that he murdered only prostitutes? What if he had been forced to do something in his youth and that literally took him away and kept him captive and this away from a beautiful girl
that he really loved? What would happen if when he finally found that girl again, desperate times had turned her into a prostitute? And then she rejects him totally because she can not give up the whore's easy life? Might that turn this now angry man against every woman who chose to be a "lady of the night"-- Think about it.

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