Golden Years: Scratching My Theatrical Itch

George Axelrod’s play “The Seven Year Itch” lit up Broadway in 1952 and stayed there for 1,141 performances. The star, Tom Ewell, a dedicated J.Press aficionado, won a Tony Award, although his performance was later dimmed in the movie version when he was paired opposite Marilyn Monroe.

Taking time out from my mainstream obligation running the J. Press store on 44th Street, my problem as an actor in the Tom Ewell role of the 1977 Off-Broadway revival was to make a spurious extra-marital affair hilarious. My beautiful seasoned brunette stage wife (not unlike my real-life wife) was obviously far more with-it and attractive than the busty young blonde I was attempting to seduce. The director always warned me, “Play him like a schmuck.”

The original play was an amiable piece reflecting the culture and social mores of the so-called Heyday of Ivy during the Eisenhower years. My character, a mid-level Madison Avenue advertising manager, lived in a rent-stabilized apartment on Gramercy Park. Wife and young son go off to Cape Cod for a vacation. The summer bachelor is left in the sweltering city with a pre-television era radio and only baseball games to listen to. He has promised his wife he won’t smoke or drink. Suddenly a potted plant drops onto his terrace narrowly missing him. Its owner, the single girl renting for the summer upstairs, is in his horny eyes a knockout. Richard, my eponymously named stage character, invites her down for a drink.

Leaving the blonde asleep in the bedroom, Richard ends the first act mournfully belting out the Kurt Weill lament “September Song” barefoot in unbuttoned OCBD, untied madder tie hanging as a Tallis over his blue cotton oxford boxer shorts, grey seersucker suit evidence of earlier frenzy carelessly strewn across the living room floor. “And I’m not equipped for the waiting game, but I have a little money and I have a little fame.”

It brought down the house. — RICHARD PRESS

13 Comments on "Golden Years: Scratching My Theatrical Itch"

  1. Without question my favorite picture of Richard.

    What I wouldn’t give to be able to watch this on YouTube.

  2. G. Bruce Boyer | June 4, 2017 at 12:52 pm |

    I agree. I suspect the eminent Mr. Press has somewhat missed his calling. I would have loved to have seen this performance. Not to mention meeting the blonde.

  3. Vern Trotter | June 4, 2017 at 2:51 pm |

    Wow! Am I impressed. I always wished I could have seen the Broadway version as the movie version is one of the all time great comedies. The movie censor would not allow the implied sex that was in the stage version.

    Sonny Tufts makes an appearance in the movie wearing a great yellow vest. Tufts, a Yale man and football player, was of the Boston old Yankee family that founded Tufts University.

    In the movie version, the subway grate scene filming where Marilyn let her dress be blown up over her head, which her husband Joe DiMaggio witnessed, friends of MM say he took her back to their hotel room afterward and gave her a bad beating. Friends and family of Joe always denied this. Regardless, their one year marriage was over very shortly.

    Glad you shared your experience, Mr. Press!

  4. Richard should do a follow-up sharing the whole acting side of his life. When did it start, when you were in school? What were the other highlights and experiences? What role was the greatest challenge? What actors do you most admire?

    I’m sure many would love to hear!

  5. Jesse Livermore | June 4, 2017 at 8:29 pm |

    All seats $5.00. Those were the days

  6. Archivist Trad | June 5, 2017 at 1:29 am |

    For the uninitiated who looked up “tallis” in the dictionary and couldn’t find it, allow me to suggest that you try “tallit” or “tallith”

  7. Tulip Smuggler | June 5, 2017 at 12:03 pm |

    Tallis is an alternative for ‘tallith’.

  8. Tulip Smuggler | June 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm |

    tal·lith\ˈtä-ləs, ˈta-, -lət, -ləth\
    noun
    : a shawl with fringed corners worn over the head or shoulders by Jewish men especially during morning prayers
    Variants: or tal·lis \-ləs\
    Origin: Hebrew ṭallīth cover, cloak.
    First use: 1613

  9. Carmelo Pugliatti | June 5, 2017 at 12:56 pm |

    The tie was original from the 50s?

  10. I didn’t previously know the word “tallis” but in context, it was pretty clear to me what was meant.

  11. Orange Fiji | June 5, 2017 at 1:11 pm |

    Richard: Who was your co-star?

  12. rvpress59 | June 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm |

    The very lovely Deborah Meyers.

  13. Brit, Bris; Tallit, Tallis; Shabbat, Shabbas — Refrain: let’s call the whole thing off!

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