It drew my eye from clear across the room.
The room in question happened to be one of the exhibit halls at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I visited on Sunday to take a friend’s lecture tour. As it was nearing an end, I saw this painting and had to take a closer look.
What caught my attention was the word ROXY. The Roxy was a New York City theater. It was owned by a man named Roxy Rothafel. He was involved in the story of Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc as having been the impresario who, allegedly, offered to send Dainty June for acting lessons, which could only have happened over her mother Rose Hovick’s dead body. In the musical GYPSY, he was called “Mr. T. T. Grantziger.”
So I couldn’t resist checking out the painting to see it up close, and to see if the image of the man in the middle was Roxy himself.
It wasn’t. It was Jimmy Walker, the dapper Mayor of New York back in the 1920’s. A member of my family, Ruth Knight, used to tell me stories of having grown up next door to him. She would watch him leave the house every evening, dressed for a night on the town. There’s movement all over the canvas.
The painting is fabulous. It’s the whole shebang of Broadway in a nutshell. Look at it and you can see the music, the dances, the lights, the stars, the audience members…and the mayor who loved it all, too.
Rothafel also built Radio City Music Hall. He’s said to haunt it on opening nights. Members of audiences with the “second sight” have even reported “sightings” of him, accompanied by a starlet. Truth being stranger than fiction, I couldn’t make anything like this up if I tried!