Showman (1937)

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SHOWMAN up with the theater and pugilism and the movies and politics as irresponsibly as I did in the process of look- ing for trouble at my own sweet will. It's no particular credit to me that I had myself such a time. Things were geared that way—you expected anything and everything. I was certainly educated along those lines. Daytimes I was forcibly fed the three R's in school. But night- times I was up in the gallery of the Old Bowery Theater in New York wallowing in the lushest of melodrama. When I hark back sixty years for a look at myself, I see a scrawny, shabby kid scrunched up on the edge of a hard gallery bench, elbows on knees and eyes hanging out of his head as, fifty feet below, the hero of "Sweeney Todd, the Maniac Barber" dumps another victim out of the trick-barber's chair into the tank of water that fills the maniacal cellar. Or maybe it was "Nick of the Woods" or "Jack Sheppard" or "The Seven Charmed Bullets" or some other standard shrieker of the period of gas-light and blood and thunder. If I happened to have twenty cents, I paid for the privilege of climbing miles of stairs up to the fifth tier. Other times I hung round the gallery doorkeeper till he turned his back and I could slip past him. He carried a shillelagh to discourage such enterprise, but many a kid got by and went kiting up the stairs to have his evening's taste of glory gratis. The Old Bowery management had its troubles keep- ing the gallery under control. Upstairs you met another 10