Paul T. Gilbert

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Princes and Potentates, Actors and Opera Stars

These are notes for a speech Paul T. Gilbert gave in the 40's about famous people he had met and interviewed:

Lord Mountbatten. Here on his honeymoon with beautiful bride. You commiserated with him because he has no privacy, and he said, "Yes, the only time I ever can be alone is when I have to go to the toilet!"

Mme. Curie. Modest, shy, almost shabbily dressed. Like the little neighbor woman you meet at the A&P.

Crown Prince Olav and Martha. He democratic and she gracious and blue-eyed. When talking with Mayor Kelly there was an awkward moment. His attache prompted him, "Tell him that Japanese story of yours, sir." So he told how Prince Chichibu of Japan on being introduced to the American Ambassador, stammered out, "I'm delightful to meet!" Said the Ambassador, "You certainly are."

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. She even prettier than on the screen. "A career a crucifixion. Have paid a bitter penalty for fame."

Rudolf Valentino. The sheik, idol of postwar flappers. Stiletto sideburns caressing cheeks like girl's spit curl. His 79 pieces of luggage guarded by Irish Wolfhound, Centaur Pendragon. Rudy, like Prince of Wales, dressed with utter disregard of appearance—moleskin coat trimmed with chinchilla, striped blue sport shirt, purple 4-in-hand, powder blue fedora. Glad it was all over, referring to divorce from lovely, undomesticated wife, Winifred Hudnut (Natacha Rambova). From now on to seek solace in dogs. Pats with gloved hand head of Centaur.

Frank Sinatra. Croon swooner, idol of bobby sox gals. Looks like scared rabbit as he ducks through door to escape gals who swarm like bees on his taxi.

Lillian Russell. First bed under pile of blankets...cold..."I know how it feels now to be boiled in oil. Ever have antiphlegistine smeared over you? They plaster you with hot mud and think they are doing you good. Have burnt two holes here in my chest...Cough for the gentleman, Lillian...The only thing to do when you get a cold is to sneak away by yourself and die. You don't want a highball, you don't want a cigarette, nothing tastes good. Only thing you want to eat is cheese, camembert...don't you love it?"

Gloria Swanson, three chow dogs and newest husband, Marquis Jas Henri de la Falaise de la Coudray. Not a word about Chi.

Sarah Bernhardt. In private car in Kentucky hills. Floats in a vision in cream color, high lace collar, lace cuffs, hair fluffed over eyes, gold chain. Spoke with a decided accent. Her little dog—Peter Pan—had a sore nose. Very graciously gave us autographed photos of herself, which still hang on my bedroom wall.

Mlle. Mistenguette and her dislike of reporters because they made her a contemporary of Napoleon, and she was born in one-eight-eight-eight!!! So she says! Autographed photo of her and her famous legs, and her little dog—and she wrote right across the white dog!

Robert Mantell, Shakespearean actor. Fox terrier Rubber under bed. Instead of wanting to be interviewed, tragedian shows off Rubber's talents. "Rats. Find rat, Rubber!" Rubber looks under find rat. Mantell puffs cigars...tells about home life in Jersey...horses, cows, chickens, scovie ducks. "Know anything about ducks?" Nix...M puffing and glaring says "What's the use of my talking to you if you don't know anything about ducks?" Rubber under chair glares too.

Howard Thurston. When you have lunch with him, you'll find a goldfish in your glass or he'll pull a pencil from your nose.

Ellen Terry. Close of career...Shakespeare's women...not imaginary or ideal...Elizabethan age produced wonderful women...hearts for any of husbands but still women. That's what women of the future will be like. Portias, Violas, Juliets...women with men's hearts in their breasts...who'll think great thoughts...dare great deeds, whose education will make them equal of men. Still echos of her former voice as she reads scenes from her great roles.

Eleanor Roosevelt. The speed of her walk, and refusing to talk to you. As though you wanted to swipe her jewels!

Prince William of Sweden. "How about this celluloid hippopotamus?" All he wanted to see at Field Museum. Lanky, six-foot-plus. Great hunter and explorer. He crossed the sea and half a continent to see just that celluloid hippo, and couldn't be diverted. A one-track mind!

Jack Dempsey. He was willing to fight Carpentier in Paris if the purse were big enough. "Jack Johnson? Well, hardly. I don't think there is a popular demand for a match between Jack and myself, and besides, I believe in drawing the color line. I'm willing to fight anybody else who is in my class, though I realize that every time I enter the ring I'm taking a chance. That K.O. blow to the point of the chin may come at any time, and once it comes you're through. A hero one day, a bum the next."

Sir Gilbert Parker. Beaver craze. Crowds follow persons with whiskers, yell Beaver. Score 1 for plain beard, 2 for Van Dyke, 10 if maddened Beaver bashes 'em. Sir G sports grayish beard cut like King George's. "Did you hear that vulgar person yelling Beaver?" Thought he was referring to an animal indigenous to N. America, what? Nobody ever yell at you? Like to see em try...Never heard of such a silly game. But rather getting off the subject. Came here to discuss international relations.

John Drinkwater. Working on drama of Robert E. Lee. "Tell me, now," stretching out long legs, "Nebraska isn't the same thing as Alaska? Then I won't need this tremendous overcoat. Had it made especially for my trip to Nebraska, but my ideas of geography a bit hazy, and I thought it was Alaska I was going to...Chicago had changed—"Now that Wiggly Building, as you call it—you have the oddest names for things—that Wiggly Building is ripping. Mean to tell me it was built by millions of typists chewing gum...ripping—but it wouldn't be done, y'know, in England.

Chubby, red-cheeked Jackie Coogan. The porters adored him, as did the dining room waitress on the train. When asked what he did to amuse himself on the train, he said, looking up with his big brown baby eyes, "Oh, I played poker and old maid and rummy, and I shot craps too." His father grabbed him up and carried him off in a hurry! He was a gold mine to his vaudevillian parents, for he earned $2,000 per week. When he came back from an extended trip to Europe, he said, "You know, almost everywhere I went people tried to give me a dog. At Budapest a man brought me a sheep dog. It hadn't any head or tail—not any beginning. It was just a bush. All it needed was a handle to make it into a nice mop."

Albert Einstein. Peeped shyly, like a frightened mouse, at crowd come to meet his train. Face framed in a halo of shaggy white hair, is illumined by a kindly smile...Adores children and they him, for he is as simple as a child in his attitude toward the world. Frau Einstein took charge of him and made him come out to be photographed by the newspaper camera men.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Chiefly interested in ectoplasm and spirit manifestations. Ectoplasm is half ether and half matter and dissolves in light according to Doyle. He said it could be examined under the microscope, weighed, and seems to be connected with the human body by a silver cord. The medium weighs less when the ectoplasm leaves her body, and if the cord were cut, she might die...He thought fairies may be thoughts that take form or even be elementals. He had photographs of fairies to prove their reality. But he wasn't positive even with the pictures that they really exist... "Spirits don't like uncongenial folks any more than you do. If you come into a circle convinced that nothing supernatural can happen, nothing will happen. The spirits will refuse to materialize"...He was ruddy-faced, athletic, and about the last person you'd expect of dabbling in spiritism! He was a materialist and as such investigated psychic phenomena. He said that heaven is no cloudland, no place of dreams, but quite substantial. Theory of relativity applies in the next sphere. "In the next sphere one attains a normal age. The children grow up while the old people grow young. I don't know the exact age that they attain, but the probability of eternal youth is very strong. If domestic animals are loved, they pass on to the next sphere and join their masters." He thought that the radio may be the connecting link between this sphere and the next.

Charles Frederick Worth, fashion designer, first to use live models to exhibit his designs. Predicting women wearing trousers perhaps, and skirts will be worn two fingers below the knee, measured when they are sitting down, so that the patella won't show when they sit, and no vulgar display.

Jascha Heifetz. Hadn't had his coffee and wanted it bad! He announced that fact unequivocally to the newsmen when they met his train at 9:30. Sure the train had a diner, but he hadn't yet had his coffee. Mme. Heiftez—former Florence Vidorof of the screen—dodged the newsmen and made a beeline for a cup of coffee at the depot. "Yes, I'm happy in my married life," he admitted. "But, really, I haven't had my coffee yet."

Theda Bara, original vamp.

Tom Mix and wonder horse Tony.

Lillian and D. Gish, redolent of violets.

Paderewski and his private car and piano.

Hoover, most difficult of all to talk to.

Princes, potentates, ambassadors, Shakespearean actors and opera stars...