Where Was I? 1940 – 1964
From The New TOPS Magazine, December 1964, by Monk Watson: “If you think this is going to be an easy month, you’re crazy. Neil has just returned from the hospital, looking in the pink, and still doing a lot of daydreaming. He said, “Monk, I like to have you reminis” (no such word), but knew he meant look back into the past to some things you used to write about in your columns at the start of your writing career (that’s in the dictionary) but not in my life.” So here goes; Turning the clock back some twenty-four years to “Tops” September 1940:
“Where was I?” was the name of my column and the reason for such a heading was because I had not been invited to a convention and many of my friends asked me, “Where were you?” These are just a few of the lines written back in those day of friends, some going on to play a much better date, where the price is right, and the place is crowded with talent. No worries about stage or travel conditions. Little morbid, isn’t it? I guess when you are older and you look back you can’t help but look ahead just a little to the time when you’ll be playing the BIG TIME too. Enough of that, but let’s visit about those days and the Tops of twenty years ago.
My first column brings out the fact that I had invented a new type of fishing worm called the Fight Back Worm. I might add right now that it didn’t take long for the big columnists in the New York papers to jump on this story and give credit to one of my close friends, a reader of Tops. The worm didn’t catch on I believe because it seems the law will not let you give liquor to a worm. This had to be done so that the worm would fight back any fish that come up for a nibble. I was going to build a stadium in Colon, for the Get-Together for that year, so everyone could see my worms in action. Too bad.
That same year I invented a clock for the new cars. This was built into the glass of the windshield. You did not have to wind it, nor did it interfere with the driver’s vision. My only reason for not going ahead with it was because it didn’t run.
Smooth as Silk was the subject for the October issue of Tops in 1940. It was regarding the way the Get-Together was handled, the Seventh Annual. Those were the days of the basement theatre, where the close-up work of the GREATS were something to talk about. Paul Rosini raving about a new boy named Frank Csuri. I had introduced them and raved about this boy to Paul, and now it was his turn to rave. Howard and Teddy Strickler were the Life of the party, with Teddy “First Lady” at the “Night Before” party. That was the year that my good friend John Braun couldn’t make it. I did the Tight Wireless act on that show, and I’m still using the same wire. A flash was the news that Carl Fleming had passed on, with a fine tribute from Bob Anderson.
November 1940 “Where Was I?”
Joining up with Recil Bordner and Gen Grant at Hershey, Pa., where there was a Magic convention. The Abbott booth was the headquarters for most of the boys. The Campbells were there and I remember how sweet Mrs. C. was to Gen and me, and how I was asked not to do my Wireless act, and I had my wireless wire with me just in case I was called upon, but they were filled up so I just sat around and Pouted. Not for long, however, because again I ran into Charlie Larson whom I had introduced to Magic in 1931 in Detroit. He, at that time had the largest collection of Magic in the world. He asked Gen Grant and I to visit him in New York and look over his collection. We went in and saw the whole works. Mr. Larson said, “Go ahead and look at anything you want to.” He meant just that, too. “LOOK!” Gen started to pick up a trick and got a big, “Don’t touch that, please!” After several of those, “Don’t touch that!” we just walked around bored stiff. He had lunch sent up for us … a ham sandwich and a glass of milk … to his downtown office …same building. A wonderful day with Staurt Robson at his shop, 324 W. 56th St. There we met John Muholland and Dorothy … he saw my No. 1 card trick and said I used a double-faced card. … I threw him on the floor and sat on his chest. Dorothy yelled, “Murder” but John just laughed (after I got off). Really I didn’t use a double-faced card. Then out to see Dell O’Dell in her beautiful home. Charles was a perfect host, showing us movies of their trips. Roland Travers was there and we hashed up some shoptalk about the lost art. Show Business … it’s been pretty dead a long time. He was in Magic and I was in Music … the Palace was THE PALACE. … Then on to meet Ted “Jinx” Annemann and buying fifty from him on the spot … Stuart Robson, Ralph Read, Ted and I getting a coffee cake out of jail at the Automat and talking and talking about Ralph’s new Mental Masterpiece. … Meeting the Great Williston and laughing ever since at his fine act … caught Sim Sala Bim with Gen and Williston, stood out in the street long into the night talking about that great show …The next night at Robson’s with Albenice, Harry Bernstein, Max Katz, Prince Mendes, John Maker, Bob Sharp, Ralph Bowen, and Buddy Bassi … and a lot more fellows. Hells-za-poppin with Olsen and Johnson … whom I had known for years. I was placed in a box where a girl sat in my lap … she said, under her breath, Monk, I was in your chorus in Detroit … married to Olson’s son …Hardeen was in the show … They tried to mess up his act, but it still was great. Saw Doug Geoffrey … then off to Club 4-40 owned by Olsen. Next day lunch with Gen and Charlie Larson, at the Savoy (this was on Gen) . Larson took us to his apartment where he had another two rooms of “Don’t Touch” magic. The next night in New Jersey to see Dell O’Dell at the Top-Hat. She was in great form and could have worked all night … and darn near did. Those were the happy days and nights … Gosh it’s late and I’ve got to do a show so I’ve got some packing to do. Twelve cases to pack, and I used to do a pocket act.
Thanks Neil, for letting me walk down that Memory Lane … Monk”