What Fertile Ground Lead to Dorothy Parker's Fame?
Was Dorothy Parker A Head of Her Time?
Most people today never heard of Dorothy Parker, yet in her
day she was known first as a humorist and later in life as a social
advocate. She supported the cause of the Republicans during the
Spanish civil war, was a founding member of the Writers Guild of
America, wrote many screenplays, was a heralded, best selling author,
and in 1967 left her twenty thousand dollar estate to Martin Luther
King. But it was her early participation in the Algonquin Round Table
where she found her fame. Her wit and humor found fertile ground in
the wounds of a war weary nation and the emotional fatigue of her
citizens. Following WWI, the people were looking for something
different and they found it in Dorothy Parker.
Dorothy grew up wealthy but her father, Jacob Henry Rothschild, fell on hard times in her teens. When her father took ill it was she who took care of him. When he passed she found herself broke and in need of employment.
In 1920 she started working at Vanity Fair magazine as a temporary replacement for vacationing humorist P.G. Wodehouse. She quickly developed friendships with fellow male writers, Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood. They would take lunch with other writers at the Algonquin Hotel, just off Times Square near many publishing houses of the day. The manager of the Algonquin Hotel encouraged these writers to dine there and it soon became an in spot. What really made it and in spot was that many of these writers had deadlines and they began writing about what was said at these lunches. Soon all America was eaves dropping on these lunches, it's members became famous. TV did not exist and quality commercial radio was still years away. This was the beginning of the Algonquin Round Table. Dorothy Parker was considered a founding member but it was her sharp wit and outside the bounds humor that made her a star. Her comments such as "One more drink and I'll be under the host" became her calling card.
The nation was yearning for fresh insight and longing for youthful play. The nation lost millions to both a tragic world war and lethal influenza, Spanish flu. No sooner was the nation trying to recover from this dark era than the leaders enacted Prohibition. Fun became illegal and a dark cloud hung over the nation. It was Dorothy Parker and the Algonquians to the rescue, slicing and dicing to pieces the hypocrites of their da. It is probably ironic that much of the group became alcoholics.
They ate and drank at lunch (through flasks) and at night they cruised the Speakeasies of Manhattan. This was the beginning of the roaring twenties and Dorothy Parker was the flag bearer. She knew F. Scott Fitzgerald and it's hard not to notice how much of his writings reflected those times and the Algonquins.
In this dark and healing time for America's psyche it was Dorothy who was fun, witty, and feminine. It was her vicious wit that laid down the brutish masculine war mongers. Her father's death liberated her from the home and freed her from her shackles and America was waiting to do the same for her. Poor little rich girl no more, now, it's anything goes: fun, dance, alcohol, sex, and drugs. This sure beats war, pain, and death, and the American people embraced it!