"Apple" for speaking

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu Sep 23 15:17:14 UTC 1999

by Gerald Cohen, pg. 12:

     The files of Peter Tamony contain the following item:
     "John Drew...The distinguished actor, who often is credited with having
given much dignity and substance to a profession once considered raffish,
died at 73 in a local hospital 43 years ago (1927).
     "...The story goes that it was Drew who originated the practice of
sending big red apples to each of the Barrymores--Ethel, Lionel and John--on
their opening nights.  They in turn always remembered him with a similar
token at his premiers.
     "He got the idea, he told friends, from the old saying, 'Speak your
piece well and you will get a nice red apple.'"

     The best source (not mentioned in Cohen's book) is John Drew himself,
from MY YEARS ON THE STAGE (1921), pg. 229:

     "Speak your piece good and you will get a big red apple," was an ancient
wheeze of the rural schools.
     When my niece, Ethel Barrymore, appeared for the first time at the
Garrick Theatre in New York in Clyde Fitch's play, _Captain Jinks_
(1901--ed.), I gave her a large red apple.  This was the start of a custom
that I have since observed on the first night of the plays in which not only
my niece, but my nephews, Lionel and John Barrymore, appear.  And in recent
years my niece and nephew have sent me a large red apple on the first nights
of the plays in which I have appeared.

     This spring, the Theatre Development Fund announced an open competition
to redesign the TKTS. booth in Times Square.  It was announced in the local
newspapers, in Playbill, and is on the web at www.vanalen.org/tkts2k.htm.
     It was a gimme--the design must be a Big Apple.  It would be a wonderful
tribute to John Drew and the Barrymores and Broadway history.  I have long
argued that the Big Apple should have at least one signature "Big Apple"
sculpture, at least somewhere.
    A "Big Red Apple" structure was built near Troy, Kansas in 1928, but
burnt down in 1940.  I have photos of it in my voluminous "Big Apple" notes
(which I have offered four times to donate to the New York Public Library,
without a single reply).
    Yes, Cecil Adams' The Straight Dope this week and last week featured "the
Big Apple" and "the Windy City," although I'd sent in both items many years
before, in 1996 and 1997.  I never seem to accomplish anything without great
pain and years of rejection and no monetary reward.
     Earlier this year, my undergraduate college, Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute in Troy, NY, had a free alumni cruise, "RPI Builds Manhattan."  The
tour guide mentioned many graduates, such as Washington Roebling (who helped
build the Brooklyn Bridge).  I asked why he didn't mention me, so he asked me
what I've done, so I told him that I'd solved "the Big Apple" eight years
ago, and also "the Great White Way," and at Yankee Stadium he could've
mentioned my work on the Yankees...
    When the TKTS. contest was announced, I sent stuff to the RPI alumni
office and the School of Architecture.  The School of Architecture didn't
reply to my letters or my e-mails for over a month.  Finally, they
apologized--a single person was on vacation.  I offered the school $1,000 and
a collaborator $1,000 to do a simple drawing of an apple.  I was told I'd get
a reply in the fall.
   Four months later--today--I got my reply.  My offer was refused.  No one
will help me!  There are several people from the school entering the
contest--in fact, it's a class project--but they're entering their own
designs.  (My monetary offer did not preclude other contest entries.)
   If any of you are at a school that has a school of architecture, please
forward this to the Dean.  I make the same offer.  I'm trying to honor the
Big Apple and the Drews and the Barrymores and Broadway tradition.  I need
someone who knows architecture to draw a darn apple on a piece of paper.
I'll pay the $50 entry fee, I'll give him or her $1,000, I'll give the school
$1,000, and you can have any prize money if the "Big Apple" design wins.

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