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  1. Marylou Whitney is the Greatest

    March 12, 2015 by saratogasam

    Marylou Whitney is the Greatest Gal

     

    Hob-Knobbing with the Swells – Our Most Read Story By Far

     

    Yes. This is our official blog.

     

    Read the story….then watch the video !
    marylou_whitney_broadway
    Marylou Whitney in the Travers Day Parade on Broadway in Saratoga Springs – Circa 1985
     marylou_whitney_contest

    The “Grand Dame” of Saratoga Springs, Marylou Whitney !

    by EvilDoer

     

    It was a dark and stormy night. Whoops….wrong story. It was the early 1980’s and my girlfriend and I at the time were hanging out a lot with our good friends Rick and Shawna, the original owners of Madame Jumels restaurant.

     

    I’m not sure what’s there now, but Madame Jumels was at the bottom of Caroline Street and quite the popular place in it’s day. I was a big fan of the early morning radio show on WPYX hosted at that time by Bob Mason and Bill Sheehan, a gnarly pair of shock jocks known for their over-the-top pranks. (It is now known as the Wakin’ Up With the Wolf show, hosted by Bob Wolfeld.) They came up with the idea of having a Marylou Whitney look-alike contest.

    For the ill-informed, Marylou Whitney is the widow of millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and a local celebrity, socialite, philanthropist, and all-around nice gal. The thought of spoofing her in a look-alike contest was more than I could stand. I set out to talk my friends into joining the contest.

    Rick and Shawna were more familiar than I with Mrs. Whitney as they also ran a horse-drawn carriage business that Marylou had used the services of. The event was to take place at Siro’s, a popular upscale restaurant and watering hole near the Saratoga Racetrack. Everyone agreed this would be a blast. As seasoned veterans for several years at the infamous Bolton Landing Bed Races on Lake George, we had a fair idea on how to make headlines while having a good time. It’s kind of a Ratpack thing. Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Angie Dickinson; we had learned from the best. Back when men were men…and booze was your buddy. Growing up in the sixties surely had it’s benefits. We set about making our strategy.
    It was decided the horse and carriage would help make our entrance memorable. As Rick and Shawna would be manning the carriage and I was ugly enough as a man, let alone the well-preserved Whitney, that left my girlfriend to be Marylou. The girls came up with a flashy gown as one might imagine Marylou dressing up in for one of her annual soirées at the Canfield Casino. Rick and I decided on leotards (kind of a court-jester look) and long trumpets as part of our garb and props for our parts as “Her Majesty’s” entourage. It was also decided that “our” Marylou wear a blond wig and gold tiara, as well as a garbage bag “slicker” to mimic a press clipping of the real Marylou wearing the same during a rainstorm at the Saratoga Racetrack. We enlisted a few family and friends as “press agents” sporting fedoras and press passes. We also equipped my nephew Ken with a VHS video camera, a bulky contraption back then as you virtually had to carry an entire VCR on a shoulder strap. With our costumes complete, it was time for the big day.

     

    Our gig officially started at 6 a.m., coinciding with the WPYX 6 to 10 a.m. morning drive show. We decided to arrive fashionably late (or maybe it was a hangover). Anyways, our timing turned out to be impeccable as we were, as I recall, the last contestants to arrive. Our horse and carriage pulled up in front of Siro’s with as much fanfare as we could conjure. The grounds were packed with spectators as well as various guys and gals dressed as Marylou. Rick and I jumped off and rolled out a red carpet for our celebrity. We did our best trumpet rendition of the opening racetrack riff and held “our” Marylou’s hands up as she descended the steps of her carriage. The crowd went wild. All the local TV news cameras rushed up to record the spectacle. We escorted “our” Marylou through the crowd as she pressed the flesh and threw fake money into the air. Rick, Shawna and I remained dutifully in character as we tended to “our” Marylou and fended our way through a sea of people and inside Siro’s. The reporters scrambled for interviews and “our” Marylou had them eating out of her hand as she recited: “Trash, flash, cash …..nobody rides for free.”

     

    We were led to the table with the D.J.’s as a side-splitting back-and-forth ensued between the good-natured Mrs. Whitney and our imposter. The judging began and in spite of the many outrageous and wonderful costumes, we won hands down. No brag….just fact. Mrs. Whitney graciously invited us to stop by her box seats at the track later in the day where we were promptly thrown out for improper attire but not before we were introduced to a few of Marylou’s friends. Our reward? Two all-expense paid airline/hotel tickets to Universal Studios in Los Angeles and the L.A. Coliseum for Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA tour under a warm and moonlit night.

     

    Marylou Whitney…one hell of a sport.
    EvilDoer

    Make Sure to Watch The Video

    SaratogaSuckers.com – On The Interwebs Since 2004


    Medieval & Gothic Collectibles

    #granddame  #marylouwhitney  #brucespringsteen  #bornintheusa  #madamejumels

     

     


  2. Jersey Memories of Old Saratoga

    March 11, 2015 by saratogasam

    New Jersey Man Has Fond Memories of Old Saratoga Springs.

     

    I used to come up to Saratoga Springs with my family to visit relatives when I was a kid. One fond memory was of the Grand Union Hotel, the last of the grand hotels. Torn down after the 1953 season. It had a big long porch across the Broadway street side.
     

    I was downtown with my Dad. I guess the ladies were off shopping somewhere and Dad and I went strolling down the street in front of the Grand Union. The porch was above street level, and under the porch there were stores. They were all having Going Out of Business sales. We went into one that was kinda like a doo-dad store. Lots of random stuff for the house that you don’t need. Maybe like an antique store. Anyway, I don’t know if my father had seen something he liked in the window or if we went in there to just kill time, but he bought a couple of things really cheap.

     

    The only one I remember was a porcelain statue of stampeding horses. About a foot and a half long. It was black. It sat on our television set for awhile. I think it might have been like the “Leg Lamp” in that movie “A Christmas Story.” My mother suffered in silence, then one day it was gone.

    I remember when we came back to visit in Saratoga later in the winter, probably for Christmas, the hotel was gone. You know what they built in it’s place, don’t you? A shopping center with a Grand Union supermarket as the anchor. Irony of ironies!

    I also remember that downtown Saratoga Springs went through tough times, and the malls in Wilton didn’t help. But Saratoga re-invented itself somewhere along the line and somebody deserves a lot of credit.

    I remember the A&P on Broadway. It was below street level and we used to take my grand-mother shopping there. I recall the wood floors, the smell of the coffee grinding machine and the conveyor to transport your grocery bags up to street level as parking was in the back.

    broadway parade

    From the Stan Eddy Collection

     

    I also have one celebrity story. Do you know who Bud Colyer is? Or are you too young? He was host of “Beat the Clock” on TV. Also, he played Superman on the radio. One Saturday we and some relatives went out to dinner at a restaurant west of town. A turkey farm I think. I don’t remember the name.

    When we went in, they didn’t want to serve us because they had a big party that night. It was “Dad’s Weekend” at Skidmore College and there was a father / daughter dinner at the place. But we were early so they sat us and served us dinner. As we were finishing, fathers and daughters started to come in and Bud Colyer was one of them. He daughter attended Skidmore. I got his autograph on a napkin, but it’s gone now.

     

    Saratoga Springs, New York; great memories of a great town.

    Jersey Jim

    And if you’re into even more nostalgia

    Jersey Jim also Maintains the Web Site Wistful Radio Chronicles

     #jersey  #grandunionhotel  #skidmore


  3. Old Smoke

    March 15, 2014 by saratogasam

    Old Smoke Just Got No Respect

    John Morrissey in Saratoga Springs 

    John Morrissey aka Old Smoke

    John Morrissy – Old Smoke

     

    It is one of the ironic facts of high society life that superior imagination will never, in the final analysis, gain equal footing with superior reserves of inherited cash.

    By Kenneth Salzmann

    However much acclaim, or money, the artists, sportsmen and entrepreneurs who provide amusement for the very rich may accumulate in life, when the Blue Book goes to press there can be no mistaking just who is holding all the face cards.

    For some, that is a painful, stubbornly resisted lesson. John Morrissey, for one, never really did learn it. As much as any other person, Morrissey built the framework for modern Saratoga Springs, introducing both horse racing and casino gambling to the Spa City. Neither did he neglect to mind his own interests, amassing a personal fortune and pursuing a successful, if somewhat suspect, political career in the service of New York City’s Tammany Hall machine. But for all his money, for his seat in the United States House of Representatives (and later in the New York State Senate), and for his pivotal
    role in the development of Saratoga’s principal summer attractions, Morrissey never was able to gain what was finally his fondest goal—acceptance into the finest social circles for his beloved wife, Susie, if not for himself.

    The best people, after all, had only to look at John Morrissey’s more-than-tainted background to see that he was only in the Club House because he owned it. Morrissey, the son of Irish immigrants, had grown up in Troy during the 1830s and 40s and largely on the streets. Schooled principally in such pursuits as street-fighting and hustling, he did not learn how to read or write until his nineteenth year. But he had by that time already developed his more basic skills to an exceptional degree, earning a reputation as a very
    tough young man and, on several occasions, attracting the attention of local law enforcement officials over matters ranging from assault and battery to assault with intent to kill.

    From Troy, Morrissey moved on to New York City where he went to work for Tammany Hall as leader of that organization’s Dead Rabbit Gang, a band of toughs charged with keeping a careful eye on New York voting trends. In the spirit of the day’s politics, he and his colleagues were charged by the bosses with re-educating dissident voters whenever necessary by beating them to within an inch of their lives. It would appear that the young Trojan excelled at his work, because his rise through Tammany ranks was rapid.

    At the same time, he was able to use those talents to pursue an athletic career, taking time out from politics to become the heavyweight boxing champion of the United States. In the unrelenting and illegal version of the sport that was then practiced, fighters punched and grappled, bare-knuckled, to the finish, and each round ended not by a bell but by a decisive knock-down.

    Morrissey secured the championship in 1853 in a still-legendary 37-round brawl with title-holder Yankee Sullivan at Boston Corners, New York, near the Massachusetts line. It was a fight he probably lost by most measures, but one he won on a technicality in the midst of mayhem. “Old Smoke,” as he was nicknamed after a barroom fight landed him on top of smoldering coals and convinced his audience he was impervious to pain, continued to fight until 1859.

    With all that, Morrissey was still in his thirties when he was elected to a term in Congress representing Tammany turf. The Congressional Record indicates that the Irish pugilist contributed little to the turbulent political landscape of the 1860s, however. He is perhaps best remembered, in terms of that chapter in his career, for his offer in the course of a heated debate on the floor of the House to “lick any man in Congress.” By that time,
    though, John Morrissey had established himself, and distinguished himself, in other pursuits as well.

    Beginning with a small gambling house in New York City, he had developed a growing gambling empire. About the same time that much of the nation was focused on the outbreak of the Civil War, Morrissey was casting his sights north to the already thriving resort of Saratoga, where he was determined to offer games of chance to the Spa’s prosperous, bathing vacationers.

    His first casino there proved to be a formidable temptation for the well-heeled summer folk. It was followed in short order by the town’s first race track and, before the end of the decade, by the much grander Club House, which for many years set the pace for Saratoga gaming emporia, to be surpassed only by the Canfield Casino.

    At about the same time, John and Susie Morrissey, settling into middle age, found themselves as strongly attracted to the forms and functions of society life as were the socialites to the track and Club House. Some of Mr. Morrissey’s rougher edges had already been polished away and his facile Irish charm went a long way to hide the others. For her part, Mrs. Morrissey was of gentler birth and possessed in abundance whatever social skills her husband lacked.

    Still, time and again, the couple was ostracized by the very society that turned to them for amusement each summer. When they went looking to purchase a suitable estate in Morrissey’s native Troy, a sparkling center of industrial wealth, they found that none among the city’s elite would sell to them at any price. (In retaliation, they built a soap factory between the Hudson River and the fashionable neighborhood they aspired to, causing the gentle river breezes to turn acrid.) When invitations went out, the Morrisseys—common if very rich gamblers—were repeatedly snubbed. As it turned out, it was not
    until John Morrissey’s death in 1878, when he was only 47 years old, that the society to which he had contributed so much paused to notice what were after all the remarkable accomplishments of the once impoverished and illiterate child of immigrants. The New York Times eulogized him at length while the flag at City Hall flew at half-mast, and 19,000 Trojans who would not have their native son as their neighbor in life marched somberly behind his coffin as the springtime rains fell.

    Copyright 2006 by Kenneth A. Salzmann

     #oldsmoke  #johnmorrissey  #clubhouse  #tammany  #canfieldcasino #deadrabbitgame  #pugilist