In the March 14, 1964 issue of The New Yorker, Jimmy Breslin was parodied in a two-page spread titled: “Jimmy Bennett Doexn’t Work Here Any More” (sic). Breslin may have been amused. Maybe not. But like much of his life, it was worth writing about:
The other day, I received a letter from my old friend Sarah Phillips, whom I have not seen in twenty-seven years, and as I read her cheery words it caused me to think back to the time when I was nine years old and I accompanied my great-aunt to tea in the drawing room of Sir Hubert Arbuthnot’s house outside of Delhi, a visit which always was trying for me because I never enjoyed tea at the Arbuthnot house as much as I enjoyed floating wooden sticks in the Ganges River. I remember vividly how I spent the long, sultry afternoon wiggling around in the chair and this so disturbed my great-aunt, who was agitated from the very outset because her teacup had a crack in it, that she asked Darius, the chaprisi to guide me upstairs so I could spend the remainder of the afternoon sitting at a window and looking out onto Sir Hubert’s private compound.
This is about the way a magazine called The New Yorker starts off a lot of its stories. I may be a little off because I have not bought the magazine enough to get that purposely dry Old English style of theirs down. I’m not up on The New Yorker because it prints all these stories written by ladies about their childhoods. This is great for little old ladies from Dubuque, although it is not exactly my stick. But I read the magazine when it came out yesterday. It has devoted two pages this week to a parody of a writer named Jimmy Breslin.
Now my first reaction to the New Yorker parody was normal. I looked for the name of the person who did the parody. The story was signed J. Q. Purcell. The name has got to be a phony because I never heard of any J. Q. Purcell and neither has anybody else. So, not knowing who wrote the thing, I called Roger Angell, a New Yorker editor, and told him that I was going to have him killed and put into a trunk and thrown into Gravesend Bay.
But immediately people in the literary business jumped on me for this attitude.
“Why, it is the ultimate flattery,” Sterling Lord, the agent, insisted. “The last time The New Yorker ran a parody it was on Arthur Miller and Norman Mailer. This one on you means that you have arrived.”
Garson Kanin, the director and producer, said the same thing. Cork Smith, the editor, went even further. “If you didn’t owe us money you could retire right now,” he said.
But these people operate on a different level from me. They are all smart, high-class fellows and, while I know them quite well, they are not exactly my set. Rather than convince me about this parody business, all they did was make me doubtful. So to get the thing straightened out in my mind, I decided to take the case to my own guys.
Mike the Brain, who was my private lawyer until he got himself disbarred, read the story in the magazine very carefully. He was in ecstasy when he finished.
“We’ll bust them out,” he said. “Go over and kiss the editor. I’m going to get some stiff out of a law office to front for me and I’ll sue these bums in fifty-one states.”
“How much can we win?” I asked Mike the Brain.
“A whole magazine,” he said.
“What do you think?” I asked my other friend, Bobby Seola. He is the president of Bricklayers Union No. 9.
“I’ll have ninety guys picketing the joint tomorrow morning,” Bobby said. “The people who put out the magazine won’t be able to get in to go to work.”
Later on, we went downtown to Mutchie’s and took the matter up with Joey Brocato, an ex-pug, who was tending bar alone. Mutchie had been out drinking with his girl friend Vivian the night before and he was upstairs, barely breathing.
“Ignore the bums,” Joey said. “That’s what I done when they used to talk about me at Stillman’s. I ignored the bums.”
Joey waited for this advice to sink in. Then wrinkles of puzzlement came onto his face.
“The thing that I can’t figure out,” he said, “is why they would take a shot at you in the New York Enquirer.”