I just finished a collection of short stories by Damon Runyon. There are lots of them, and they’re all great. The musical Guys and Dolls was based on his stories, as was the movie “Little Miss Marker,” which introduced the world to a new superstar, Shirley Temple.
The story’s about a guy who leaves a little girl at a bookie joint as an IOU or ‘marker’ and then disappears. She of course captures the heart of the bookie, Sorrowful Jones, played by Adolphe Menjou, and all the other Broadway characters that Runyon was so famous for.
Here’s an excerpt from a story called “Dream Street Rose”:
“Now this Dream Street Rose is an old doll of maybe fifty-odd, and is a very well-known character around and about, as she is wandering through the Forties for many a year, and especially through West Forty-seventh Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue, and this Block is called Dream Street. And the reason it is called Dream Street is because in this block are many characters of one kind and another who always seem to be dreaming of different matters.
“In Dream Street there are many theatrical hotels, and rooming houses, and restaurants, and speaks [speakeasies], and in the summertime the the characters I mention sit on the stoops or lean along the railings along Dream Street, and the gab you year sounds very dreamy indeed. In fact, it sometimes sounds very pipe-dreamy.
Many actors, male and female, and especially vaudeville actors, live in the hotels and rooming houses and vaudeville actors, both male and female, are great hands for sitting around dreaming out loud about how they will practically assassinate the public in the Palace if ever they get a chance.
“Furthermore, in Dream Street are always many hand bookies and horse players, who sit on the church steps on the cool side of Dream Street in the summer and dream about big killings on the races, and there are also nearly always many fight managers, and sometimes fighters, hanging out in front of the restaurants, picking their teeth and dreaming about winning championships of the world, although up to this time no champion of the world has yet come out of Dream Street.
“In this street you see burlesque dolls, and hoofers, and guys who write songs, and saxophone players, and newsboys, and newspaper scribes, and taxi drivers, and blind guys, and midgets, and blondes with Pomeranian pooches, or maybe French poodles, and guys with whiskers, and night-club entertainers, and I do not know what all else.
“And all these characters are interesting to look at, and some of them are interesting to talk to, although if you listen to several I know long enough, you may get the idea that they are somewhat daffy, especially the horse players.”