FACTS ABOUT DOROTHY PARKER ON HER BIRTHDAY
Today would be her 123rd birthday. Find out why she's the best. Also, refer to my prior list: 6 of the Best Dorothy Parker Anecdotes
- •Dottie claimed to have been kicked out of her conventional religious school around age 14, when she referred to the Immaculate Conception as "spontaneous combustion."
- •Dorothy suffered an inordinate amount of grief in her childhood. Her mother and stepmother had both passed by the time she was 12. One uncle died of a cerebral hemorrhage, the other sunk with the Titanic. Months later, her father died. By age 20, she was an orphan who was not very close to her 2 siblings.
- •By the beginning of 1918, she became the only woman theater critic, writing for Vanity Fair. Critical of Billie Burke's acting in a Maugham play, Dorothy was fired just a few days later. She believed this review was the reason for her firing, as Burke happened to be married to Florenz Ziegfeld, who was the main advertiser for Vanity Fair.
- •Ernest Hemingway wrote a disgusting, tasteless poem about Dorothy in 1926 entitled "To a Tragic Poetess," where he insulted Dorothy's Jewish heritage, and slammed her for both having an abortion and failing at her attempts at suicide. He then read the poem aloud at a party surrounded by her friends.The guests were stunned. Her friend Donald Ogden Stewart called the poem "viciously unfair, and unfunny." Dorothy was one of Hemingway's biggest fans, so friends say they didn't want to tell her for fear of breaking her heart.
- •Her first taste of politics and social justice causes came in 1927 when she protested the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Dottie was arrested and fined for participating in the protest.
- •While walking down the street at night, she saw a truck driver get out of his car and kick a dog. Dorothy walked right up to the driver and kicked him, calling him some names in the process, then she took the dog home to live with her.
- •When waitstaff were being underpaid and mistreated at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, Dottie and other Algonquin Round Table friends staged a walk-out, announcing to the other patrons that they should take their money elsewhere as the staff were going by unappreciated.
- •She once stated that she liked her men "handsome, ruthless, and stupid."
- •Dorothy was one of very few women writers who were writing effective satire, with her most popular stories being "Lady With a Lamp" (a late-1920s piece about abortion) and "Arrangement in Black and White" (a 1930 piece about racist attitudes in white upper-class society).In "Lamp," she dances around the word abortion, never writing it once, to show the reader the silence around the topic. In "Black and White," Dottie calls out rich white liberal people who talk of their belief in civil rights yet still say and do incredibly racist things. Both stories and their subjects were way, way ahead of their time.
- •As one of the people who helped Donald Ogden Stewart begin the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, Dorothy's social justice roots seemed to rise to the surface in Los Angeles. She helped organize the Screen Writers Guild, spoke out against Fascism quite openly, and gave her money to causes for child refugees.
- •In 1947, at age 54, she lived at the Chateau Marmont off Sunset Blvd. with her boyfriend Ross Evans who was 23 years younger than her. She had been unemployed for more than 2 years at that point after rumors had circulated that she was an alleged Communist.
- •When Martin Luther King Jr. began making his mark in the civil rights movement, Dorothy was so moved by him, she decided to leave the entirety of her estate plus all future royalties to MLK Jr., and the NAACP in case of his death. When informed of this upon her passing in 1967, King had no idea who she was, but he was floored by this gesture.Since he died less than a year after she did, the NAACP now receives all future earnings to the Parker estate.
- •Lillian Hellman was Dorothy's best friend while alive, but after her passing, she showed her true colors. Upset that she was not made executor of Dorothy's estate, Lillian called King a "pompous stuffed shirt" and gave Dorothy's ashes over to her lawyer, never to be mentioned again.It wasn't until Dorothy's biographer in the 1980s called up the attorney to find Dorothy's ashes were STILL sitting in a file in his office. The NAACP took her ashes and she now rests at their headquarters in Baltimore.