10 Things You Might Not Know About Dorothy Parker
As a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table—a circle of writers that also included Harpo Marx and Robert Benchley—Dorothy Parker was renowned for her scathing wit. Here are 10 fascinating facts about the legendary wordsmith.
1. Dorothy Parker was born in New Jersey.
Dorothy Parker was born at her parents' beach cottage in Long Branch, New Jersey on August 22, 1893. She liked to say they rushed back to Manhattan after Labor Day so she could be a "true" New Yorker.
2. Dorothy Parker's mother died when she was just a child.
Parker's mother died when Dorothy was just four years old. Her father remarried two years later, but Dorothy was not a fan of her stepmother and refused to call her anything but "the housekeeper." Ouch.
3. Dorothy Parker married the same man twice.
Parker and Alan Campbell were great writing partners, but were perhaps no more than that; she often (affectionately) described him as "queer as a billy goat."
4. Dorothy Parker could be sentimental when a job called for it.
You know Parker came up with plenty of sarcastic quips and biting observations, but she also wrote some rather treacly stuff: She was an uncredited screenwriter for It's a Wonderful Life and wrote lyrics for the Bing Crosby song "I Wished on the Moon."
5. Dorothy Parker's uncle was on the Titanic.
Parker's uncle, Martin Rothschild, died in the great Titanic disaster of 1912.
6. Dorothy Parker reviewed books for The New Yorker.
Parker wrote book reviews for The New Yorker under the pseudonym "Constant Reader." She hated Winnie the Pooh and wrote of The House on Pooh Corner, "Tonstant Weader Fwowed up."
7. Dorothy Parker was tiny.
Parker might have been an enormous presence, but she was only 4'11".
8. Dorothy Parker was a staunch civil rights activist.
When Parker died in 1967, she left her entire estate to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation, and then to the NAACP when King was assassinated.
9. Dorothy Parker's ashes went unclaimed for years.
While she left her money to the causes she cared about, Parker left her ashes to playwright Lillian Hellman, who never bothered to collect them. They went unclaimed for years and were passed around rather unceremoniously, spending about 17 years in her lawyer's filing cabinet. The NAACP finally claimed what was left of Ms. Parker and erected a memorial garden in her honor. You can visit her there and read what she suggested for her own epitaph: "Excuse my dust."
10. There is no shortage of great Dorothy Parker quotes.
But as a writer, I think this one might be my favorite: "I'd like to have money. And I'd like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that's too adorable, I'd rather have money."