Chapter Four: Broadway
(In 1931, Sullivan took a job as the gossip columnist for the New York Graphic, a notorious Manhattan scandal sheet. This chapter describes his debut on the job.)
Ed’s column, Ed Sullivan Sees Broadway, debuted on Monday, July 1, 1931. For someone who professed to not want the job, he jumped in headfirst.
He began by taking a broad swipe at his colleagues in the gossip trade, a strategy guaranteed to maximize his profile – they were duty bound to swipe back.
“So many have asked me my sensations in turning from sports to Broadway that I will answer them in this introductory column. I feel, frankly, that I have entered a field of writing which offers scant competition, a field of writing which ranks so low that it is difficult to distinguish any one columnist from his road companies…I charge the Broadway columnists with defaming the street.”
He proclaimed that his column would not indulge Broadway’s undesirable elements, as his competitors’ did.
“The uppermost stratum of Broadway, as revealed in the writings of its contemporary historians, the columnists, is peopled with mobsters, cheap little racketeers and a vast army of phonies…As I sat at the gala opening of Hollywood Gardens on Friday night, I marveled to myself…I marveled at the phonies who were there for no better reason than they had a mad desire to be seen…They will betray themselves by rushing up to Mayor Jimmy Walker and shaking his hand as an endless stream of pests did on Friday night…they will gape at racketeers and mobsters who are tough killers and can prove it by the list of victims they have shot – always through the back…I pledge you this huge army of phonies will receive no comfort in this space. To get into this particular column will be a badge of merit and a citation.”
Breaking from the practice of other Main Stem reporters, he announced, his column would not promote the prurient.
“Divorces will not be propagated in this column…I will always experience greater pleasure in seeing Gus Edwards roadhousing with his wife than in seeing a celebrity flaunting his mistress…So with high resolve and no fears, I enter upon my career as a Broadway columnist….I confess that the prospect of competing against the present field leaves me quite cold…It looks like a breeze and, as Mike Casale would say, ‘Weather clear, fast track.’
P.S. No apprentice allowance claimed.”