Tag Archives: Saratoga Springs Public Library

Saratoga Springs humorist Frank Sullivan is honored!

Author Frank Sullivan reading The New Yorker

Author Frank Sullivan reading The New Yorker

The 20th Century American humorist Frank Sullivan is beginning to enjoy a much-deserved revival in the 21st Century! “The Sage of Saratoga,” as he is lovingly called in his birthplace, Saratoga Springs, was in his heyday a renowned humorist and regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, a member of the Algonquin Round Table, and a published author whose works delighted millions.

Thomas Dimopoulos reports in Saratoga Today‘s “Sage of Saratoga Honored with National Literary Landmark” that Frank Sullivan’s home on 135 Lincoln Avenue in Saratoga Springs is to be dedicated as a “Literary Landmark” by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. This gives Frank’s home the same honor as places associated with other great American authors as diverse as Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain, W. E. B. DuBois, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Frederick Douglass, to name just a few.

In addition, Saratoga Springs Public Library will feature “Frank Sullivan at His Best,” a selection of Frank Sullivan’s writings that are the library’s 2017 choice for the SaratogaReads! a community-wide reading and discussion initiative. Hats off to Saratoga Springs Public Library Director Issac Pulver!

On a personal note, Frank Sullivan came into my family’s life in 1946, when my parents, George and Jane King, moved to Saratoga Springs. They rented the first floor of 121 Lincoln Avenue, just down the street from Frank’s home, where he lived with his sister Kate. My father had accepted the job as Manager of MacFinn’s Drugstore on Broadway and Frank immediately reached out to the young couple, starting a friendship that lasted until Frank’s death 30 years later. Even after we moved from Saratoga, my mother corresponded with Frank and stayed in touch with him until he died in 1976. For our family, then, simultaneously thinking of Frank Sullivan as both a dear friend and a great author was very easy.

However, I have to recognize, however grudgingly, that forty years have passed since Frank’s death, and many more since his heyday, and people’s memories are short. So, in this time when we need gentle humor served with real intellect, it’s wonderful that the humorist whose New York Times obituary described him as “a gentle wit” is being brought back for a whole new generation to enjoy.

For those of you not familiar with Frank Sullivan, here’s a thumbnail biography of him. Frank was born in 1892 in Saratoga Springs on 177 Lincoln Avenue, next door to the Saratoga Race Track and not far from his second and last home on 135 Lincoln Avenue. He was educated in Saratoga—meaning then that he not only attended schools there, but also worked at the track, where he received a liberal expansion of his scholarly education. As Alden Whitman wrote in his New York Times obituary of Frank, “Frank Sullivan, Humorist, Dies at 83; A Gentle Wit and Spoofer of Cliches”

As a boy of 10 he worked as a pump boy in the betting ring at the race track. On one occasion he served a glass of water to Lillian Russell, the actress, who tipped him 50 cents and said to him:

“Thank you, little boy. Tastes better out of a tin cup, too.”

“It was a swell job,” Mr. Sullivan said of his pump‐boy job, “easy hours, plenty to see, little to do, 10 to 15 bucks a day in tips and no income tax.”

While in Saratoga Springs High School, Frank was also a part-time reporter for The Saratogian. He went on to Cornell University, graduated in 1914, and then returned to the Spa City to write full time for The Saratogian.

So far, much of that description typifies the careers of many hundreds of newspaper reporters of that era, but Frank’s rise to renown began right after World War I. Drafted into the US Army in 1917, he served as a Lieutenant. Post-war, he moved to New York City and briefly worked as a reporter for the Sun and then the New York Herald, before joining The World in 1922. Very significantly, in 1925 he also began a long association with The New Yorker magazine, newly created by Harold Ross. That literary relationship lasted until a little before Frank’s death in 1976.

Frank’s fame began in the Roaring Twenties and it is this part of his life that I know will provide some keen biographer with the core of an excellent book. Simultaneously writing for The World and The New Yorker, while contributing to the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, Frank Sullivan also became an “unofficial” member of the Algonquin Round Table. A daily luncheon gathering at Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel, the Round Table included newspaper reporters, columnists, and humorists, as well as Broadway playwrights, producers, directors, and actors. Its“official” (charter) members were:  Franklin Pierce Adams, Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Ruth Hale, George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Brock Pemberton, Harold Ross, Robert E. Sherwood, John Peter Toohey, and Alexander Woollcott. Harold Ross, not coincidentally, was the founder and editor of The New Yorker.

Frank Sullivan had been “invited to the table” as an intellectual compatriot and would become a lifelong friend to many of them. But, before you think of the Round Table’s “unofficial” members being minor players in that scene, consider just some of those who held that rank with Frank:  Noël Coward, Harpo Marx, Tallulah Bankhead, Jane Grant, and Edna Ferber. Ferber, you’ll recall, wrote Saratoga Trunk, later made into the musical Saratoga by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Frank’s period of greatest fame spanned from the 1920s through the 1940s. Beyond the Algonquin Round Table, Frank’s friends also included noted writers, actors, playwrights and producers. For example, there was his dear friend and drinking companion Monty Wooley—Yale professor, Broadway producer and actor, and Hollywood movie star. Also, Frank counted the acclaimed novelist and short story writer John O’Hara as a friend. And there were many more friends from every walk of life. That was the gift he had.

In all things, Frank was a Saratogian at heart. In 1930 his newspaper, The World, went out of business and, deeply affected, Frank moved from New York City back to Saratoga Springs, where he bought his second and last house on 135 Lincoln Avenue. (I should note that there are differences among sources as to the date he returned to live full time in Saratoga Springs. I chose the year that Alden Whitman had reported in his obituary of Frank.)

Of course, business dictated that Frank still went to Manhattan. While there he stayed at the Cornell Club on East 44th Street, right next to Grand Central Station. Being a short hop from Grand Central must have appealed greatly to Frank as, to my knowledge, he never drove a car or even had a driver’s license.


The Night They Burned the Old Nostalgia Down

The Night the Old Nostalgia Burned Down


Beyond newspaper and magazine articles, Frank published eight books, including The Night the Old Nostalgia Burned Down. For many, Frank’s Christmas poems in The New Yorker were a much-anticipated annual event, as he extended greetings to the internationally famous and his neighbors down the street.

What is Frank Sullivan’s place among American writers? I can’t say. His humor was subtle and gentle and, in contrast to Dorothy Parker’s pithy zingers, probably wouldn’t have the same appeal in today’s world. But Frank deserves a full examination of his work, and a good biography of his life. For Frank Sullivan was a renowned writer who walked among, and had lunch with, the giants of his day.

I’ll be back next week with some King family memories and more personal history of Frank Sullivan. Meanwhile, may I ask a favor? Does anyone have a photo of Frank taken in, say, the 1940s, something from around when he was 50? The photo always shown now (and which is included in this article) is of Frank as an older man with thick glasses. Yet I always conjure up an image of him as younger, being smartly dressed in a suit and tie, as if ready to step out to a Broadway show in Manhattan or to the Colonial, his favorite watering hole on Broadway in Saratoga Springs.

Till then,



© 2016 Joseph A. Cutshall-King; all rights reserved.

‘Page Turners’ book study group of North Carolina Skypes with me about “The Burning of The Piping Rock”

Skyping with an author may not be something new to you, but it was to me when recently I was a part of a “Skype with the Author” event. But in this case, I was the author!

Members of Page Turners, the book study group of the Tryon United Methodist Church of Tryon, North Carolina decided to read my historical mystery novel, The Burning of The Piping Rock.

Tryon United Methodist Church

Tryon United Methodist Church

The Page Turners’ leader is Lynn Montgomery. And in the spirit of “full disclosure” I have to report that one member of Page Turners is my cousin, Laura Bitter. Laura had read my novel and proposed it to her fellow members of Page Turners, who said yes. (Thank you, Laura, and your fellow Page Turners!)

Here’s how Laura describes Page Turners: “No dues, no refreshments. Just monthly gatherings to share thoughts about recent books and older books that have been selected by the group.”

And what a wonderful group! This time they were to meet at Laura’s house. Laura said the Page Turners had questions for me and asked me if we could have a phone conference. I said, “Sure!” Then someone suggested we Skype and the next thing I knew, Page Turners member Pam Monterisi was adjusting the screen on Laura’s laptop and we were off and running!

SkypeIn case you’re not familiar with Skype, it is an application you can install on your computer (PC, tablet, iPad, Android, etc.) to allow you to communicate with others having Skype on theirs. It allows you to see and speak with people in real time.

The Page Turners folks had wonderfully probing and insightful questions. As we talked about the novel, I learned so much. When you hear questions about your work and the characters in them, you find yourself reacting to those characters, considering them, sometimes defending them.

MacFinn's Drugstore

MacFinn’s Drugstore

I had a chance to talk about how much real history there was in the book. Many of the memories expressed by protagonist George A. King were real—things he’d spoken of during his life that I had recalled, especially his memories as a PT Boat Commander in WW II, as well as his memories of working at MacFinn’s Drugstore in post-war Saratoga Springs with all of its casinos, mob activities and crooked politicians. He was held to be a sympathetic character by the Page Turners.

Saratogian headline 10-17-1954 copyOn the other hand, Harry the Torch, the other main character in the novel, was not held to be a sympathetic character. That was understandable, as Harry is an arsonist after all, but I confessed that I’d come to like Harry to a degree I wouldn’t have thought possible as I first began writing the novel. As with any fictional work, once the actual writing starts, the characters take over. They lead me in directions I had not foreseen, and they reveal things about themselves I hadn’t known.

One surprising question was: “How was I able to transcribe all those microcassette tapes?” that George A. King had recorded prior to his death. Well, I have an answer for that, but I’d rather tell you during a Skype session with your reading group or your class! If you’d be interested in Skyping with me to talk about my novel and about writing in general, please contact me on this site by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button and together we’ll figure out a good time for me to Skype with your group, class or workshop.

If by chance you are reading this post, but haven’t read The Burning of The Piping Rock, you can purchase a copy at your local bookstore or online at Amazon.com. Click on the “WHERE TO BUY THE BOOK” tab for more information.

My thanks go out again to the Page Turners book study group of the Tryon United Methodist Church. You really know how to make an author feel special.

I’m looking forward to Skyping with your book group, your English class or your Creative Writing class or workshop! Contact me, please.


The design for this site, all artwork used on it, and the cover artwork used in The Burning of The Piping Rock was created by Black Swan Image Works.

Thank you Greenwich, NY, Senior Citizens!

Sara Idleman, Nan Fitzpatrick & Susan Frisbee with author Joe Cutshall-King Greenwich Seniors Lunch

Sara Idleman, Nan Fitzpatrick & Susan Frisbee with author Joe Cutshall-King Greenwich Seniors Lunch

Patrick Gilgallon takes “The Burning of The Piping Rock” to new heights!

'Piping Rock' at LG 09-13 - photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

‘Piping Rock’ at LG 09-13 – photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

This photo was taken by Patrick Gilgallon, a fellow devotee of Barbershopper music, who sent it in an email, saying: “While at my cabin on Lake George I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED READING The Burning of the Piping Rock! I couldn’t stop thinking about the story line when I put down the book periodically. So much could I NOT put down the book, that upon departing for a hike, I packed it in my backpack. At the summit, I read for 2 hrs.  What a beautiful day that was!!!”

To prove his point, Patrick attached this photo he took at the summit.

Thank you very much, Patrick, for your totally unexpected and totally appreciated email!

145 people attend Brown Bag Lunch program on “The Burning of The Piping Rock”!

Brown Bag Lunch

Brown Bag Lunch

Saratogian article (9/8/13): “Author to unravel ‘Piping Rock Arson’ at brown bag lunch”

Check out this article from The Saratogian about my upcoming program for the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center’s Brown Bag Lunch Lecture  Series held at Saratoga Springs Public Library! Saratogian (9/8/13) - Author to unravel 'Piping Rock Arson' I’m looking forward to seeing you this Thursday (Sept. 12 ) at noon in the Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library! (Thanks to Chuck Packevicz  for this clipping!)

Article courtesy of The Saratogian (9/8/13)

“Piping Rock Arson” by Joe Cutshall-King: Brown Bag Lunch Lecture (9/12) at Saratoga Springs Public Library

Brown Bag Lunch

Brown Bag Lunch