Saturday, January 06, 2007

Customers At The Tailor Shop

Henry Miller's The Tailor Shop (from Black Spring) recounts his time working in his father's tailor shop at 5 W 31st Street in New York. Details about the shop and Miller's experiences will come later. With this posting, I simply intend to list the notable and obscure men who crossed Miller's path as customers at the tailor shop during this time period (approx. 1912 to 1917).

Henry's job often involved the social side of the business: collecting debts, making deliveries, selling door-to-door, and just generally tending to customers face-to-face. A half-dozen tailors worked in the shared shop and kept their own clients; Miller still met and assisted many of them.

The majority of these customer names are drawn from The Tailor Shop (in Black Spring), though some are mentioned in other Miller works. I will update this list as I come across these names. (see sources at bottom)


John Barrymore ([2] 33)
Hard-drinking star of the Barrymore acting family. Used to drink on occassion with Miller's father.

David Belasco ([2] 33)
Important figure in the history of Broadway theatre; was another tailor's customer, but Henry helped with his outfitting.

Albert F Bendix ([1] 2-4)
Miller's favourite of three old crusty Bendix brothers; this one fussed about vest buttons and left Henry his dotted vests when he died.

H.W. Bendix ([1] 1-3)
The "grumpy" one of the Bendix brother; too mean and proud; an "old buzzard."

R. N. Bendix ([1] 2-3)
The brother with no legs, whom Henry never actually met except as a name in the ledger.

Guido Bruno ([2] 35)
A celebrity bohemian publisher of the Greenwich Village scene; brought his good friend Frank Harris into the shop.

Paul Dexter ([1] 13+)
Dapper, lovable man from Indiana who dressed for success but failed due to his drinking; drowned in a foot of water.

Mr. Dyker ([1] 43)
A very busy man who was determined to become a lawyer but was having trouble with a teenaged mistress. I believe this is the same man named John Stymer in Nexus (see below).

Frank Harris ([3] 43)
Rogue-ish writer and publisher who had many associations with the most famous writers of his day; the first real writer that Henry met. While offering Harris a loud blazer to try on, Harris remarked: "I'm not a minstrel, I'm just a writer."
Hendrix ([5] 82)
"Old man" Hendrix, who lived in a mansion "with a retinue of liveried servants. What a testy bugger he was, even when his liver gave him no trouble!"

Tom Jordan ([1] 34-36, 39, 42)
Miller mentions this man several times as someone to whom he must say Good Morning but can't, because his mind is still on the writing he was doing in his head during his walk to work. Jordan has stains on his fly and is in the company of a woman fixing her garter. There is also a reference in Tailor Shop (p 42) to Miller's father coming home drunk with Jordan, a fight ensuing between mother and father, then his father taking Jordan "to bed with him."

Julian Legree ([1] 6, 10, 19, 33)
A matinee idol (a "good egg") who always wore gray suits; a frequent drinking companion of his father's. According to [2] p. 33, this is actually an actor named Julian L'Estrange.

Tom Moffatt ([1] 8-11)
This customer never paid his bills, which led to an all-out billing and accounting war between he and Miller's father.

Walter Pach ([3] 43)
Artist and modern art critic; Miller felt too intimidated to mention that he had read Elie Faure's History Of Art, which Pach had translated (History Of Art is on Miller's list of 100 books that influenced him the most).

Boardman Robinson ([3] 43)
An illustrator and politcal cartoonist, who apparently did a bit of writing. In Miller's Paris notebooks (as ref'd in [3]), Henry recounts visiting Robinson's studio once and asking him how one becomes a writer. (the answer: "Why, as far as I know, you just write.")

John Stymer ([4] 21-46)
This client from Nexus is the one I believe is referenced as "Dyker" in The Tailor Shop. His story comprises chapter two of Nexus, in which the busy, chronic masturbator locks Henry (who was on a business visit) into a whirlwind, unending conversation which ends awkwardly with a sleepless night at his home and a proposition that he and Henry go into a writing arrangement together: he with the subject matter and Henry with the writing talents.

Baron Carola von Eschenbach ([1] 18-23)
An eccentric customer who had posed as a baron in Hollywood; he befriended the tailoring staff to a degree that Henry wanted to put him up at him home when "the baron" was broke and suffering from syphillis -- Henry's wife forbade it.

Until I locate the originating sources of some of some these names, I have included the Miller biographies in which they are credited as being customers at the shop. Since The Tailor Shop appears in a few collections, I have given pages numbers that correspond to the singular story itself, not the varying editions in which they appear.

[1] The Tailor Shop (Henry Miller)
[2] Henry Miller: A Life (Robert Ferguson)
[3] Always Merry And Bright (Jay Martin)
[4] Nexus (Henry Miller)
[5] Big Sur And The Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (Henry Miller)


Blogger RuKsaK said...

This is yet another thing I adore about Miller - the amazing array of rich characters he brings us.

7:40 am  
Blogger Pierre from Montreal said...

Hi RC!
Here’s a little comment on Walter Pach, one of the « Customers At The Tailor Shop ». Interestingly, he appears under his real name in « Tropic of Cancer », while all the other characters, except the main one of course, have the fictitious aliases that Miller has given them. This is what he says about him : « Just as I turn the corner I brush against Walter Pach. Since he doesn’t recognize me, and since I have nothing to say to him, I make no attempt to arrest him. Later, when I am stretching my legs in the Tuileries his figure reverts to mind. He was a little stooped, pensive, with a sort of serene yet reserved smile on his face. I wonder, as I look up at this softly enameled sky, so faintly tinted, which does not bulge today with heavy rain clouds but smiles like a piece of old china, I wonder what goes on in the mind of this man who translated the four thick volumes of « History of Art » when he takes in this blissful cosmos with his drooping eyes. », p. 48 (Grove Press edition).
Keep up your wonderful blog, R.C., which is « always merry and bright » !

8:33 pm  
Blogger RC said...

Hi Pierre. Thanks for this; it is odd, except that maybe Pach was enough of a celebrity to him that he was worth mentioning. Also, Miller says nothing slanderous about him; can't say that about most people in 'Cancer.'

But how's this for odd: in his letter to Emil (April 1930), Miller writes almost exactly what is published in 'Cancer,' except he calls him "Alfred" Pach! Perhaps he forgot the name, but it's still an amusing twist in light of the situation you mention.

2:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It could very well be that both Walter Pach and his brother Alfred visited the shop. Alfred, Walter's younger brother, was apparently quite a dapper dresser and often gave Walter his hand-me-down clothes.

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