To call her a “humorist” and a “wit” doesn’t even begin to capture the essence of Dorothy Parker — and to think of her as the quintessential New Yorker only reminds us that she was a daughter of Long Branch; born 118 years ago in a West End summer cottage.
One of the most famous, most quoted, often controversial American writers of the 20th century, this prolific fiction writer, poet, essayist, and commentator was a media celebrity, decades before they invented the phrase. A hard-partying rehab veteran, back when such things were kept strictly confidential. A crusader for civil rights, in an age when that was considered career suicide. An Oscar nominated screenwriter, back when a serious author simply didn’t socialize with THOSE people.
On top of all that, Dorothy Parker never fit the image of the writer as solitary artist — having established her reputation as a charter member of the Algonquin Round Table, the “vicious circle” of high profile playwrights, novelists, journalists, critics and theater folk that convened regularly (and became a circus-like attraction in itself) at New York’s Algonquin Hotel throughout the roaring decade of the 1920s.
When the celebration of Dorothy Parker Day returns to the city of her birth on Sunday, October 2, generations of fans of this most remarkable woman will not only “Surrender to Dorothy” — they’ll also be paying tribute to the lasting legacy of the Algonquin group; an assembly that at various times comprised anyone from Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Ferber and New Yorker editor Harold Ross, to iconic entertainers Tallulah Bankhead and Harpo Marx.
Kicking off at 10:00 a.m. with a program of readings and performance inside the Community Room of the Long Branch Free Public Library at 328 Broadway, the 2011 edition of Dorothy Parker Day — sponsored by the Library with the Long Branch Arts Council, the Long Branch Historical Association and the City of Long Branch — brings together a collection of guest speakers that includes the Dorothy Parker Society’s Kevin C. Fitzpatrick (in a talk entitled “Dorothy Parker Today: 2012 Candidate for the New Jersey Hall of Fame”), novelist J.J. Murphy (author of Murder Your Darlings, a mystery featuring Parker as star sleuth), Monmouth University professor and poet Daniel Weeks (on Colts Neck-born Alexander Woollcott), New Jersey historian Helen-Chantal Pike (going “Down the Rabbit Hole” with Red Bank-born Edmund “Bunny” Wilson) and stage actress Natalie Wilder (performing in character as Parker). Local dignitaries will read short excerpts from the Round Table writers, and descendants of such Circle members as Edna Ferber (her niece, playwright Julie Gilbert, is the literary executor of the Showboat/ Giant/ Stage Door author’s estate)and George S Kaufman are expected to share stories of their famous family members.
Following a break for lunch at 12:00 p.m. (during which Jesse’s Café, Charley’s Ocean Grill and other Long Branch restaurants will be offering Round Table luncheon specials), Dorothy Parker Day resumes at the library with a 1:30 p.m. screening of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, the 1994 film (directed by Alan Rudolph) that stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as our Dorothy — and an all-star supporting cast (featuring Matthew Broderick, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott and many others) as the friends, frenemies, collaborators, competitors, husbands and helpmates in her life.
Admission to the Dorothy Parker Day program is completely free of charge, with free off-street parking available behind the library and City Hall complex — and at the conclusion of the screening, The Mix Lounge at 71 Brighton Avenue invites attendees to meet for an informal cocktail reception, in which the Dorothy-themed specials are sure to flow as freely as the witty bon mots, the rapierlike repartee and the potent quotables.
For directions and additional information on Dorothy Parker Day 2011, contact 732-222-3900.