Imagine my surprise when I came across a large number of photos featuring Lou Tellegen!
Lou Tellegen was a famous actor back in the 1910s. I’d never seen his movies or even a picture of him. But I knew his name right away because Dorothy Parker reviewed Women Have Been Kind. The book was Tellegen’s autobiography and it catalogued his relationships with his numerous girlfriends and wives.
I’m going to write a separate post about Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), who is the funniest author I’ve ever read. Just to give you an idea of who she was, she was a satiric writer, and the authors of the 1920s and 30s must have frozen in delight and terror when they learned she was going to review their book. Everyone read her columns, and she could make an author famous overnight.
It would have been the equivalent of getting invited to be on the Joe Rogan Experience, if Joe Rogan took a wicked delight in making his guests look ridiculous. I would be terrified for her to review anything I’ve written.
A Month of Saturdays is a compilation of Dorothy Parker’s book reviews for the Constant Reader from the 1920s and early 1930s. Looks like it’s out of print now, unfortunately.
Women Have Been Kind wasn’t a great book and Tellegen wasn’t a great author. But this book, like many celebrity autobiographies before and since, would have mercifully slipped into oblivion, had it not been reviewed by Dorothy Parker.
In her review, entitled Kiss and Tellegen, Parker begins by annihilating the dust jacket:
“The blurb on the dust cover announces, with rather more than the usual bang, that “here are the intimate reminisces of the man who is called ‘the perfect lover.’ (It is not stated who gave him this name, but I feel, somehow, that I have guessed. I won’t say yes, nor I won’t say no, but if you were to whisper to me your conjecture that the phrase-coiner’s initials are L.T., I might admit that you were, like the countless heroines of Women have been Kind, getting warm.)
“The blurb goes breathlessly on… ‘Mr. Tellegen has lived more romance than others read of, and his memoirs are as exciting as a score of novels.’ I shall not dispute that last statement, provided the publishers let me name the score in question.”
And that was just her warm-up. Even though I haven’t read her book in years, I instantly remembered Lou Tellegen’s name when I came across it today. It never occurred to me to see what he looked like, but I was not surprised to find him looking just like he does.
Several of the pictures I found are really goofy photos with his wife, the opera singer Geraldine Ferrar. According to Parker, Lou Tellegen didn’t give much detail about his marriage to the famous soprano.
“His account of his American tour with Sarah Bernhardt is, in a word, terrible. You get no hint of her quality; the author is too much occupied with his own concerns at the time. They were not, in another word, interesting.
“Nor is there much to the story of his stretch of time with Geraldine Ferrar. Miss Ferrar was not his first wife nor, so much as I can figure out events, his second or his third. There came a time when it was drawn, somehow, to Mr. Tellegen’s attention, that gentlemen sometimes married ladies, and from then on, he became a regular marryin’ fool.”
I’m sure there’s more details about Lou Tellegen that I could unearth and share. But we probably know everything we need to know about him, don’t you think? I’d rather read my Dorothy Parker book.
When Mr. and Mrs. Ivers of Devonshire, England welcomed their daughter Alice to the world on a cold February afternoon in 1851, there was nothing to suggest she would become anything other than a conservative English lady, like her mother. Even in their wildest imaginings, her family could have never pictured the life this child would lead.
When she was 12 years old, Alice immigrated to the United States with her parents. The Ivers family initially settled in Virginia, where Alice was sent to a boarding school to adopt the manners of a refined lady.
The family moved again a few years later, this time to Leadville, Colorado. It was here that Alice met Frank Duffield, a mining engineer and poker enthusiast. She eloped with him, likely due to her family’s objections.
Alice created waves right away. Frank was a familiar sight at the poker table but the clientele at the saloon was taken aback to find the new Mrs. Duffield was not about to stay home while her husband had all the fun. Alice accompanied Frank out in the evenings, and sat beside him at the poker table.
The marriage was not destined to last long. Frank was killed in a mine accident just a few years later. Her husband was gone, but for Alice, there was no looking back. Throughout the long evenings of watching Frank play poker, she’d learned more than the game itself. She had a natural gift for reading faces and she had perfected it during her marriage to Frank. She took up gambling herself.
Rather than return to her family, Alice whiled away her time playing poker in various and sundry saloons all over the Wild West. She quickly became well-known, running the table every night, and winning startlingly large fortunes, up to $6,000 on occasion.
Alice was not one to hoard her cash. In her younger days, she regularly traveled east to New York City, where she would spend vast sums on her wardrobe. This was said to be part of her strategy when she played cards. She would return to the smoky saloons of the west, dressed to the nines, in the latest fashions from Paris. It was a business investment, she told her confidantes, because the extravagant clothing distracted her opponents.
Fate intervened in Alice’s life once again in 1890. By then, she had acquired the nickname Poker Alice, and adopted the profession of a dealer at the Bedrock saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. She was always armed with a gun, usually her .38 pistol. She had also taken to smoking cigars in her fine dresses. One evening, Alice saw a drunken miner attempting to attack another dealer named Warren G. Tubbs with a knife. Alice quickly intervened with her .38 and settled matters.
Shortly afterwards, she and Warren Tubbs married. They seemed to have been very happy together. In their 20 years of marriage, they had four sons and three daughters. The Tubbs family lived on a homestead by the Moreau River, deliberately leaving the saloon life Alice and Warren once enjoyed far behind them. Their happiness ended in 1910, when Warren Tubbs died of tuberculosis.
Alice loaded his body into their wagon and drove 50 miles to ensure he had a decent burial. It was more than she could afford. She had to sell her wedding ring to pay for it. With no other means to support herself, Poker Alice made a triumphant return to professional gambling. Her skill at counting cards and calculating odds transformed her into a legend. She purchased a saloon in Fort Meade, South Dakota, and converted the upstairs to a brothel. The brothel operated continually but the saloon was closed on Sundays. In response to the grumbling, Alice explained sincerely that playing poker on the Sabbath was wrong. Prostitution on Sundays was apparently still okay.
When they lived on the homestead, she and Warren had employed a man named George Huckert to help them. Huckert was desperately in love with Alice, but she seemed to have no interest in him until it was brought to her attention that she owed him $1,008 in back wages. After a few calculations, Alice decided marrying Huckert would be more economical than paying him. It was another short marriage; George died in 1913.
The same year, Alice found herself in hot water. A group of drunken soldiers appeared at her saloon on a Sunday, and became unruly and destructive. Alice was infuriated and pulled out her .38. She said she only planned to shoot to establish order in the house, but the shot struck a soldier, killing him. Alice and six of her prostitutes were arrested.
Alice, now in her 60s, spent her time quietly reading the Bible and smoking cigars. When the case finally went to trial, Alice claimed self-defense and was acquitted and set free. The saloon, however, was closed for good. The brothel remained open.
Alice was not scared straight while in jail. After her acquittal, she was arrested frequently for gambling, drunkenness, operating a brothel, and selling bootleg liquor. Her last arrest was in 1928 and due to her age, she was pardoned by South Dakota governor William J. Bulow.
The remarkable Poker Alice departed this world on February 27, 1930, at age 79. She is buried in St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Alice Ivers was known as a beautiful woman for most of her life, though not photogenic. However, the first photo I saw of her is the one on the left, and it took me a moment to realize that she wasn’t Archie Bunker. But there is a resemblance, don’t you think?