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"Coronation Luncheon"

You will hear people say that the fun of owning The Complete New Yorker is in seeing the old advertisements. Certainly the ads make the most immediate impact. In an unchanging magazine, it's the ads that have changed the most. That would probably be true of a publication less resistant to style rethinks than The New Yorker. You won't find any forty-five dollar back-to-college outfits for young ladies at B Altman. You won't find B Altman, period. Vanished brand names continue to reverberate for anyone who heard them in halcyon days. The older you are, the longer your reach into advertising history, and the richer the irony.

But not so fast. Would that the ads were the main attraction! Or even the drawings. Or the news flashes. Or the ongoing excerpts from Finnegan's Wake which ran in the "Goings on about Town" capsule reviews of The Fantasticks. Sadly - sadly for those of us who already have too much to read in too little time, who struggle just to keep up with current issues of the magazine - the writing remains compelling. It was always interesting. The passage of time has only made it moreso.

So buy The Complete New Yorker at your own risk. You may need a second lifetime just to comb it.

There used to be a kind of "Talk of the Town" piece that has long since disappeared. The magazine's anonymous Royal We would attend a publicity event celebrating the launch of some new widget or other, the more humdrum or dubious the better. The organizers would be quoted at just enough length to hang themselves, not to death but to ridicule. Aside from a mild sniff, the narrative tone would be perfectly deadpan. Knowing nothing about publicity, I really wondered why any organization invited the magazine to make fun of it. Didn't they know? Did everyone want some inner Margaret Dumont exposed?

For example, in the August 11, 1962 issue of The New Yorker, there appeared "Coronation Luncheon," written (as we now know but didn't then) by Tom Gorman and Geoffrey T Hillman. It begins,

The dog days matter little to those lucky ones who, like us, get invited to such events as the coronation of the Sandwich Monarch of the Year.

I defy you to type out that sentence without some sort of involuntary chortlement. The piece goes on in a style both zany and anaesthetic,

This singular ceremony, which was held under the auspices of the Wheat Flour Institute, of Chicago, and included the placing of a red velvet crown on the head of Mr Charles E Frowenfeld, general manager of the Brass Rail Restaurants in New York, took place in the unmasterminded Gold Ballroom of the Savoy Hilton.

("Unmasterminded" is a reference to an earlier "Talk" piece in the same issue.)

It was preceded by drinks in the Crystal Room, where Mr Howard Lampman, who is executive director of the Institute, introduced us to Mr A L Powell, director of consumer services of the Pillsbury Company, of Minneapolis, who addressed us in this fashion: "The Institute is the p r arm of the Millers National Federation, a trade organization supported by thousands of milling companies, which for the past twelve years has proclaimed August to be Sandwich Month.

(I hope that you're reading this aloud, to a friend, and trying to keep a straight face.)

It selects the Grand Champion Sandwich of the Year, which is then promoted to beat the band. This year's is called The McIntosh. It consists of - Wait! It's all in here." He handed us a folder entitled, "How to Make the 10 Best Sandwiches of the Year," and in it we read, under "The McIntosh":

  • 12 slices enriched white sandwich bread
  • Mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • Mustard
  • 12 1-ounces slices baked ham
  • 36 to 48 slices McIntosh apples (6 small apples)
  • 24 1-ounce slices process American cheese
  • Spread bread with mayonnaise or salad dressing, then with mustard.
  • Cover each slice with 1 slice ham, 4 slices apple and 2 slices cheese
  • Arrange sandwiches on baking sheet.
  • Broil until cheese melts and is slightly brown.
  • Makes 6 open-faced sandwiches.

(Forgive the bullets, which do not appear in the magazine.) Well, when was the last time you had a Champion McIntosh Sandwich? The piece goes on to describe the McIntosh's competitiors for top slot, the Nutwich and the Baked Crab Alaska. You may have heard the the fashion term, "self-belted." I never know quite what this means, but I'll adapt it anyway. The coronation of the Sandwich Monarch of the Year is self-sending-up. All you have to do is take it down in longhand. Later in the event, We finds himself seated between "two young ladies who looked like princesses." One works the Campbell Soup account at BBD&O. (Remember advertising behemoth Batten, Barton, Durstin & Osborne? A guppy by today's scale.) From her, We learns that the nation consumes thirty-three billion sandwiches a year. We asks how she knows, then turns to the other princess.

"I just happened to be in the building and followed the crowd," she said. "Not bad, is it?"

When lunch is over,

A couple in eighteenth-century British costume, representing the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who was the legendary inventor of the sandwich, and his wife, burst into the room, and manning two microphones on a platform, proceeded to introduce Mr Frowenfeld and the creators of....

I have to lie down now. I am overcome by a strange, anxious dream, in which I'm reading, in some future "Talk of the Town" piece, about the annual convention of The New Yorker Magazine Hobbyists of America, where the mikes are manned by a flock of Eustace Tilleys and oldsters recite News Flashes.


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It is perhaps this interest, The New Yorker, that continues to this day to bind us together, it is one of the few things we brought forward from pre RJ days into the new world of life with RJ where so much of the former life was not so much discarded as it simply feel off the truck on the way to the market, eh? Not to worry though the pieces that were lost were mostly embryonic and of no account anyway. Unknown to most we in woods of far Northeast Texas just rock throwing distance from Atlanta, the HLB group - certainly not the other H's -, have always read the Eastern rags. Uncle Bernard used to buy Miss Ada clothes and furniture for Christmas from those little one inch ads in the back. You know back when EB was still there and our aunt Faye Bonne had just taken up with the German man and started teaching at that college in Vermont. Maybe two extra lifetimes RJ. Are those advertised in the back anymore, the extra lifetimes?

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