Dorothy Parker was born at her family’s beach cottage on Aug. 22, 1893, in West End, a village in Long Branch (Monmouth County), some sixty miles south of New York City. Her parents, Henry and Eliza Rothschild, were middle-class residents of Manhattan who vacationed in the charming seaside town. The former location of the cottage is 732 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch. The house is long gone and apartments are in its place.
Parker, who died in 1967 in New York, was a bestselling poet and short story writer. She gained immortal fame as a member of The Algonquin Round Table, a collection of writers, playwrights, actors and wits who lunched at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s. Parker was also an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, a playwright, and the first female drama critic on Broadway. She also was a tireless fighter for social justice, civil rights and left-wing causes.
In her lifetime, Parker never disparaged or spoke ill of Long Branch. In a January 1928 essay in McCall’s titled My Hometown, she says that she isn’t a natural-born New Yorker.
You see, I have always lived in New York,” she wrote. “I was cheated out of the distinction of being a native New Yorker, because I had to go and get born while the family was spending the Summer in New Jersey, but, honestly, we came back into town right after Labor Day, so I nearly made the grade.
The greatest achievement of the Dorothy Parker Society was when Friends of Libraries U.S.A. announced that the birthplace of Dorothy Parker would be added to the organization’s roster of Literary Landmarks. On Sunday, Aug. 21, 2005, the landmark was dedicated in West End, New Jersey, the birthplace of the world-renowned poet, writer and critic. It was the first FOLUSA Literary Landmark for an author’s birthplace in the State of New Jersey.
The plaque dedication was the highlight of a day-long schedule of events in the village to mark the debut of Dorothy Parker Day (story here; photos here). The Long Branch Free Public Library presented Parker’s life and work, a “round table luncheon” helped channel her spirit, and a speakeasy party toasted her wit and charm. In the evening live jazz was performed outdoors at the West End public park.
Dorothy Parker Day 2005
The first Dorothy Parker Day in Long Branch (not counting the 1992 U.S. Post Office ceremony) was the gala event to celebrate the Friends of Libraries U.S.A. plaque to mark the birthplace of Dorothy Parker. It was added to the organization’s roster of Literary Landmarks. On Sunday, Aug. 21, 2005, the bronze plaque was dedicated in West End, the birthplace of the world-renowned poet, writer and critic. It was the first FOLUSA Literary Landmark for an author’s birthplace in the State of New Jersey.
The plaque dedication was the highlight of a day-long schedule of events in the village to mark the debut of Dorothy Parker Day. The Long Branch Free Public Library presented Parker’s life and work, a “round table luncheon” helped channel her spirit, and a speakeasy party toasted her wit and charm. In the evening live jazz was performed outdoors at the West End public park.
The literary landmark is co-sponsored by The Dorothy Parker Society (DPS), the Long Branch Historical Association, the Long Branch Council on the Arts, the Long Branch Free Public Library and the West End Merchants.
“Since our organization was founded seven years ago, getting this landmark designated will be our proudest achievement,” said Kevin Fitzpatrick, president of the DPS. “Mrs. Parker might be remembered for being a quintessential New Yorker, but her life started on the Jersey Shore, and we’re happy to commemorate that.”
Beth Woolley of the Long Branch Historical Association said, “We are proud of our part in identifying and providing evidence of the exact location of Dorothy Parker’s Birthplace. We feel she is part of a great tradition of literary figures that were born in our historic city. Among them are three-time Poet Laureate of the United States Robert Pinsky and the great American novelist Norman Mailer. We hope to make this day an annual tradition and look forward to working with the other sponsors of this project in the future. We open our city to all Dorothy Parker fans and hope they enjoy their stay in Long Branch, ‘America’s First Seashore Resort.’ ”
The activities began in the morning at the Long Branch library. Members of the Friends of Libraries from Long Branch took turns reading favorite Parker selections. Monmouth University Professor Dan Weeks gave a talk, “Dorothy Parker and her Monmouth County Circle,” followed by Kevin Fitzpatrick, who spoke of Parker’s West End roots.
Lunch at the “Round Table” was held at West End restaurants: The Mix, Manna’s Brick Oven Pizza, and Panini Grill. The dedication ceremony followed at the gazebo in West End park. Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider gave a breezy introduction and remarks about Mrs. Parker’s New Jersey past. Actors from the New Jersey Rep performed Parker pieces, verse, and poems. The plaque was unveiled by Fitzpatrick and Beth Woolley.
Following the ceremony on an extremely warm Sunday, the crowd moved back to The Mix Lounge, where a martini bar was set up. In the evening, the gazebo was the place for West End Jazz in the Park, with a performance by Swing Sabrosso.
Dorothy Parker Day 2007
There is only one town that gives itself over to Dorothy Parker for a whole day, and that is Long Branch, New Jersey. The seaside town on the Jersey Shore is where Dottie was born on Aug. 22, 1893. Her birthplace is a national literary landmark. And Sunday, Oct. 14, was the second Dorothy Parker Day.
The weather was beautiful and in the low 70s, with sun shining the entire day on the shore. The turnout was strong for all of the events. Everything went off without a hitch and participants ranged in age from eight to eighty.
There were four events in town on a brisk Sunday. In the morning, a reading of her verse and a discussion of her life were held for a crowd of 65 at the main public library, paying tribute to her career as a writer. A luncheon at local eateries was a tip of the cap to her days at the Algonquin Hotel with her Vicious Circle friends. This was followed by more than 20 dogs (and 60 humans) who took part in the first Dorothy Parker Dog Parade, which passed 732 Ocean Avenue, the address where her family cottage once stood. Finally, the events wrapped up with a cocktail party at a cozy joint, The Mix Lounge, just a short walk from where she was born.
The morning began at the wonderful Long Branch Free Public Library, 328 Broadway. Warm applause greeted a screening of “The Sexes,” a short film based on Parker’s 1927 short story. Members of the community and others then read Parker poems. Among the highlights: Long Branch City Council member David Brown, a former mailman who read “Inventory” said he delivered the U.S. Mail for 30 years, and one of the highlights of his career was the day in 1992 when the local post office dedicated a commemorative Parker stamp. Councilman Brian Unger read “Epitaph” and said he was proud of Parker’s liberal and radical past. Three of Parker’s poems about her four-legged friends were read. Helen Pike, author of Asbury Park’s Glory Days, read, “Verse for a Certain Dog” and Marie Sylvester read “To My Dog.” But the person who brought the house down was Ira Haase, the city animal control officer. Having the dogcatcher read “Balto” was classic. We also liked the participation of the New Jersey Repertory Theatre, which brought from actress Natalie Wilder to read “Men I’m Not Married To” and actor Glen Stoop to present “The Veteran.” There were also two talks. Kevin Fitzpatrick dispelled any notion that Parker ever had a mean thing to say about Long Branch. Monmouth University history professor Dan Weeks gave a fascinating talk about Alexander Woollcott, who was one of Parker’s dearest friends, and a native of nearby Colts Neck, N.J.
After the library talk, the crowd moved about a mile and a half south to the West End section of Long Branch, which is the part of town that Parker’s parents had a summer cottage. There was lunch to be had at the local eateries. The hungry gravitated to Jessie’s Café and Manna’s Pizza, trying to recreate the Round Table on Brighton Avenue. We did not have but an hour, however, as the highlight of the day was coming up.
The Dorothy Parker Dog Parade was a smash success. The organizing committee put together a nice walk around the picture-perfect Lake Takanassee, just off Ocean Avenue. Deacon Eugene Somma of St. Michael’s Catholic Church came out to the parking lot of the church in full vestments to offer a Blessing of the Pets. The deacon told the crowd he was a dog owner himself, and recounted the story of St. Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of animals. He gave a blessing, and a little holy water, to all of the doggies gathered, no matter what religion they were. Many of the dogs came in costumes as literary characters. We spotted an Edgar Allan Poe outfit on Max, while Rosie, a Yorkie that Parker would have taken home with her, was decked out in pearls. A longhaired Chihuahua named Chip stole hearts, but we all had a laugh at Nick, with a martini glass attached to his collar. Ten prizes were handed out to the favorite dogs. Many posed for photos in front of Mrs. Parker’s former house. She would have liked the ones who did their business in the grass nearby… Doggie Gift Bags were distributed with dog scarves, treats and other goodies.
It was such a beautiful walk around Lake Takanassee that many who did not have dogs just enjoyed the pleasant stroll. Some had taken the train from Penn Station in Manhattan and were making their first trip to Long Branch. We had to head to the cocktail party… but took a detour. Merchants on Brighton Avenue, the main shopping and business street in the West End part of Long Branch, got into the spirit of the day. We had a wine and cheese party in Shelly’s Jewels at 55 Brighton Ave. and Hy’s Spot Antiques at No. 61.
Then we walked down the block to The Mix, 71 Brighton Avenue, at 4 P.M. It is such a classic little cocktail lounge, and the place really went all out for the party. They handed out Parker cocktail menus to all guests. You could have a Dorothy Parker Martini for $5! (Gin, French Vermouth) and the Dottie’s Toddy (Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey with a dash of Midori, shaken with lemon and lime juice, splashed with Sprite). But the best deal of the day, and $15 cheaper than New York, was the $11 Vicious Circle Martini: vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and Chambord, shaken on ice!
The party at The Mix was fantastic and the crowd divine. For a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine on the Jersey Shore, it could not be beat. We all talked about making the event bigger for 2008, and what a fun day it was. Dorothy Parker never said she didn’t like Long Branch or being born in Jersey. If she saw how many people remember her in the town she came into the world in, she probably would have liked that.