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, who was born on this day 125 years ago.
1. SHE 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. HER 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. SHE 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. SHE 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. HER UNCLE WAS ON THE TITANIC.
Parker's uncle, Martin Rothschild, died in the great Titanic disaster of 1912.
6. SHE 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. SHE WAS TINY.
Parker was only 4'11".
8. SHE 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. HER 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'S NO SHORTAGE OF 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."