Guys and Twenty Dollars

In the nineteen-thirties and forties, Damon Runyon was the most widely read journalist in the country, and his movies like Double Indemnity and Broadway plays like Guys and Dolls were hits. Runyon held court nightly in Lindy's Restaurant on Broadway and 51st Street, which, even in May 1949, three years after his death, was the fabled realworld haunt of many of his thinly fictionalized characters: Dave the Dude, Harry the Horse, Izzy Cheesecake.

In his Times' May 22, 1949 profile, Leo "Lindy" Lindemann told of a "timid, well-dressed" older woman who came to the restaurant asking after "some of those quaint persons Mr. Runyon writes about." Lindy pointed her to a regular, who he identified as Morris the Schnook. "She was delighted. She pressed his hand when she left. When she reached the siewalk, the Lindy habitues roared with laughter. Morris the Schnook was their invention. Their butt was really Abe Lyman, the orchestra leader." And thus, the Times saw fit for the first time to print the term "schnook."

Now, 55 years later, and just months after self-hating Jew Jerome Robbins was quoted calling himself "a schnook from Weehawken," I'm as surprised as an orchestra leader to offer up the 86th appearance of "schnook" in the paper of record. Frankly, I'm a little verklempt.

What Is the Value of Priceless Art? Debate Continues on $20 Admission

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: November 19, 2004.

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