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Posts Tagged ‘W.C. Fields’




After scooping the world’s media (including the N.Y. Times) by hours on the News Corp.’s plan to split up,  this columnist decided to turn to “soft news.”  What could be more fun that bringing up the name of W.C. Fields, the iconic comedian?  Years before he was to appear as Captain Andy in “Showboat” at the Muny, where he hid bottles of hootch in the trees, he grew up poor and sleeping huddled in doorways in all weather.  It got to the point he could only relax and sleep in a barber chair, so he would splurge on hot shaves.  By the time he was a headliner in vaudeville, Fields found that though his wallet was now full, his nights were devoid of sleep because he could only get comfy in a barber chair, or stretched out on a pool table.  Such is the restful luxury of an old-fashioned barbershop shave with hot towels, rich hot lather and straight razor honed on a leather strap. At swanky Alexandra Salon inside the lobby of the Flamingo Resort in Las Vegas, an old-fashioned shave costs $65, plus tip.  There’s better value and great service right here in St. Louis that would do W.C. Fields proud: At Mark LaPlante’s Blades on Washington Avenue, between Tucker and Eleventh Streets, the price for a lovely hot shave is just $19, plus tip for skilled shavers.  A third-generation stylist, Mark is approaching the third anniversary of opening Blades.  His dad, Jack, opened LaPlante School of Hairstyling in 1968.  Back then, barbers-to-be-trained in hot lather shaving used a straight razor to remove lather ever so gently from balloons.


Now we have financial planners and how some turn out to be perishable; domestic partners instead of domestics; winning baseball, a child’s game played by a few dozen illiterates, according to that man of lilting language, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Beffa’s, where people and politicians go for a kibbitz instead of Miss Hulling’s cafeteria; places like Little Bohemia, where artists starved well, are long gone as is Busch’s Grove, where I learned that “sober as a judge” is the most ridiculous simile of them all. In the good old days there were thousands of Italians, who emigrated here, many of whom made their mark in successful restaurants. Now we have thousands of Russians, who get blistered in the sun. There was the great conductor Vladimir Golschman, who led the Symph to Mozart – too simple for children and too difficult for artists, said Artur Rubinstein. We bought newspapers, that hired the mean, lean, talented giving the papers the kind of devotion that money cannot buy. The papers didn’t have editors like those of today, who assign reporters to monitor the local evening news on television. Be-bop became hip-hop. Sentiment has such little sentimental value with our town’s Cellinis of architecture. Some design buildings with the character of packing boxes instead of marvelous structures like the Renaissance Revival Central Public Library, financed by Andrew Carnegie, the Gothic Christ Church Cathedral, the magnificent City Hall with marble rotunda and grand staircase and the art deco Continental Building. There was the guy, who was busted and sent to prison for playing gin rummy and now we have a handful of gambling boats. Fortunately, the Muny Opera has remained, where its stage was once occupied by performers W.C. Fields, Gene Kelly, Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Jimmy Durante, Red Skelton, Ethel Merman, Vincent Price and Cher. The Forest Park Highlands amusement park was where kids dared to ride the Comet, the Flying Turns and the giant Ferris Wheel, which gave way to box-like structures for a community college and leftover pieces of a jigsaw, that didn’t quite fit together for office buildings and dwellings. There was the devastation of a tornado of 1927 and those who lived through it had a special aura, almost a nimbus. So, eat, drink and be merry, because with another tornado like that, we might have to move to Pontoon Beach.

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