Not so long ago it was reported that some enterprising concessionaire at the Chicago World’s Fair had made Jimmy Walker (remember, he was New York’s mayor once) an offer of a stupendous salary if he would consent to appear under his aegis. We can’t recall whether or not Jimmy ever dignified the offer with a reply. If he did answer, it must have been a charming negative since nobody has yet reported seeing him among the Fair’s performers.
We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the World’s Fair lately. It seems to lack something. Once it had a fan dancer, Sally Rand. The Fair was something to look forward to, something worth making that long trip to Chicago for.
But there were objections to the fan. Too many people were enjoying its uncertain travels around the Rand anatomy. And when too many people enjoy a thing of that sort, there’s always a certain articulate minority that puts a stop to such goings on.
So the Rand stunt had to go. The Fair became a rather dreary business. We don’t like dreary businesses. Nobody likes dreary businesses. So we set about thinking of a way to brighten up the Fair so that we and a lot of other people would want to hop into a flivver and scoot out there in a hurry.
The thinking has been fruitful. And the fruits are herewith offered for the free use of the Fair officials. However, they must be warned that in order for them to carry out this idea with complete success they will have to call on the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the combined police forces of every city from here to Chicago. But to a city that has been able to perform such miracles as the Fair is reported to be, that task of getting government cooperation should be a mere trifle.
Here’s the idea, as the squirrel might say, in a nutshell.
Names draw crowds. That’s axiomatic in a country brought up on superspecial movies featuring big names and superblack headlines featuring big names. An almost unnecessary corrollary, also, is that the bigger the name (the more publicized, that is) the bigger the crowd.
There’s one name that for the past year or so has been more on the front pages and more on people’s lips than any other in recent history. The name is Adolf Hitler.
Does the reader begin to sense the magnitude of our inspiration?
You’re strolling down the gaudy midway at the Chicago Fair. Strolling isn’t exactly the word. Rather, you’re being carried along in a flood of humanity. So dense is the throng you may be excused for imagining that this is a nightmare you’re experiencing after having had too much apple pie before going to bed. The mob is hemmed in by lines of soldiers, sailors and marines.
Soon there comes to your ears, above the din of the crowd, the rumble of-drums and the fanfare of trumpets. Soon you’re in sight of the source of the music. There’s a huge platform erected just off the midway. The back of the platform is decorated (all right, make it desecrated if you will) with a huge Nazi flag. A battery of floodlights is focused on the swastika emblem. From overhead somewhere another battery of lights pours its calcium glare down on the platform’s center. At the front of the structure, which seems to be acres in width and almost as deep, a hundred men dressed in the uniform of the Schutz Staffel are pounding drums and blowing into brass until their faces are red.
Suddenly, with a final flourish, they stop. And from beneath the platform there pops as if by magic the figure of a lean man. Unmistakably he’s the Chicago World’s Fair conception of a Coney Island barker.
The barker goes into action at once.
“Ladees and genmen,” he roars into the amplifiers that carry his voice all over the Fair grounds. “For the first time in the history of these United States of America, we have the honor to present a distinguished and extinguished high official of the erstwhile world-famous Nazi regime of blood-drinking and blood-bathing beauties. The monster without peer. The devil incarnate, though without horns and without forked tail. Adolf Hitler and his playmates. I have the honor to present this notorious gang of freaks in the greatest spectacle since the burning of Rome. You will see them, first, enacting for your benefit that now- famous blood-bath of June 30. When the blood has been mopped off of the stage, you will then be privileged to see the inimitable, the peerless, the one-and-only Adolf in his world-renowned specialty of explaining to the Reichstag and the German people what happened.”
Then, as suddenly as he appeared, the barker drops out of sight. One would think the Nazis themselves were staging this affair, so precise, so dramatic is the whole thing. And no sooner does the barker disappear than the platform is suddenly peopled with the chief characters in the drama. Roehm, Heines, von Schleicher, Goebbels, Hitler, Goering, and many others whose names were bywords not so long ago. Hitler is the last to appear.
Hitler’s appearance is the signal for a mighty demonstration from sharply divided sections of the audience. Over at the left, a thousand hands are suddenly flung upward and forward in the Nazi salute while a thousand throats boom a “Heil, Hitler.” Way over to the right another thousand hands go up, but the palms are not open. They are closed into a fist and the roar is “Down with Hitler.” In the center are the moderates, evidently, those who don’t take the affair too seriously. These also raise their hands. But only as far as their noses. And the cry that comes from this section is unmistakably a Bronx cheer.
The three sections seem to have been placed there purposely by the Fair management. In the nature of a claque in three parts, with the idea of satisfying the feelings of all the customers. You pays your money and you takes your choice, as it were.
The actors, while all the rooting and razzing is going on, go through their paces. The show, from the Roehm slaying to the Hitler apologia, is completed in three hours. When it is over, everybody goes home expressing the opinion that it was a swell show and well worth the money.
Incidentally, the World’s Fair officials have had the good sense to announce publicly that seventy-five per cent of the proceeds of the entire run of the show would be used to rehabilitate the victims of German Nazism. The remaining twenty-five per cent would be used for the purchase of dog biscuits for the actors.
With such a show to offer the public, the Fair might easily last another year or might even eclipse the “Abie’s Irish Rose” record of four years. And the reformers would like it because it would make people forget about Sally Rand and her fans. H. W.