The story of George Soter, in his own words.
When you set out for Ithaka pray that your road's a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery, Laistrygonians, Cyclops, angry Poseidon--
don't be scared of them: you won't find things like that on your way as long as your thoughts are exalted, as long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body. Laistrygonians, Cyclops, wild Poseidon--
you won't encounter them unless you bring them along inside you, unless your soul raises them up in front of you. Pray that the road's a long one. May there be many a summer morning when--
full of gratitude, full of joy--
you come into harbors seen for the first time; may you stop at Phoenician trading centers and buy fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, sensual perfumes of every kind, as many sensual perfumes as you can;
may you visit numerous Egyptian cities to fill yourself with learning from the wise. Keep Ithaka always in mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it goes on for years so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out. She hasn't anything else to give. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you'll have become, and so experienced, you'll have
Understood by then what an Ithaka means. "Ithaka,"
C. P. Cavafy (trans. Keeley & Sherrard)
(1) George, with Nick, 1955
What I Remember about
WHAT I REMEMBER
By TOM SOTER
In 1996, I embarked on a journey into my father's past. I knew he had led an interesting life – rising from very humble beginnings in Chicago to the top of the advertising world, with a 20-year sidetrip as a boutique store owner – with funny stories, crazy characters, romance, tragedy, the works. I thought that if I tape-recorded his memories in chronological order, it would give him the raw material, which he could then edit into bona fide memoirs. My father was interested, and so we began a series of taped conversations between 1996 and 1997 in which George recalled his life from the 1920s until the 1960s.
After about eight hours of recordings had been amassed, we stopped. Like many projects that my father was enthusiastic about, this one got put on the backburner as life's responsibilities pressed in. (I later found an outline he had done in 1993 for a book about his boutique, Greek Island, along with the first and only chapter. That, too, got put on hold.)
In 2007, when my father became sick with cancer, he began writing short memory pieces for the Booknotes newsletter that he proudly produced for my brother Peter's bookstore. Those brief memories – which repeated some of the recorded recollections he had shared in the 1990s – inspired me to revive our old project. Alas, I had left it too late. I showed my father the transcripts of the previous interviews (and he, typically, commented first on the typos and misspellings that littered the unedited material), and although he expressed interest, by the time we had geared up, the cancer had gotten worse and his memories had become haphazard and unreliable – and he now had little energy left to devote to recalling the past.
Luckily, my father was recorded in other venues – at a Christmas party in 1985, at birthday parties in 2000 and 2004, among others – and I had some of his memories from those occasions transcribed as well. In addition, he wrote a number of unpublished pieces, some autobiographical, in the 1940s and 1950s, which I have also included.
This collection, incomplete as it is, nonetheless serves to offer a glimpse at one remarkable man's journey through life. The poem "Ithaca," by the Greek poet Cavafy, was used by George as an epigram for his aborted Greek Island memoir. I have added it to the beginning of these memories because it sums up George so well. But, when I think of my dad (a big movie buff), I also think of Marlene Dietrich's famous, brief comment at the conclusion of Touch of Evil: "What does it matter what you say about people? He was some kind of man."
OF GEORGE SOTER'S LIFE
Prepared by George Soter in 2004 (completed by Tom Soter in 2009)
George born, Chicago, May 16, 1924.
First trip to Greece in ‘29, to be shown off to grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and antiquities.
First movie, a Charlie Chaplin, with dad. Start in Chicago, grammar school. (Several there, thenmore in Gary, Indiana and Detroit, Michigan--for a total of eight new-kid-in-town experiences.) In ‘32, Dad dies, moves with mother Emily to Uncle George and Aunt Edith’s home in Detroit. In ‘38, Emily marries old friend and very nice man,Nicholas Pappathefilopoulos, move back to Chicago. Decides to keep Soter surname.
Chicago’s Roosevelt High School, class of ‘42. Then, U.S. Army draftee, ‘43. Sees the world via the Signal Corps--Florida,North Carolina, Massachusetts (meets up with Effie!), Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, and, then! Lancashire, London, Lille, Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Berlin, Glasgow, Edinburgh. Post-war, at University of Chicago, and, finally, wed to Effie--that Athenian refugee met in Worcester--and begin housekeeping.
Starts working in advertising, moving from mail room to copywriting fairly quickly. Nick is born; Soters get transferred by agency toManhattan; Riverside Drive becomes new home turf (mostly because it’s like Hyde Park their Chicago turf--i.e., near a body of water, a big University, and a famous ghetto).Tom is born. Has five minutes of minor fame with Renault “Le Car Hot” campaign. Gets to Paris, on business! Shoehorn in a trip to meet again with families in Athens.
Peter is born. Gets fired. Mother dies. Takes a job-freed two-month holiday in Greece en famille. New ad job. And start of Greek Island Ltd. retail adventure at Amster Yard. (Next five minutes of fame.) Annual summer “buying, etc.” trips to Mykonos, Crete, Metsovo, Rhodes, Syphnos, Peloponessos, et al. Move to dream apartment at 404 Riverside Drive. Ad campaigns for Air France, Helena Rubinstein, more Renault, get good press. Miscellaneous celebrity sightings include Alec Guiness, Katherine Hepburn, Joel Grey, Stephen Sondheim, Michael J. Pollard in shop; Charlie Chaplin and family in Jamaica. Mercouri in Athens.
Open Greek Island Ltd. branches in East Hampton and Cape Cod. Jury member at Cannes Commercial TV Festival for two years, plus one year at Venice Film Festival. Rubunstein “Mykonos Look” press trip. Anthea Sylbert and Theoni V. Aldredge design clothes for shop. Nick in San Fransisco, Tom at Columbia, Peter in West Virginia. Form agency with Marc Pampuzac to specialize in non-American accounts, e.g., Gauloises cigarettes. Open “Greek artists” gallery in shop. Annual homemade catalogue mailed out to extensive customer list. Greek dictatorship ends. Opa!
Nick passes California Bar; he and Dora create Eva, first grandchild! Tom graduated from Columbia, starts editorial work and enters into serious flirtation with improv comedy. Peter’s into bookshop business. George has heart attack; OK with no surgery. Pulls back on activities. Closes down Greek Island Ltd. operations. Keeps foot in ad activities with campaigns for Schumacher fabrics, IBM Gallery, assorted Trump projects. Manages fairly regular reruns of the usual Greek summer activities. Opa, opa.
Nick and Dora’s Zoe, no. 2 granddaughter enters. Boys get their revenge for all those climbs through Delphi, Mistra and assorted Greek acropollises, by sponsoring a tip to Aztec antiquities and heavy climbs. George continues work as copy editor, home gardener. Reluctantly sell the three-decade apartment home and eventually find a smaller facsimile. Tom now managing editor and also improv impresario. Peter tries out bookstore ownership. Things are getting simpler.
Peter and Amelia get joined and third grandaughter Xanthe joins the fracas. Fourth granddaughter, Helena, born 2005. Moves to 468 Riverside drive for three years. November 2007: Diagnosed with inoperable cancer; given a year to live. October 2008: makes final move to basement apartment of niece Anemona's Harlem townhouse. Calling it his "Last Hurrah," he does remarkable design job on apartment. George dies at home, surrounded by friends and family, on January 8, 2009. Adio!
This is a transcript of a recording made of my father, George, and his friends recalling his life, at his 76th birthday party in 2000, and from his 80th birthday party in 2004.
George Soter’s Memories (2000, 2004, 2006)
FRIENDS & FANS
GEORGE ON HIS FRIENDS
This lady and I, after I got out of high school, I went to college in Chicago at a place called Roosevelt College, first called central YMCA College and then it became Rooosevelt later. It was Central YMCA college and we proceeded alphabetically and her name began with an R and mine was with an S and we sat next to each other. And we kept making jokes and everything. We became very close friends and part of my secret life is Jean was a terrific dance… modern interpretive dance. She studied dance and she got me involved in going to dance classes and I went to dance classes with Jean. It’s amazing to 50 years later, still be friends with somebody.
Six Decades of Jeannie Memories (2006 eulogy)
Jean and I met in September 1942 in out first college classes, just fresh out of Chicago’s Albany Park high schools (hers, Von Steuben; mine, Roosevelt). We were seated alphabetically and her maiden name, Reisapfel, plopped us next to each other. Almost from the first day, we didn’t pay as much attention to the classes, as we did to exchanging jokes and funny lines and comments. And folk-dancing. That accidental college seating arrangement started a life-long platonic love affair.
I was soon drafted the following March, but before that, I became part of Jean’s Habonim circle--an honored goy (I was Greek) participant--and took part in the pro-Israel parties, dances, sing-alongs, and meetings that were then part of her life. All warm and heady stuff. Half a year later, as a U.S. soldier on leave in London, and nostalgic for all that Jewish camaraderie, dancing, and activism I’d taken to, I even looked up and visited the London Habonim office, thinking I might find an English Jean there; but the London Habonimsters were seemingly much less democratic and only puzzled by my unseemly, to them, Chicago connections and, of course, there was no Jean equivalent to welcome me.
Jean and I exchanged funny letters during the war years. And in post-war 1946, we came together again back home where, at the University of Chicago, two other ex-GI’s (also Greek-Americans) and I shared a ratty off-campus apartment, cooked most of our own meals and where Jean (who didn’t like to cook) was often one of our most welcome quick-to-dance and hilarious joke-telling guests. It was a kind of pre-Hippie gathering place. (When it was announced a few months ago that a movie had been made about comedians exchanging versions of the infamous famous joke “The Aristocrats,” I instantly remembered that Jean had introduced us to the joke early on, and that it was part of her voluminous joke inventory, and I sent her a copy of a review of the movie that she much appreciated.)
For the next few years, Jean worked at a social agency on Chicago’s colorful Maxwell Street where her circle of friends came to include a group of gypsies--and more dancing. And then, Jean migrated to New York, America’s dance capital, where she and Alex found each other. They danced horas and mazurkas and even some Greek circle dances until they happily found their unique tango niche. And made their historic dance footnotes.
In 1949, my wartime girlfriend Effie and I were married--Jean was the matron of honor at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Three Hierarches in Brooklyn--and, soon, we too had moved to Manhattan. And then, our children and the Turney children were often sandlot playmates, and we were all active members of each other’s circles, part of one another’s families.
In Chicago, Jean had even learned from us a bit of cooking--how to make the then very popular tuna casserole which was the easiest cooking in the world: you boiled some noodles, mixed in a can of tuna fish, a can of Campbells cream of mushroom soup, covered it all with American cheese slices and baked it in the oven for a few minutes. She became adept enough at this recipe to serve it to Alex’s parents one night; Alex’s mother who was also a non-cooking housewife, was impressed and, assured that it took no cooking skill or serious kitchen time to make “this wonderful casserole,” asked Jean for the recipe which she carefully wrote down, and even called while preparing to cook, to make sure she had the instructions right. When Jean spoke to her the next day, asking how it had turned out, Mrs. Turney sighed and said, “It wasn’t as good as yours.” How could that be? “Well,” Mrs. Turney explained, “Maybe it was because I didn’t have tuna fish and so I used a can of tomato herring...” This anecdote became part of Jean’s wonderful inventory of real life funny stories. She was able to see the humor in all sorts of things, both big world events, small dance world happenings, and little kitchen disasters. And she was able to give life to all these varied events.
As the years went on and Tango gave a new focus to Jean and Alex’s life (after all, what do you do when the children move on and start their own lives?), there came the moment when they became “movie stars.” It started out as a lark, and soon their six-minute Tango Octogenario became the hit attraction throughout the world, including the New York Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival and festivals in Europe and South America. They were the stars of a NY Times Anemona Hartocollis“Coping” column headlined “After 55 Years Still Dancing Cheek to Cheek.” Jean and Alex were thrilled with all the attention. “Think of it! At our age we’ve become celebrities!” They certainly had. Although for their friends, they always had been celebrities.
For all of us who had the chance to share in Jean’s wonderful life--the early Chicago days, the Habonim group, the dancers of all kinds, her fellow employees in the bookstore world, Alex and the children and grandchildren--we feel her absence and remember fondly Jean’s ready smile, her quick repartee and, most of all, the deeply understanding way she had for friendship and love.
John McCrosky is the second oldest friend here. In the early 1960s when I was working in the advertising business, he came, he was interviewed for a job and the job was to work on Renault cars as an account executive. And I was a terrible interviewer. Because I wanted to hire the first person that came in, I felt sorry for him. At any rate, I said, “You have to work on Renault cars,” and it was like Seinfeld. I said, “Do you speak French? Not that it makes any difference…” He said he spoke a little French. We hired him and we became very, very close friends from that time on. That was another 40 years on, 1960 it was. So we’ve been friends for 40 years, 50 years.
Let me tell you about Maggie; I’ve known Maggie since before she was born. Maggie’s father and I were in Berlin, Germany together in the army and we became quite close friends. I think Tom liked me, Tom was the quintessential WASP and he liked me because I was Greek. We had a long lasting friendship and at some point Maggie was born and that friendship was transferred from her father to Maggie. We were like surrogate parents to Maggie, to all the things she went through. When we had our shop, she was a model and posed for photographs. And she was a great customer. All we had to do was call her up and tell her we had a bad week and she’d come down and shop.
Anthe was part of Effie’s family from Greece. She was a close friend of Effie’s sister, in addition to which she was a leader in the Greek Civil War. She was terrific. In addition to which she is also an engineer, she worked for the Bell System as an engineer and she has a terrific accent, a little like Nana Mouskouri. I have to tell my Anthe story. At one point, there was a strike going on at the Bell Telephone System and Anthe was an executive, a vice president and what have you and she had to take over some supervisory role or some everyday role. Somebody called her and said, “There’s a man on the wire who wants his… You handle it.” So the man got on and said, “I want my home telephone number. We just moved in and I don’t remember it and I’ve had a big argument with my wife and I have to call her.” So Anthe looked it up and she said, “It’s an unlisted number, I can’t give it to you.” And he says, “You have to give it tome, because I had this fight with my wife and I want to make it up.” So Anthe says with her wonderful accent, she says, “Why don’t you slip into the back door through the kitchen, read your telephone number, come out and telephone?” And he says, “There is no back door!” And he got very furious, he says, “Look, if you don’t give me my number, I’m going to destroy this phone booth.” And Anthe says, “You put one finger on that phone booth and I have a button here which I will press and I will blow you up.” This is the Bell Telephone System.
Let me tell you about Irma. Irma is one of our friends from Riverside. She had all these kids and we had all these kids and at some point we opened this shop, Greek Island, and we needed a person. So Effie said to her, “Irma, do you want to work in the shop?” Irma never worked in a shop, she’s still now working in a shop because of that. She was terrific, she was the best sales person in the world because she never pushed anybody.
Now I have to tell a longish story. At some point in the ‘70s, a woman came in at Christmas time and spent a fortune and all the while she was spending all this money she kept talking about the charities she gave to, the things she did. She kept name dropping all these fancy places and we were very worried—she spent $1,000—how she was going to pay for it. So at the end she says, “I’ll pay for it by check, but you hold the check until you clear it at the bank and I’ll pick the stuff up tomorrow.” And then a few weeks later we saw the paper and there was some crazy woman and it was her, who was going around spending a lot of money. Okay, time lapse. A year later in the summer, this woman comes in and she announces to us that she was engaged to marry Marlon Brando. And she was going to be flying to Cannes the next day in a private plane and she was buying a lot of things; clothes, things for Marlon’s children. And she had all this conversation while she’s shopping and she spent several thousand dollars. Half of us thought, this is great, Marlon Brando’s wife and the other thought said, she's a phony.
At any rate, she bought all this stuff, she paid for it, she had the money and she left it there to be picked up the next day. To make a very long story short, the next day she came in and bought some more stuff and she came in with her masseuse, Ingrid, to find things for her. Two funny things: at the end of all these purchases, like any good Greek merchant—she spent several thousand dollars—I decided to give her a gift. We had some little votive offerings that are silver things and I said, “Please give this to Mr. Brando.” I don’t remember what it was, but it was a thing. And she says, “Well, no, you have to write a note, say best wishes or something, make it more personal.” And it said, “Dear Marlon, best wishes…” and she took it. Then a couple of hours later, her masseuse, Ingrid, called and said that they had left an envelope there. Irma went back to get the envelope, she found it and she said, “I’m going to look in it,” and she did. And Irma found these newspaper clippings that said that this woman who was going to marry Marlon Brando was the woman who a year before was in for Christmas and was talking and standing and had been written up in The Times. So Irma said, “Look who this is, this is Jean Janssen. So anyway, the woman came and picked that up…
Two side stories I want to tell you. First is we’re driving home in a cab from that shop and we’re talking about this incident. Effie and Irma are arguing about whether this woman was genuine or not. Irma says, “I knew she wasn’t genuine. Marlon Brando would never marry a woman like that.” The second part is, two months later… While she was in the shop, I was telling her that we were going to be in Venice next month, I was going to be a judge at a festival. She says, “Well, that’s wonderful because we’re going to be going to Italy on our honeymoon.” And she says, “What hotel will you be at?” She wrote it down and so forth. So even though I knew all of this was some kind of a crazy scam, all the two weeks we were in Venice, when I’d show up to the desk I’d say, “Are there any messages that say Mr. Brando will pick you up?" It never happened.
HIS FANS ON GEORGE
NICK SOTER (from his 80th birthday, 2004)
You have been a wonderful father to me, and still are, for all these years. You have allowed me the freedom to do what I want, and while not agreeing with some of my life choices, you trusted that I would be all right in the end. And I am all right, more than that, in large part due to the sensibilities and values you have passed on to me. Those include, but are not limited to (legal language, to protect myself):
Respect for other people and their views, even if they are wrong (which I still have a hard time with); the social responsibility to treat other people with kindness and understanding, even if you don’t always feel that way; gentleness and softness as a way of communication for men, and that projecting machismo is not the best way for men to act towards the world; a love for the arts-writing, film, music, dancing; that simple pleasures are sometimes the last refuge of the complex; that the world is an exciting and invigorating place, and that we should all strive to see more of it; that the act of driving long distances, particularly if it is accomplished along a rocky coastline with a precipitous cliff on the right, is a meditative experience; that food is not just to be consumed in order to keep us functioning, but should be enjoyed with family and friends, preferably in a small taverna on a sunny beach under turquoise skies in the late afternoon; that being Greek is both an honor and a fact; that support of one’s family will always be the first concern, whether it be financially, emotionally, or intellectually; that money will come and money will go, but not to worry; that lying on a beach under an extremely hot sun interrupted by an occasional swim is a worthwhile and desired condition; that the way one looks can influence the way one feels, and therefore one should always dress appropriately; that working hard is the only way to work, but not all the time; that urban life has its benefits, which should be taken advantage of; that all living things have value, and plants and animals should be respected and enjoyed for what they are; that lemon trees can produce fruit in small pots on upper floors of apartment buildings when only receiving westerly sun; that generosity has its own rewards; that climbing up innumerable stairs in the hot sun to hear the actor’s whisper on the ancient stage is worth doing; that bouzouki music is part of a Greek’s soul, and going to nightclubs until 2:00 a.m. to hear it is a necessary part of a 14 year old’s summer program; that one should not harbor any grudges, except those necessary to maintain dignity; that people in the service business should realize that they are here to serve the customer, and that the customer is always right; that terrific things happen all the time, and that not-so-terrific things happen too; that being eighty can be fun and exciting, sometimes, just as life at any age, and; that life is for living, and for enjoying, with family and good friends over some fresh food and soulful music. I love you, Niko.
DORA MIRANDA (from 2004)
What a great delight to be here to celebrate your birthday! I have celebrated twenty-five years with you including : family adventures to Greece; my dream trip to Paris; trips to Mexico, and our yearly sojourn to New York City. I thank you for your legacy of love and deep compassion that I’ve enjoyed with your son, my husband Nick. And the traditions I now hold dear of family and good food. Happy Birthday George, you’re terrific! Thank you for your generous heart, which has made me your daughter, Dora
ZOE ELENA SOTER (from 2004)
You’ve had a great 80 years with the people you love. Our family travels together and we couldn’t have done it with out you. You are a great grandfather and I love you. I wish you a happy, happy, happy 80th birthday! I love you Grandpa George
I’d like to tell a quick George story, this is one of my favorite stories. It’s George on lunch break and it’s a crowded 5th Avenue summer afternoon. Pedestrians are crossing the street and blocking traffic and there’s two guys in a van trying to force their way in between the pedestrians and they can’t make their way. The windows are down and the light turns red for them and the driver said, “I could have went! I could have went!” And George went like, “Excuse me, I could have gone.” And the guy said to him, "What did you say?" And George said, "The correct way to say that is 'I could have gone.'" And the guy said, “Well, fuck you!”
This is another quick story about George. In 1972, I was going to Greece together with the family and I’d just gotten my driver’s license learner’s permit. I was traveling with George and Effie and the three Soter boys plus all the Athens cousins and stuff. And George rents a Volkswagen van and we’re driving around Crete and George says, “Jonathan, you have the license, why don’t you drive?” “Are you sure? I mean, I just got it, I’m 17 years old, I don’t know if I can really…” He said, “Yes, of course you can, go ahead, do it. Come on.” “Okay.” So puts me at the wheel and I’m driving the whole family. I realize if I make one mistake on these winding Greek roads, I’m going to wipe out the entire Soter family, plus all their Athens relatives. But this is the kind of man George is, is… And it sets you up for life because you think… Well, you know, you’re a very young man and you think, all I need is for some guy with authority to believe in me.
George was walking on the street and a guy comes up to him and says to him, “Hey, I know you, you’re an actor, aren’t you?” George says, “No, I’m not,” and they’re walking along. The guy says to George, “No, I really think you’re an actor, you were in that big picture a couple of weeks ago, I saw it.” And George says, “No, I don’t think so.” He says, “Oh, sure, you must be.” And he went on for about five minutes talking about how great George was. And he was on the set with George and he worked with him and he remembers how great an actor he was. And then at the end of this spiel he says to George, “You know, I really know actors because I’m an actor myself and I’m out of work. And my wife is sick. Do you think you can spare a few bucks?" And George gave him five dollars. I said to him, “Why did you give him that money? He said, “Because it was a great performance.”
The first thing I want to say about George is… I never think about George, at the same time I think Effie. The first person I met was Effie and Peter introduced me to his mother and George was there. In some ways in the home, George was more maternal. But I can still never separate, and I think most of us probably can’t, when I think of George I always think… And still, today, I always think, George and Effie. And when I think of the home, the store… And a lot of times at the Soters there’s always boys and I was a boy in there, a lot of it was George and the art and his creativity in the house. A lot of it was George, but I always thought Effie.
I want to say something else, because a lot of you don’t know how personally, how deeply I personally feel about George, but what kind of a man George is. I came from a decent home and I went to college and I met Peter. And we went, we said, “Look, life is tremendous, isn’t it great? And we love each other, this is tremendous, so let’s do some things, what do you want to do? Let’s go see some things.” He said, “I’d go see Greece, you want to see Greece?” “Great, we’re going to Greece.” So we went to Greece and we came back and (inaudible) another year. And Peter said, “What do you want to see?” “Let’s go see everything.” So we went to Greece, we went to Italy, we spent months and we just lived in a cave (laughter), literally, I’m not kidding you. It was nothing, but our budget was two dollars a day. But George said, “When you go, I’m going to send you some friends, I know these people, you go see them.” So Peter and I, we had a budget of about $1 a day for food. That was enough, because we’d go into a restaurant and we would make friends.
Peter’s just like George, made all kinds of friends. We’d collect from them, we could pay for the meal, we wouldn’t have to put anything, it was beautiful. He said, “Look, I’m going to call some of my dad’s friends,” so we called them, and the next thing I know we’re going from Effie’s sister’s house in Athens, we’re riding in a BMW listening to Nat King Cole, we’re going to the best seafood restaurant near Athens. And there’s a guy, he’s telling a story, we sit down, we have beautiful shrimps and you never saw anything like it. But instead, it was the dollar, the pastichio next to the train station in the tourist section. It was beautiful. And everywhere we went, in France too, George said, “Go and see my friends,” and Peter and I would go.
But one year we went away on a vacation, I said, “Look, I’m going to keep going, I don’t want to go home, I’m just going to go.” I went and I spent six months in Africa, or nine months. A year later I called George and I said, “George, I’m in New York.” He said, “What happened?” I said, “Well, I had some trouble. My parents were divorced and I’m in New York and I just got off the plane. I was deported.” George said, “Oh, come on over, surprise Peter, he’s sleeping.” And I came over and I said, “I don’t feel that good.” So it turned out… I came over and I said hello, great, and I weighed 170 pounds, I was very skinny and I didn’t look that good. But George said, “You can stay a while, don’t worry about it,” and I could call home. My parents were getting divorced, they weren’t there, George said, “Stay with us for a while, don’t worry about it.” I’ve got Hepatitis and George said, “Don’t worry about it, stay with us, it’s no problem.” A couple of days later I woke up and I had lice because I was in jail in Africa before I was deported and George said, “Don’t worry about it, stay with us.” And I couldn’t get a job for a while and George said, “Don’t worry about it, stay with us, that’s okay,” you know? Three years later… I’m not kidding, three years later and George never asked anything from me and that’s the kind of man George is and his family is. I stayed with him all that time and he never asked me for a penny, he never asked me to clean the house, he never asked me for a penny. All he wanted was that… He supported me, at Christmas time he would give me clothing, anything I needed. So that’s my story about George.
His last works (2004-2008)
LE NEWSLETTER HOT
In September 2004, George, who had recently passed his 80th birthday, focused his never-flagging energy on a new endeavor: helping generate interest in Morningside Books, the bookstore owned by his youngest son, Peter, and his daughter-in-law, Amelia. To that end, he came up with a publicity gimmick that employed his favorite device – words – about one of his favorite habits – reading. George was a voracious reader; he finished at least two books a week, as well as countless magazines, The New York Times, and, of course, The New Yorker (which he read cover to cover, even in the dark days of Tina Brown). He regularly passed books on to his sons with the comment, "I think you'll enjoy this," although no one enjoyed those books half as much as George.
The new publicity device would be called Booknotes and it would turn out to be a duty he loved. Although the newsletter was only four pages, he turned it into something special, a kind of "Talk of the Town" for Morningside Books. There were announcements, mini-reviews of quirky books, author birthdates (with quotations), political commentary, and even his memoirs. George designed it, brought it over personally to Village Copier on 118th Street ("They're terrific," he used to say, in his typically enthusiastic manner), and doted over it like a parent with a special child. It's no wonder that he was pleased to receive a letter and photograph from a Booknotes fan. The letter was one of praise, which he was happy to receive, but it was the photo that particularly tickled him: it was a picture the writer had taken of her assembled collection of Booknotes, George's last major writing project.
m o r n i n g s i d e
b o o k s h o p
b o o k n o t e s o f t h e m o n t h
s e p t e m b e r 2004
A Welcoming Note: To new students and new neighborhood residents, to continuing
students and continuing residents, and to visiting passersby, we’re here to supply students
with specific class texts--and everyone with all the non-class reading you may be into
(mysteries, fiction and non-fiction classics, political pamphleteering, best sellers, travel,
poetry, humour, picture novellas, etc., etc.) as well as a constantly replenished stock of
We invite you to browse to your reading heart’s content and ask our knowledgable staff for
help, computer searches, special orders, neighborhood directions, etc. We’re here to help.
Some Personal Notes: Peter and Amelia Soter, the new owners of the former Papyrus
--the convenient Morningsde book stop for over three decades--have spruced up,
lightened up and newly stocked up the premises in preparation for the next three decades.
For your interest, here’s their backstory. Longtime neighborhood residents, Peter and
Amelia were co-students, grades one through five, down the street from here, at St. Hilda
and St. Hugh’s grade school. When, they said their good-byes at the end of the school
year, Amelia’s family moved on, and Peter may have pined away, drowning his sorrow a
few years later with a part time job at Papyrus. This eventually morphed into a lifetime
career as a bookseller with stints as a Papyrus partner and jobs at Hacker Art Books,
Computer Book Works, Gotham Book Mart, and his own Verso Books in Chelsea.
But neither Peter nor Amelia thought about renewing their fifth-grade companionship until...
Until, several decades after the fifth grade, Amelia walked into Verso Books and Peter, at
the checkout counter, said “Aren’t you Amelia Linden? Didn’t I accidentally bloody your
nose in the fifth grade?” “Yes.” And “Yes.” And here they are today, a half a block away
from where it all started. Anybody wanna make a movie?
Notes on Very Local,Very Readable Authors on Our Shelves: Celebrated chef and best-seller (Kitchen Confidential) mystery writer Anthony Bourdain; Nation editor/writer Richard Pollack (The Colombo Bay); New York Times columnist Anemona Hartocollis (7 Days of Possibilities); Jennie McPhee (No Ordinary Matter); Columbia professor Ann Douglas (Terrible Honesty). If you’re a published or about-to-be published writer, let us know about it.
Hot Sellers Notes: Pulitzer prize, new in paperback, Edward P. Jones, The Known World; Alexander Mccall Smith, the No. 1 Ladies Detective Series; Chris Ware’s graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth; Marjane Satrafi’s Persopolis; and the best-selling Japanese Manga comic books. Plus, since ‘tis the season to be political, your choice of Clintons, Moores, Frankins, Ivins, and the various reports including the well-written, very readable The 9-11 Commission Report. Have a sweet September.
Burgeoning April is a perfect month to think poetically. So, we celebrate the birthday (April 17, see In-Store Events) of the Greek-Alexandrian poet Cavafy. Practically unknown outside his small circle during his lifetime (1863-1933), but, in the 2oth century, "discovered" by E. M. Forster, lauded by W. H. Auden, a favorite of Jackie Onassis—his Ithaca read at her funeral—he became one of the high points of modern Greek literature and also, perhaps, of 2oth century world poetry. One of his earliest poems (above), on first reading, seems a specific cri de coeur about his illicit sexual orientation. But, with a small stretch, it also speaks to the isolation that results within any racial, gender, ethnic, or other minority "wall." And, with a slightly further stretch, it could be a metaphor for our present national incarceration within the walls of our ill-conceived Iraq adventure. (This last, alas, brings to mind the similar fateful imperial adventure of ancient Athens which, with its "quick war" against Sicily and despite much anti-war advice at the time, resulted in years of quagmired irresolution and spendthrift costs that eventually served to bring an end to the historic hegemony of Athens.)
Now, like Cavafy, we sit here and despair.
How did we not notice? Even though we did hear
the noise and the sound of the war builders,
those who have shut us off from the world.
Why did we not notice? We think of nothing else.
Our minds eaten by this fate.
Because we had so much to do outside.
Without caution, without pity, without shame,
They have built thick and high walls around me
And now I sit here and despair.
I think of nothing else: my mind eaten by this fate
because I had so much to do outside.
Ah, when they built the walls, how did I not notice.
But I never heard the builders or any sound.
Imperceptibly they shut me off from the outside world
The Unintended Publishing
Consequences of the Iraq War
(vs. the intended Halliburton money-making consequences)
Tuesday, April 11, 7:00 - 8:30 pm Come meet author Nadia Gould, who will read from and discuss her recently published memoir Hitler Made Me a Jew. Paradoxical and haunting, her memoir is an optimistc and moving account about escaping tragedy to create a new life.
Wednesday, April 5, 7:00 - 9:00 pm Nikki Stiller, our neighborhood poetry connection returns to host a special reading by Jewish women poets, "Writing Our Lives," that showcases the published poetry of Henny Wenkart (Love Poems of a Philanderer’s Wife), Mindy Rinkewich (The Sweet Kid from Warsaw), and Helen Papell (Caretaker’s Mask). Sounds like fun.
Wednesday, April 12, 7:00 - 9:00 pm Kevin Baker discusses the historic and celebrated Harlem enclave known as Striver's Row which is also the title of his fascinating, well-researched, and well-received book about one of our nearby neighborhoods.
Monday, April 17, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
With the participation of Columbia’s Department of Hellenic Studies, we’re celebrating the poet Cavafy’s birthday and the recent publication of poet Aliki Barnstone’s new translations of The Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy. Her poet’s ear—as well as her Greek-speaking mother's help—give Cavafy’s verse new music in English. Reading and talk by longtime Cavafy fan George Soter (the shop’s grandpa and editor/writer of these morningside booknotes).
Thursday April 20, 7:00 - 9:00 pm Pound for Pound, the knockout life-story of Sugar Ray Robinson, by distinguished author Herb Boyd and Sugar's son, Morningside neighbor Ray Robinson II, who will be joining us. Join us during our Sunday “quiet time.” 10:00 am to noon, Sunday, April 23. We’ll welcome you even more warmly than usual with complimentrary juices, coffee, and noshes. Plus we'll offer a 10% discount on your book purchases.
If you log onto the internet and search for books on "the Iraq War" you’ll be flooded with over 2,000 (no kidding) titles. But who can read even the 100 best books on the subject? So, here are our choices for the top Iraq-US war books.
1. The Assassins’ Gate by New York Times reporter George Packer--some parts of which appeared in the New Yorker--and about which the Washington Post reviewer said, "...relates all...clearly and briskly...moving portraits of both Iraqis and Americans while skillfully guiding (you) through the intricacies of colonial administration, Iraqi ethnic politics and Beltway skullduggery." We agree it’s "the best book yet written (2005) on this war."
2. American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money by Kevin Phillips. Now, an apostate from the Republican Party, the author as a young political strategist foresaw and helped build the new and more conservative Republican majority that would come to dominate American politics for decades. He is scathingly critical of the Bush administration’s dangerous policies that have misdirected us into a war and into astonishing levels of debt.
3. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (2006) by another New York Times reporter Michael Gordon and former Marine General Bernard Trainor. Using material from the newly declassified U.S. Army official history of the war, the authors don’t gloss over the many tactical mistakes nor the often high level military/civilian disputes. They also point out the shockingly similar ostrich-head-in-the-desert-sand war tactics used by both Hussein and Rumsfeld. Enlighteningly painful.
4. State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times reporter James Risen. Relentlessly uncovers the breathtakingly strange events leading up to the war. Even the reader who has been inured to what’s going on by the daily headlines and op ed pieces can find new depths of shockability here. A "What the hell is going on?" page-turner.
IS YOUR BIRTHDAY IN APRIL?
1. If your birthday’s in April, and the date matches that of one of our April literary celebrants, you can enjoy a special 15% “literary birthday discount.” On that date—and the two days before and after—simply flash us a birthday ID, name your co-birthday author, and stock up.
2. If you were not born in April, you can still enjoy a special 15% “literary birthday discount” by stocking up with
books written by any one or all of our April honorees. Department of So Many Books, So Little Time One way, to feel well-read even while being run ragged through your daily life, is to read the long precis-like reviews in The New York Review of Books. Just in the April 6 issue alone, Gary Wills’s review of At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 by Taylor Branch, gives you, on five pages, a lot of the factual meat and emotional heat that is covered in its 1,039 (!) actual pages. You may not have read it, but you may feel as though you have. Similarly, Ian Buruma’s review of the R.Crumb Handbook by R. Crumb and Peter Poplaski, is so filled with historical details, analyses, wry quotes, and appreciative curatorial comments that, once you’ve read the three and a half pages of the review, again, you may feel almost like you’ve gone through the 438(!) pages. (And you may still want to.)
So, now, all those hours and days you saved have given you time to turn to some of the actual books that The New York Review of Books publishes. Modern out-of-print classics in handsome, slim paperback editions, priced at $12.95 and $14.95. Many of them, you may’ve been hearing about during much of your reading life but haven’t bird-dogged them through their publishing afterlives. Here are a few sample titles: Glenway Wescott, Apartment in Athens and The Pilgrim Hawk; Lionel Trilling, The Middle of the Journey; Italo Svevo, As a Man Grows Older; Fr. Rolfe (Baron Corvo), Hadrian the Seventh. There are enticingly many more.
Remainder Find: If you’ve got any parental or avuncular seniors on your gift-giving list, discover for them The Girl Watchers Club, the lively yet nostalgic romp by Harry Stein, that’s delighted every senior on our list. Original hardcover edition, published at $24.95, now $6.98. Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster by Eric Dyson. Angry iconoclast Michael Moore comments on the dust jacket, "...it took the weather--the weather!--to literally and figuratively rip the facade off America’s two biggest taboos: Race and Class." Dyson’s book tells the whole sad, still to be finished story.
4-2 (1842) Emile Zola: "J’accuse."
4-4 (1928) Maya Angelou: "At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place,
was as honorable as resistance, especially iF one had no choice."
4-9 (1821) Charles-Pierre Baudelaire: "Il faut epater le bourgeois."
4-10 (1941) Paul Theroux: "Travel is glamorous only in retrospect."
4-13 (1743) Thomas Jefferson: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilizatioN, it expects what never was and never will be."
4/15 (1843) Henry James: "It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance...and I know of no substitute whatsoever for the force and beauty of its process."
4/17 (1863) Constantine Cavafy: "Now, what will become of us without barbarians? Those people were some kind of solution."
4/22 (1660) Daniel Defoe: "Actions receive their tincture from the times, And as they change are virtues made of crimes."
4/23 (1616) William Shakespeare: "Men are April when they woo, December when they wed; maids are May when they are maids but the sky changes when they are wives."
4/28 (1926) Harper Lee: "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."
Transcript of Effie Soter’s Memories
As Told to Tom Soter
Although I did not start a memoir project with my mother, Effie, she did, at times, recall her life. What follows are some of her memories. For more information on Effie, see "Not Me, Kid," at http://www.tomsoter.com/?q=node/437
MOMMY DEAREST, ESQ. (1997 recollection}
Q: Tell me about your mother, how you got along with her.
ES: Not so well, really. I mean, we were not friends.
Q: Why? Is that because you didn’t grow up with her, do you think?
ES: That may be one reason and the other reason was that she was not really interested in the family; she was more interested in running my father’s business, you know, having dates with lawyers and so forth. She was never home. We never saw her. And she spent her afternoons, early evenings, having beer with lawyers. And the thing to me, now that I think of it, was amazing, she hardly finished grammar school and yet she was able to do legal work—because my father had property, houses-that was the income that we grew up with, rentals and my mother was in charge because my father was gone all of the time. She was in charge of dealing with the houses; renting them, repairing them, all those things. With no education, which was amazing—she hardly finished grammar school, you know?
Q: Why do you think she was so good at it?
ES: She was smart and she liked it. She didn’t like so much housework, we had a maid and my grandmother was there when she was there. And housework, forget it, she was pretending she was always sickly, she had a stomach problem.
Q: How did she get along with your father? They were married, was it a marriage of convenience or what was the deal? Was it arranged?
ES: I don’t know, I guess. In those days, you know, you didn’t date, it was a long time ago and she lived in Maine with my grandfather and grandmother.
Q: How did she meet your father?
ES: In Maine. He wanted to finally take a wife and they told him there was a Greek family in Maine, that’s where Xanthe was born. But I don’t think she was ever in love with him and besides, he never stayed long enough in the house in Greece. But then after they got married they came to Greece and they stayed with my grandmother, grandfather and my father decided to go back to the States. He never liked to stay in Greece. He came back and a year or so later my mother went to the States where Peter, Billy, and Stella were born. And they left me with my grandmother, grandfather. I didn’t see them for six, seven, eight years. And as a matter of fact, when I went to grammar school to enroll, my grandfather took me and they asked me my name and I gave my grandfather’s last name as my name. And my grandfather thought it was funny and interestingly, he let it go, Mandripelis instead of Hartocollis. And this went on for a year or two and then my father came and when he saw the papers (laughs)…
Q: He wasn’t happy.
ES: Oh, he went and changed it right away and I became Hartocollis instead of Mandripelis.
Q: How about in later life, you and your mother? Did you get along when you were married?
ES: Not really. I mean, I never had too much – I don’t know, respect for her. I didn’t care for her too much. My grandmother had raised me so I was more fond of my grandmother. I found my mother sort of a flirt, she loved to flirt with men and I found her sort of shallow, you know what I mean? I mean you couldn’t talk to her about anything.
Q: She was not interested in much.
ES: No, she was interested in real estate, she was interested in men, but she didn’t read. She wasn’t educated, she had just finished grammar school. I’m sure she had never gone to high school and yet she must have been intelligent, she was able to deal with lawyers, do legal work and everything, with no education. But I was never that close to her, I was close to Xanthe, her sister, who she wasn’t that much older than I was, but in any case, we were very close. And with my mother, forget it.
Q: Why do you think Xanthe was so much more interesting to you?
ES: She was closer to my age, she liked the same things I liked, you know, and she wasn’t interested in real estate the way my mother was, and men. My mother liked flirting.
Q: Sisters, yet they were so different.
ES: I don’t know, 15 years makes a big difference.
Q: Why was there such a big age discrepancy?
ES: They had other children in between. They died, all of them. There was a son who died and there were two other sisters. They were all working in factories in Maine. And then Xanthe was the last one, she was the youngest and that was the end. My mother was the oldest, there was a brother who died, there were two older sister who also died and then Xanthe was the youngest.
Q: What did the other two sisters die of?
ES: TB, I think, one and the other one probably from venereal disease or something, I don’t know. She liked men.
Q: But even when your mother was older, when she came and stayed with us at the house, you weren’t too fond of her.
ES: No, I never cared for her. I found her very shallow.
Q: What about her relationship with your father? Were they close?
ES: My father liked her very much but the only thing is they never lived long enough together, you know? They were always apart.
I REMEMBER PAPA (1985 recollection)
My mother-in-law was staying with us at the time and my father-in-law and so we had the dinner and my father’s there and he says, “Who cooked the meal?” I said, “I did.” “You can’t cook a meal, you lie.” I said, “I cooked the meal.” He said, “You can’t, you’ve gone to college, you can’t cook a meal. Your mother-in-law cooked it, you’re lying to me.” And I said, “Father, I cooked the meal.” He says, “No, it’s impossible. People who have gone to college cannot cook.” Another thing about my father, we were in Worchester and I decided I was going to be honest. Father objected to smoking, he didn’t like people who smoke. He gave a car to Billy to stop smoking. But I was smoking, I say, I’ll be honest with him and I’ll tell him that I’m smoking. So I said, “Father…” I didn’t say ‘dad,’ you know? “Father, I smoke.” He looked at me, he says, “What did you say?”I said, "I smoke." He said, "You lie. None of my children smoke,” and he got up and left the room. And he never accepted it, never. You know, and every time I tried to say something he says, “None of my children smoke, I don’t know what you're talking about.” In front of him I never smoked, never.
I have to tell you one more thing about my father. George and I got married, we lived in Chicago and we got married in Brooklyn. We had a big, formal wedding in Brooklyn. We got all these presents from the relatives here and friends and millions of presents. And we lived in Chicago so we couldn’t take them with us and we left them for the basement, you know, they had a private home in Brooklyn, my mother and father. We left them there and I get a letter from Stella and Stella says, “Effie, take your wedding presents real fast because they’re disappearing. They’re going away. Whenever there was a wedding, father will go down in the basement, pick up one of the presents and we’ll give it away." So I called him up and said, "Father, what are you doing?" He said, "I paid for the wedding, so I can do what I want with the presents."
ALL MY SIBLINGS (1997 recollection)
Q: What about your siblings?
ES: When Stella came here, she didn’t care for it. She said, “If you give me all the property in Greece, I’ll go back to Greece and get married there and stay there.” The other two, Peter and Bill said, “That’s silly, why should we give her the property? It belongs to all of us.” But I persuaded them, this is what Stella wanted, let her have it. We’re here in the States, we don’t need the property, let her have it. So she got everything. The house became a high rise. And then there was another house down in the country where I grew up, they sold that one, Taki did. She got the house in Athens, a beautiful house, a one-family house where we grew up and other buildings we owned. It was a lot of property and a lot of money and I didn’t get a thing.
Q: Do you regret it that Taki took all that property and just turned it into busses?
ES: Who cares? I don’t know, what can I do? If we had the property, we probably would have sold it and invested, I don’t know.
Q: How did you get along with your brothers and sisters?
ES: Fine, they liked me and I was the oldest sister, I was the smartest one. Peter and I were the smart ones; I say smart because we were number one in school, both of us. Stella and Billy were the playboys and I remember having to tutor Stella and so forth and so on because she wasn’t that good a student and Bill was worse. But Peter and I got along every well because we were interested in the same things. We liked books, we liked reading, we were not too much interested in outside life, you know? But we were very close.
Q: And how did he meet Pitsa?
ES: Well, he came here and he went to Topeka. I don’t remember now; he met her in Topeka or he met her in Greece, I don’t remember. But anyway, they were in Topeka together, and they got married.
Q: Did you get along with Pitsa?
ES: Yeah, I mean we’re not bosom friends, but fine, no problem, you know? What I know is that I found her a little hard, you know what I mean? And there was Maria, forget it, we never had anything to do with each other.
Q: How about Maria; how did Billy meet her?
ES: Bill didn’t like education. Peter and I were the ones who liked school. Bill liked sports and he liked girlfriends. So he came here, he didn’t want to go to school the way we did, go to university or anything and he started working at my father’s place. My father had a restaurant or whatever they’re called, those luncheonettes or whatever. And then when we got married, George Shoral opened a restaurant in Pittsburgh and they asked Bill if he wanted to go and run it. So he said, “Fine.” He didn’t like Brooklyn anyway, so he went to Pittsburgh to work. He became friends with George Shoral, our best man, and he stayed in Pittsburgh working there in the restaurant; he bought it, I think the restaurant was his. And he met Maria , she was the Miss Greece of Pittsburgh, a beauty contest. And he met her at some dance there and they got involved and they got married and he gave up the restaurant and went into real estate.
FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND WHEN TO JUMP OUT THE WINDOW (1997 recollection)
So, what was it like for you coming to New York after being in Chicago? Was it a big change? George told me that when you were coming to New York you were concerned because you didn’t know anyone but also you had stayed in hotels whenever you came here and you thought it would be very expensive to come to New York.
ES: Maybe. I don’t remember.
Q: Do you remember when you first came, raising the kids? When you first had Nicky, what were your experiences?
ES: Having Nicky was in Chicago and it was all right, I don’t remember any difficulty. And then here we had a maid.
Q: You had all the different maids, right? I remember we had a maid named Mary.
ES: Yeah, right.
Q: And then your friends here, you knew Bunny and Irma; did you know them from the park or how did you know them?
ES: From the park. We met in the park and then when George thought of opening Greek Island, Bunny was involved. She had money and she loved everything Greek, you know? She liked Greek things. And so she became a partner. George hated her, he couldn’t stand her. Even today he never wants to talk about her. And anyway, that’s when we got Irma working for us. During the day I was doing the books, the paperwork. And Bunny was very active but she and George couldn’t see eye to eye in a lot of things, couldn’t get along.
Q: In what, the way the business was run?
ES: Yeah, everything, everything.
Q: But George doesn’t like working with a partner, does he?
Q: He likes to be the one to call the shots. Well, how about with Joe LaRosa?
ES: I think that Joe LeRosa asked for a lot of money when he quit, he sold his share of Greek Island and that upset George. And it wasn’t fair, really, under the circumstances. He did get a lot of money.
Q: Where did you find Mrs. Theodore?
ES: Anthe. Because Mrs. Theodore was married to a Greek. Anthe is the one who introduced Mrs. Theodore to us, so she was very nice.
Q: How did you know Anthe, where did you meet her?
ES: Through Stella. Stella and she were at school together in Greece, in grammar school and high school. And then Anthe came here and went to an institute called the Polytechnic Institute to be a civil engineer, and married Teni and stayed here. Anthe’s brother was a very, very close friend of my brother, Peter. He was a lawyer and they were friends. I don’t know what happened, he's still alive, but they used to see each other more. Anthe was always bossy and so forth, but they were friends. Then when we came here, we revived through Stella, I think, the friendship. And she used to come with Teni to take you out, the boys—you and Nicky—out for walks and to the park and so on and so forth. Teni was very fond of children. The only thing is I have to laugh, you know, one time Anthe called me at the office, at work. She was talking about Teni and said he wasn’t very attentive and so forth and then she told me something that I’ll never forget, she said that she never had sex with Teni.
Q: Why didn’t she?
ES: Because she wanted to be like brother and sister, she didn’t want sex. And never slept with him She said, “Let’s be like brother and sister.” And then she had this cousin, her second, third cousin had married this woman and they had two daughters, two children and Anthe and Teni used to take the kids, the girls everywhere. And then as they grew older, of course, Teni got involved with the oldest one. And I remember it was very funny, her mother called me, her mother, the girl’s mother, Rita. Rita was a friend of my mother’s. So she called me and she said, “Did you hear the news? My daughter’s involved with Teni. What would you do if this happened to your daughter?” I said, “I’d jump out the window.” (laughs). My advice to her. Never talked to her again.
Q: Then he got her pregnant.
ES: Right. Rita had married Anthe’s cousin and they had those two girls and since she had no children, they used to take them out, they used to bring them to the house too, Riverside Drive and take them for walks and everything. And then he got involved with the older one and Anthe called me and she said, “You know, I think he has the girl in a house in New Jersey, as a mistress.” He rented a house, she lived there, she left school or whatever she was doing. Anyway, and then they went to South America to get married. And he got a divorce, Anthe finally gave him a divorce. The only way she would give him a divorce, if he signed everything to her. So this house that she has in was theirs, was Teni’s. He signed it over to her and everything they had, all the property in Greece and everything, he signed over to her so that he could marry the girl. Now Anthe says that she has signed the house to his sons—she has no children anyway, she never got married again.
Q: But George didn’t keep up very many of his close friends after he got married, right?
ES: We moved from Chicago so all these people from the University of Chicago went to various places; we couldn’t see them so we had to make new friends when we came here.
Q: And most of the friends came through work? You met Carol through work.
ES: Yeah, or through the park, when I went to the park. Like Bunny, for instance, we met each other when we were at the park together, with children playing. And then Philippe Chang, I met his mother, Denise, there and I felt sorry for her. She had all these kids and no husband, really. I used to bring Phiippe home because I felt sorry for her; she had to go home to a messy house. We had a maid but she didn’t. A messy, small house, so I said, "I'll take Philipe and I’ll send him home around six."
Q: Do you remember the apartment at 420 Riverside Drive?
Q: What did you think when George wanted to move?
ES: Well, we needed more space, we thought, because his mother and father were coming.
Q: That’s when you moved from the first floor to the seventh floor. Because his mother and father died… We moved to 404 in 1966.
ES: And they died…
Q: They died before that. You moved from the first floor, that was small, to the seventh floor, 7C.
ES: The larger place. And then we moved to 404. It was an improvement, too; it was supposed to be one of the nicest buildings in the area. And the thing to me that was still fascinating is that we were the second tenants from 1909 or something, you know? In that apartment, that is.
George liked to draw – he drew a number of children's books for his sons in the early 1960s – and he loved The New Yorker. Although they never accepted his commissions, the editors at the magazine were frequent recipients of his cartoons, like the puzzling one pictured below, which George submitted in the 1950s. Perhaps a caption explained it. Or perhaps not.
When the cartoon strip presented below was found among George's papers during his last move, he had no memory of what it was all about. It seems to be a parody of a movie ad, possibly The Razor's Edge, with wacky names given to outrageous characters. Unfortunately, it was water-damaged and some of the images and words are obscured.
THE PIN'S POINT
ASSORTED CARTOONS, 1950s