19 March 2012

7 Middagh

7 Middagh

March is my birthday month. I am a confirmed Pisces. You know you are not in the city anymore when this happens...

...My very first birthday card was from Ace Hardware. They even sent me a $5 gift card. Long before any of my friends acknowledged my birthday, Ace was out there on the ball data mining up a storm.

Being a Pisces, one of my most favorite books is Sherill Tippin's February House.

The true tale of a bunch of Pisces writers and a composer, designer, a few exiles and a famous stripper all living happily under one roof. February House stood at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn. The house no longer exists. It was called February House by many of its occupants because they were in large majority, born in February, making the house a virtual aquarium of fishy personalities.

George Davis

George Davis, a literary editor (February birthday but pre-Pisces on the 4th) decided to put together a house/artist commune. February House housed:

Designer Oliver Smith, who was a bit pre-cusp on February 13.

Writer Carson McCullers, February 19

Poet W. H. Auden, February 21

Writers Jane Bowles, February 22, with husband Paul.

Poet Stephen Spender, February 28.

Adding to the mix with Paul Bowles were composer Benjamin Britten, Thomas Mann's children who found themselves in exile, and a burlesque dancer...

Gypsy Rose Lee

It would seem that Gypsy wanted to change careers and moved in (with a maid and cook) to learn the writing game. She would eventually publish The G-String Murders, though some will always doubt she was the real author.

There is a famous tale of Michelangelo who supposedly said he didn't sculpt figures but merely released them from the stone. I have always felt that writers were like that. Some character would bug you and bug you until you realized who that character really was. Which brings me to a story that has always been my favorite from the gang at February House.

One afternoon, Gypsy Rose Lee and Carson McCullers were at 7 Middagh. Lee was working on her detective novel and McCullers was working on a short story about a girl whose brother was getting married. The story was going nowhere.

A fire broke out up the street and hearing the sirens, two women set out to witness the commotion. Gypsy Rose Lee bounded down the stairs with her long and graceful legs and McCullers, frail and hobbled, limped along far behind. Suddenly, McCullers began calling out to Lee who finally heard her. She paused until McCullers could catch up to her and when she did, she grabbed Lee's arm and yelled, "Frankie's in love with her brother and the women he is going to marry and she wants to be a member of the wedding."

Gypsy Rose Lee went on to view the fire and Carson McCullers went on to turn her story into one of her most enduring novels, A Member of the Wedding.

Happy Birthday to Pisces everywhere. I hope your birthdays were magical.

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