Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another Fifteen Minutes for the Vagabond Lover

Have a spare couple million?  If so, as has been widely reported this morning, this charming sketch could be yours.

The seller claims it's Rudy Vallee, and I suppose there's a resemblence to the crooner and sometime leading man, but much more to the point, he claims that it's by Andy Warhol.

If the latter is true, it make it one of the Pop god's earliest works.  If the former is also the case, it serves as a startling reminder that Warhol didn't just appear on the scene, like Venus on the half-shell, fully formed at the dawn of the '60s, but  was at one time a starstruck tot in the late '30s.  I would have thought that by the time he was toiling away in programmers like Gold Diggers in Paris,* Vallee would have been an unlikely object of affection (or even attention) for even the feyest of young Pittsburghers, but then again, is it really a surprise that even at 10 or so, young Mr. Warhola had a tendency to confound?

If you'd like to place a bid, go ahead right here.  

I'd be tempted, if only to add to what turned into an inadvertent Rudy Vallee collection (on the theory that two of anything may be happenstance, but three is a collection).  As is so often the case in these situations, it is almost entirely Miss Rheba's fault.  Many years ago for Christmas, she presented me with an eye-wateringly dirty letter penned by the star of Palm Beach Story while he was on the road, if memory serves sometime in the '60s.  The subject is essentially how much he hates touring by bus, how he killed, but killed, at the last stop, and how very, very horny he is for the letter's recipient (who may or may not have been his wife at the time).  

At a subsequent holiday this unusual gift was augmented by a truly appalling record album, The Funny Side of Rudy Vallee, the owning of which makes me very happy I no longer have a record player.  Even the liner notes seem ashamed of themselves.  The most they can do is praise the star's enunciation (truly) and note that contained within is both "an ugly girl routine," and "airplane and flying jokes, lines about resort pools, hair, and old age."  The hapless copywriter goes on to note that "there are drunk stories and yarns about confessionals and rabbis and ministers."  Don't you long for your very own copy?  

The next year, she rounded out what must now be regarded as a collection with the star's memoir, Let the Chips Fall, a work of almost incomprehensible self-regard, I've never read it all the way through, I have to admit, but I did once throw it across a room out of sheer frustration with the singer's hamhanded prose. The stream of such dubious prezzies would have continued unabated, I'm quite sure, but I went overseas and made it a condition of Miss Rheba's annual visits to wherever I found myself that she arrive entirely Vallee-free.  

I suppose, now that I've returned to home shores, that I can only be grateful that she's not likely to have accumulated two million dollars in her Christmas Club account...

* The last and least of the Gold Diggers pictures, a 1938 attempt in which Vallee heads a distinctly un-starry cast that includes Rosemary Lane, Hugh Herbert, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, and a concoction called (and I'm not, as Anna Russell used to say, making this up) The Schnickelfritz Band, which I'm guessing combined the charm of El Brendel and the subtlety of the Ritz Brothers.


  1. You mean he had a life before Lil Joe?

  2. i had to google "Schnickelfritz" since i recall that word coming out of my mother's mouth. seems it's a term of endearment towards a child.

    once again, you've hurled me back
    to another place & time...
    and i enjoyed it!

  3. Don't turn down a Rudy Vallee megaphone from Miss Rheba, Muscato. You're creeping up on an age when it might make a charming ear trumpet.

  4. Ah, Norma, my mother, too, called me "Schnickelfritz" - I'm glad to know that it doesn't just come from this obscure vaudeville act.

    As for you, Bill, if memory serves I'm one of the younger gals in this bridge club, no?

    1. No one expects memory to serve when it's been working for so long. You were walking and talking by the time I made my grand natal entrance and transitioned from Fabulon to life on earth. You're certainly not from the Peeneeocene, Desmondian, or Jurassic Periods, but the dew is long off the grass.

    2. (*forces tight little smile*)

      Bless you, darling.

      (*drops TLS*)