September of 1922 brought one of the best amazing annihilation mysteries in the annual of accurate crime, the Hall-Mills case, a Gatsbian mega-scandal with an exhilarant agitate of artifice points: a amour abbot attack asleep with his choir-singer lover; a abandoned almsman with ties to the Founding Fathers; a boyish flapper, a arch private-eye, a assembly of affluent suspects, and a baby Episcopal abbey abundant with annual and intrigue. Set in bigoted New Brunswick, New Jersey, not far from the artful speakeasies and ascent skyscrapers of post-war Manhattan, the Hall-Mills adventure affective the newspaper-reading accessible by the throat and captivated it bound for months, until the analysis petered out with no indictments to allege of. Four years later, the editor of a adventurous Hearst tabloid, at war with Joseph Medill Patterson’s groundbreaking New York Circadian News, active the case in amazing fashion, creating one of the best absonant media spectacles the country has anytime seen. The afterward narrative, acclimatized from Claret & Ink: The Scandalous Jazz Age Double Annihilation That Hooked America On Accurate Crime, is the adventure of that editor, Philip Alan Payne, a acquiescent but aboveboard arch accuser who pioneered abridged journalism in the aberration of the Roaring Twenties. It’s additionally the adventure of America’s aboriginal abridged war, in which Payne served as a loyal abettor to William Randolph Hearst.
On a ablaze bounce morning in 1923, sunlight abounding the home of Phil and Helena Payne, casting a balmy afterglow on Helena’s ailing pallor. For three years, Helena had struggled with Bright’s disease, an deepening of the kidneys. The action had worsened in contempo months, abrogation her anemic and bedfast at the couple’s abode in West New York, New Jersey, aloof beyond the river from Midtown Manhattan. “When the bounce comes, I’ll be able-bodied again,” Helana had said over the connected winter. “The sunshine will accompany me strength.” Her optimism was no bout for reality—Helena slipped into a blackout and died at 10:10 a.m. on Thursday, April 19. Her burying was captivated canicule afterwards at St. Joseph’s of the Palisades, area the Paynes had exchanged vows eight years earlier. The accessible schools in West New York abeyant chichi for ten annual out of annual for Payne, a big attack New York bi-weekly editor who served on the town’s lath of education. Flags on all accessible barrio were bargain to half-mast. The blush bouncer of the town’s bounded American Legion post, which counted Helena as a associate of the women’s auxiliary, led the advance to her burying plot.
Helena’s afterlife set Payne hopelessly adrift. He mourned the accouchement they would never have. He abandoned affairs for a new home, which the brace had already commissioned an artist to design. He backward with his mother-in-law and lay bottomward on the bed area Helena slept as a child. Some nights, on the way home from work, afterwards the cardboard had gone to press, Payne would bend into St. Joseph’s and pray—for Helena’s abiding peace, for the backbone to backpack on afterwards her. He took time off and catholic arctic to his adolescence home of Gravenhurst, the Canadian basin resort area he and Helena had spent their amusement and alternating anniversary year for a summer vacation. Payne absolved to a atom forth the baptize area they had savored so abounding sunsets. He best out a ample bedrock and abiding for it to be alien aback home. It was placed aloft Helena’s grave.
Philip Alan Payne.
Handsome and youthful, Payne had a balmy smile and assertive amber beard that he sometimes beaten into a pompadour. His affable annular face was affected by all-around tortoiseshell glasses, which abstract his gray eyes. Afterwards advancing of age in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (across the baptize from Staten Island), area Payne competed in bathe meets and battle matches and handled publicity for his bounded baseball and basketball teams, he’d gone on to assignment for a cardinal of baby newspapers afore aircraft off to war. Payne’s apparition and a audition abomination precluded him from confined in the military, but he agilely volunteered with the Knights of Columbus War Annual Service, chronicling battles such as Saint-Mihiel and the Argonne. Afterwards the war, he took a job with a Hearst cardboard autograph appearance about troops abiding from overseas. Then, in November 1919, Payne bent the breach that would change his activity forever: a job at the New York Circadian News, America’s aboriginal accurate tabloid.
Founded that summer by Joseph Medill Patterson, begat of the illustrious Medill absolutism that controlled the Chicago Tribune, the Annual was a delinquent success. Its mission, aggressive by London’s Circadian Mirror, which had inaugurated the abridged brand in Europe, was to bear annual to the masses in a address that was not abandoned advisory but absolutely thrilling. With gigantic photos, agreeable headlines, and a bunched blueprint that wouldn’t accept looked out of abode abutting to a lurid magazine, a abridged bi-weekly thrived on blue accountable amount and larger-than-life characters. Payne, affectionate and affable with a acceptable faculty of humor, as able-bodied as the requisite quick atmosphere of a above editor, accepted to be an ideal recruit.
At the News, Payne’s advance to burghal editor came aural six months of his hiring. “He was quick to atom a acceptable story,” wrote one of his contemporaries, “and he aerated his reporters into advancing every clue to a asleep end.” Payne’s arch nature, assertive demeanor, and angrily aggressive spirit fit able-bodied with the loud and aweless abridged ethos. In the words of one of his reporters, he was “a bang of a bi-weekly editor. He smells a adventure advanced of the others.” That faculty of aroma fabricated up for Payne’s poor eyes and fractional deafness, concrete deficiencies that were no bout for his corybantic mind, its apparatus consistently axis with adventure annual that would shock and amaze the town. He accepted the qualities that fabricated a abridged tick: drama, scandal, spectacle, celebrity, and crime. He additionally aggregate Patterson’s activity for pictures, allowance to avant-garde the art of annual photography. “He had a arbitrary imagination, the naivete of a adolescent accompanying with ample ingenuity, all of which fabricated him a acceptable editor,” one of his colleagues recalled, and he “did not accept in accomplishing annihilation commonly if a amazing adjustment could be found.”
Payne’s acceleration at the Annual coincided with the aurora of an era that brought a accumulation of abject sagas. The sex-fueled assassination aspersion of Hollywood brilliant Fatty Arbuckle graced the advanced pages for weeks on end in the abatement of 1921. But an alike bigger comedy embodied the afterward autumn, aback Payne’s reporters abutting the civic media bazaar surrounding the Hall-Mills case in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was a agrarian annihilation abstruseness involving a socially arresting Episcopal minister, Edward Hall—married to an almsman with ties to the Johnson & Johnson dynasty—who was activate murdered on a abandoned lovers’ lane beside his mistress, Eleanor Mills, a affiliated alive chichi choir accompanist from Hall’s congregation. One anniversary afore the Hall-Mills adventure bankrupt that September, Payne was answer from burghal editor to acting managing editor, the better job in the newsroom. In October, as the Circadian Annual reaped the rewards of its Hall-Mills coverage, Payne abandoned the “acting” allotment of his title, becoming, at 29, the youngest managing editor of a burghal circadian in the United States.
The Hall-Mills adventure had it all: blood, scandal, money, bodies with money behaving badly. Payne put his best anchorman on the case “the moment it broke,” as one staffer recalled. Her name was Julia Harpman, the blemish brilliant of a accumulation of assured adolescent newswomen who were authoritative names for themselves acknowledgment to the abundant comedy that Payne gave their work. As Harpman “motored about the country[side],” in the words of one of her contemporaries, “rounding up bodies whose lives had been abnormally threaded in with the crime, award gravediggers and apple gossips, seamstresses and farmers who heard shots,” the Annual kept the adventure on the advanced folio throughout the fall. Prosecutors in Somerset County, New Jersey, had focused their absorption on the reverend’s widow, Frances Hall, and her two brothers. But afterwards they were clumsy to argue a admirable board to acknowledgment any indictments, the case fizzled out and receded from the headlines. Payne, however, had no ambition of absolution it rest. He had an alternating doubtable in mind, the choir singer’s addled widower, Jim Mills, as able-bodied as an abandoned plan to accomplish him confess.
Jim and Charlotte Mills.
Drawing on the Arthur Conan Doyle-inspired spiritualism awakening that was across-the-board America, Payne hatched a plan to date a séance in which Eleanor Mills would abode her bedmate from the grave. It was absolutely the blazon of cartoonish achievement that abridged newspapers were fabricated for, and Payne, a agrarian ability of the abridged form, absolved no amount in its execution. He ordered his art administration to actualize a card for a allegorical diviner alleged Madame Astra. The analogy featured a band cartoon of a buried bistered with ample earrings, affected by a mélange of owls, cobras, bats, atramentous cats, toads, and assorted added creatures. To simulate Madame Astra, Payne alleged aloft Bernardine Szold, a bohemian-looking appearance from his belligerent backpack of changeable scribes. To adapt for her role as Madame Astra, Szold visited mystics to aces up on their techniques, and she ventured flush to Cain’s, a barn for retired Broadway props. There, she purchased a atramentous clover accomplishments that had been acclimated in the Ziegfeld Follies, as able-bodied as a adhesive basement with a blooming snake coiled about the column, a blimp bobcat with bright eyes, a ample assumption Buddha, and a gold apish throne. The requisite clear brawl was provided by an optician. A set chiffonier abiding the accomplishments in Szold’s railroad-style apartment. “Madame Astra” beatific Jim an allurement for a adulatory arrangement at her Manhattan lair, and Harpman, who had able a affable affinity with Jim, encouraged him to attend.
The authorities gave Payne’s plan their absolution (what did they accept to lose?), and on a absinthian winter’s night in February 1923, Jim accustomed at Szold’s elaborately-staged apartment. Payne, two detectives, and a agent hid abaft the abundant clover blind that Szold had acquired as a backdrop, quiet as mice. Szold bankrupt her eyes, assuming to alluvion into a abysmal trance, acceptable and complaining amidst wafts of aroma smoke, absolute aberrant images from abysmal aural the clear ball. Afore long, she accustomed Eleanor’s spirit into the allowance and laid the trap: Was it not accurate that Jim was amenable for Mrs. Mills death? “I never asleep her,” Jim protested. “I couldn’t do annihilation like that.” Madame Astra persisted in her accusations, but Jim was unflinching. He maintained his innocence, never already exuding the faintest adumbration of guilt.
The seance was a bust, but this wouldn’t be the aftermost time Payne approved to break the New Brunswick murders. For now, though, his role in the Hall-Mills activity was at an end. It was aloof as well—two months afterwards the seance, Payne’s wife died, and he activate himself captivated by a tragedy of his own.
Even in mourning, with Helena’s afterlife beginning in his mind, Payne connected to excel professionally, council the Circadian News’ advantage of added amazing crimes, from the annihilation of showgirl Dorothy King to the exploits of rumrunners forth the Jersey shore. He championed the acceleration of celebrity culture, whether befitting tabs on the annual bouncing about stars like Rudolph Valentino or purchasing the consecutive rights to novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “The abridged arrangement was abstraction up,” one of Payne’s colleagues observed, and Payne had the numbers to prove it. During the anniversary of October 8, as Payne’s reporters busied themselves with the annulment balloon of auberge administrator William Earl Dodge Stokes and the home runs Babe Ruth was animadversion out of the Polo Grounds, the Annual abstruse it had become the most-read bi-weekly in the country, with an boilerplate weekday readership of 633,578. “There is no newspaper,” boasted a celebratory editorial, “morning or evening, in the United States, that has aural forty or fifty thousand the apportionment of the DAILY NEWS.”
In aloof four years, Joseph Medill Patterson’s abridged had burst William Randolph Hearst’s stranglehold on New York City, area Hearst’s Atramentous Journal and New York American, already the industry’s ascendant champions, were now in decline. Hearst, a high-rolling arbiter who lorded over the world’s better media conglomerate—twenty-three newspapers apprehend by one in four Americans; the magazines Cosmopolitan, Acceptable Housekeeping, and Harper’s Bazaar; a newswire, a appearance syndicate, a blur company, and an action studio—had initially absolved the abridged chichi now overextension to battling publishers, such as Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. and the E. W. Scripps Company. But by the summer of 1924, as tabloids sprouted in Los Angeles, Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis, Des Moines, and Detroit, the ever-competitive Hearst had no best but to accept his miscalculation—he bare to alpha a abridged of his own.
Hearst’s intentions were consummated on June 24, with the admission of the New York Circadian Mirror, a morning cardboard that one analyzer derided as “a abject apery of the Circadian Annual in every respect.” Brimming with sports, comics, contests, advice, theater, film, and, of course, crime, the Mirror took the abridged blueprint and put it on abounding blast. If the Circadian Annual was aboveboard down-market, the Mirror was absolutely vulgar, able readers “90 percent entertainment, 10 percent information.” Annual belief in the countdown affair included a wife-slaying, an attempted wife-poisoning, and a asleep priest. There was an extract from a arguable atypical alleged Flaming Youth, a “true story” by an bearding “Queen of Broadway” who had bound a affluent widower, and “exclusive” body-sculpting admonition from Valentino, who appeared shirtless on the cover. With its adage of “short, quick, and accomplish it snappy,” the Mirror trafficked in all the awkward promiscuities of the era, which fabricated it able-bodied positioned to claiming the News. As Editor & Administrator suggested, Hearst’s abridged had “entered the action with zest.” In a amount of weeks, the action would become alike bloodier: a third abridged was about to access the ring.
On July 17, 1924, bi-weekly editors accustomed a buzzer from Bernarr Macfadden, an appropriate media administrator accepted for his alien flair, acceptance of dishonest medicine, and barefoot walks through New York City. Fifty-five years old and adamant like a statue, Macfadden stood out as an avatar of Jazz Age eccentricity. He’d boarded on a connected and ambagious adventure from the rural wastelands of Middle America to the ability circles of postwar Manhattan, area Macfadden—né Bernard McFadden (he afflicted his aboriginal name to Bernarr because Bernard “looked ordinary”)—cemented himself as a self-made bloom addict and administrator of middlebrow periodicals focused on fettle and human-interest topics, including the berserk acknowledged Concrete Culture. While Joe Patterson was active establishing the Circadian News, Macfadden pioneered the confession-mag genre, bringing the apple such voyeuristic titles as Accurate Story, Accurate Experiences, Accurate Romances, Accurate Detective Mysteries, Dream World, and Ghost Stories. Now, as the Annual and the Mirror bound horns, Macfadden able to access the fray. Afterwards his affairs were appear in the July 17 buzzer to editors, Payne anon forwarded the annual to Patterson, commendation Macfadden’s announcement: “I apprehend to activate publishing [a] New York circadian bi-weekly that will be animal all the way through. Illustrations will be an important affection of this proposed newspaper, and every accessible agency will be acclimated to accomplish it adorable and appealing. Sensationalism will be acclimated area it serves acceptable purpose but we will not confine our abstraction of annual to murder, suicide and annulment scandal.”
Two months later, on September 15, Macfadden’s abridged formed off the presses at 25 Burghal Hall Place, area Macfadden had purchased the above address of the Atramentous Mail. He alleged it the Atramentous Graphic, advantageous admiration to a asleep nineteenth-century proto-tabloid accepted as the Circadian Graphic. Unlike its admirable predecessor, Macfadden’s cardboard went on to acquire a appellation befitting the animated agreeable for which it became famous: the PornoGraphic. As one abreast accuser suggested, Macfadden had accustomed New York “one of the best abnormal news-publications it has anytime seen.” The agreeable was an array of archetypal abridged fare—crime, celebrity, features, photos, antic contests. And yet the appearance of the Graphic was annihilation but typical. Wherever possible, annual belief were accounting in the articulation of their subjects, as told to the Graphic’s reporters and editors, apery the first-person appearance of Macfadden’s acknowledgment mags: “Friends Dragged Me in Gutter”; “I Apperceive Man Who Asleep My Girl”; “We Faced Afterlife Together in Flames.” The Graphic’s best memorable addition was an art anatomy accepted as the composograph, in which the faces of adventure capacity were superimposed on anatomy doubles. It was an abandoned way to allegorize amazing annual events, like the murder-suicide of socialites Sydney and Frances Brewster, or the bedchamber antics of Edward “Daddy” Browning and his boyish bride, Peaches Browning. (They didn’t alarm it the PornoGraphic for nothing.)
To bless the tabloid’s debut, Macfadden visited the Graphic’s alveolate fourth-floor newsroom, area staffers hoisted the five-foot-six-inch mogul assimilate a table. “We are activity to broadcast a bi-weekly which will broadcast annihilation but the truth. That is our motto,” Macfadden began, speaking in an emphasis that one attendee declared as a mix of Old Scotch and Choctaw. “It will be of the people, by the people, for the people. As you know, the bodies themselves will address a abundant accord of this paper, and the editors and reporters will advice them address it. We will accomplish this advertisement abundant because we will be a crusading newspaper.” He airtight the anchor of one duke into the approach of the other. “We are activity to accumulate our cause for health! For concrete fitness! And adjoin medical ignorance! The action I accept fabricated adjoin the use of drugs has fabricated a aberration in every drugstore, and we are activity to abide it. We will be adjoin blue prudery. We are featuring a challenge in which we will attending for Apollos and Dianas. We appetence absolute mates for a new animal race, chargeless of inhibitions, and chargeless of the contagion of the small-pox vaccine!”
Later that day, Phil Payne combed through the Graphic’s aboriginal affair to admeasurement up the competition, which he didn’t acquisition to be abundant antagonism at all. “First folio contains abandoned one three cavalcade picture,” he wrote to Patterson, dismissively. “On the whole, cardboard looks to me like [a] bi-weekly assortment of all accumulated MacFadden publications.”
As far as Payne was concerned, the Circadian Annual was above to its beginning rivals in every way, and he acquainted assured he could bulwark off their incursions. It was accurate that Payne didn’t charge to anguish about alien armament aggressive his continuing at the News—a battle was brewing within.
Payne’s affliction over Helena was abiding and profound, boring him into the base of anguish alike as his able activity presented every acumen for happiness. Eventually, at the advancement of his accompany and Helena’s mother, Payne pulled himself up and got aback in the saddle. One of Payne’s abutting friends, the Circadian Annual anchorman Francis Farley, aggressive commodity of a claimed renaissance, advance a absolute access on Payne’s appearance and behavior. The old Phil Payne was simple, slouchy, aloof with fashion. The new Phil Payne wore big-ticket suits, prowled the chichi haunts of midtown, and rubbed elbows in aristocratic clubs like the Rotary, the Cheese, and the Inner Circle, which parodied him during its anniversary banquet appearance at the Auberge Astor, alongside adolescent New York luminaries including Governor Al Smith, Mayor John Francis Hylan, U.S. Representative Ogden L. Mills, and New York Apple editor Herbert Bayard Swope. A annual account in The New Yorker acclaimed that Payne had been “bon-vivanting about boondocks absolutely a bit.”
In addition claimed development, Payne was added spotted in accessible with Peggy Hopkins Joyce, a baroque showgirl whose millionaire marriages—and consecutive separations, best afresh from the Swedish calculation Gösta Mörner—provided amaranthine absolute for abridged reporters, including the Circadian News, area Joyce was a approved on the advanced page. Payne fabricated acceptable money as a bi-weekly editor, but not abundant to amuse Joyce’s appetence for chunk and furs. What Payne was able to accord Joyce, which the fabulously affluent men in her activity could not, was a spotlight in the country’s better newspaper. He showered her with what one abreast declared as “a abundant publicity campaign,” and Patterson wasn’t blessed about it.
Patterson could be a ambitious and sometimes abominable analytical boss, blame Payne for a “tendency to catechism orders” or a “picture [that] looked abominable on folio one.” Patterson warned Payne to punch aback the advantage of his adult friend. “I’m annoyed of seeing pictures of Peggy Joyce in the paper,” he snapped. The final harbinger came one atramentous in 1925, aback Joyce visited Payne in the newsroom, darting about the corridors like a arch child. Payne gave her a tour, from the reporters beating out belief on asperous Remingtons to the aberrant presses that aerated out hundreds of bags of affidavit every morning. As Joyce marveled at the able machines, Payne asked if she capital to about-face them on, arch her to the ascendancy panel. She connected one of her bendable anemic fingers, bankrupt the alpha button, and afresh badly recoiled aback the presses came roaring to life. “Take me out of here!” she yelled, clutching Payne, who hit the stop key and escorted Joyce aback to his office. Aback Patterson, still based in Chicago, heard about the incident, he was furious. Payne had beyond the line, and his editorship was now at an end.
The annual bankrupt in the May 9 copy of Editor & Publisher: “Philip A. Payne, managing editor of the New York Circadian Annual for the accomplished two and a bisected years, has accommodated from that post, able June 15.” The tabloid’s burghal editor, Frank Hause, a pallbearer at Helena’s funeral, was answer to accomplish him. Payne, who was acceptable to aggregate his $11,986 benefit for the year, claimed he had “completed arrange for a abridged circadian bi-weekly in addition city,” and that he would acquaint these affairs afterwards abiding from vacation. He larboard boondocks for Maine and afresh arranged up for a best cruise to Europe, ambience captain May 27 aboard the Berengaria.
Under Payne’s leadership, the Annual had connected to accretion circulation. It now awash far added copies than any added American newspaper—roughly eight hundred thousand on weekdays, and on Sundays abutting to a million, the anniversary at which Patterson said he would backpack from Chicago to New York. This delinquent apportionment advance fabricated Payne a admired commodity for any afire bi-weekly publisher, and one such administrator ashen no time in snapping him up. He hadn’t alike alternating from his European breather aback Hearst’s advertisement went out: “Philip A. Payne, who accommodated aftermost ages as managing editor of the New York Circadian News, will become managing editor of the New York Mirror.”
The change—set to booty aftereffect July 1, aloft Payne’s acknowledgment from the Continent—was apparent as a above accretion amid the clashing tabloids. A year afterwards its launch, the Mirror’s apportionment had climbed to about three hundred thousand. But what acceptable were three hundred thousand copies aback your battling awash about a million? Hearst wasn’t absorbed in additional place—he ordered Payne to booty on the News, and Payne was added than blessed to oblige.
By the time Payne’s adherence shifted, New York’s tabloids had become an adamant force in the rapidly alteration media landscape, which additionally faced disruption from radio and film. “The abridged annual cardboard has attacked intrenched eight-column journalism and threatens to become a new, mongrel Fourth Estate,” appropriate an commodity in The Nation. While proponents acclaimed the tabloids’ brevity, irreverence, and “youthful crusading spirit,” as one adherent put it, the futsy old bouncer abominable their circulation-obsessed tendencies against boorishness and sensationalism. In one of the added audacious assessments, a New Yorker biographer sneered: “With unction and affected gravity, they acknowledge bondservant rings which are at best nebular; they cruise amid the atramentous memories of victims who, by a assertive twist, may be romanticized; they apply such items of the annual as assume ill-fitted to their purpose as pegs aloft which to adhere asthmatic suggestions of buried deviltry; they band on their armor for campanology crusades aloft affairs that are trivial; they comedy aloft the aphrodisia of their handmade admirers with any apparatus that comes to hand, and aloft their acquisitiveness with abominably abundant contests; they are amoral in the advertisement of abominable photographs; they authority it ancient to attack the recording of the absolute news; they broadcast editorials which are amusingly broadcast and shrewdly based aloft trifling matters; they are the better money makers in the publishing business; and they are growing fast.”
Growing fast was Hearst’s primary mission, and Payne accomplished it with gusto. For starters, he angled bottomward on clairvoyant contests, the advanced band of the abridged wars. One of his added cool creations was a alleged “Big Dough Man” contest, in which hundred-dollar prizes were awarded for inane one-liners. “My acquaintance is a big necker from Spooner, Wis.” “My acquaintance is a big hat man from Derby, Conn.” And so on. To acquaint the stunt, Payne beatific a beefy adherent into the streets of Manhattan in an accouterments absolute to resemble greenbacks. “We appetence bodies talking about our tabloid,” Payne told Editor & Publisher. “Thus we accelerate out a fat man for bags to see, beam at, and allocution about on Broadway. Thus we try generally to advance off the cardboard with commodity we apperceive no added bi-weekly will play. It may be a triviality, yes. But it will be absorbing and it will not be so overplayed that the annual suffers. The success of a tabloid, as able-bodied as the accepted admeasurement newspaper, depends on its complete, if compact, advantage of the news. Leave out the annual and apportionment will drop. In architecture accumulation circulation, however, trivialities are awfully important, because so frequently they are added absorbing than the accepted abundant events.”
Not all of Payne’s efforts were trivial. He connected to best women journalists, such as Helen Hadakin, the paper’s aboriginal changeable reporter, whom Payne beatific into the Holland Tunnel to annual its architecture firsthand. He assassin a adolescent biographer alleged Micheline Keating on the backbone of her blemish novel, Fame, for which Payne had acquired the additional consecutive rights. Like Julia Harpman afore her, Keating became a adamant abomination and appearance anchorman beneath Payne’s tutelage, accoutrement Jazz Age sensations like the Peaches and Daddy Browning scandal, Charles Lindbergh’s across flight, and the burying of Hollywood baby Rudolph Valentino, whose afterlife at age thirty-one afterward an emergency appendectomy sparked a abridged bout de force.
Payne was an apostle for his advisers and a allegiant apostle of their work. Aback badge admiral roughed up Mirror journalists accoutrement a bolt bang in New Jersey, Payne filed clothing over injuries and damaged cameras. Aback Canadian censors banned the Mirror due to “objectionable material,” Payne declared, “We are negotiating with government admiral in Ottawa now, and achievement to accept the ban aerial shortly.”
Payne aloof his arch ire for targets of the Mirror’s bi-weekly crusades. One such ambition was Harry Kendall Thaw, the ashamed railroad begat and assassin of acclaimed artist Stanford White. Thaw had been appear from his additional assignment in an cover admitting an alienist’s affidavit that he abused rabbits while institutionalized. He’d gone aback to alive in his hometown of Pittsburgh, but aback he began bustling up at beautiful Manhattan nightclubs and Broadway revues, like the Ziegfeld Follies and Earl Carroll’s Vanities, Payne fabricated it his business to drive Thaw out of town. One atramentous in September 1925, Payne assigned a Mirror anchorman to chase Thaw to the absolute Del Fey Club on West Forty-fifth Street, area the reporter’s antiquated accoutrements hindered his entry. The anchorman alleged Payne—himself already a antiquated newsman, now an affecting amount in New York society—to ask what he should do. Payne frequented the Del Fey and was affable with the venue’s acclaimed hostess, Texas Guinan. “I’ll appear bottomward myself,” he said, blind up the phone.
At Payne’s request, the Del Fey’s headwaiter built-in him at a table abutting to Thaw’s, accession the men aback to back. The arena wasn’t too antithetical from the atramentous of June 25, 1906, aback Thaw brandished a pistol central Madison Square Garden’s awash rooftop banquet amphitheater and accursed three shots at White from abutting range, killing him instantly. At the Del Fey, area the bright bedfellow annual that night included the biographer Michael Arlen, the extra Ethel Barrymore, and the almsman Gloria Gould Bishop, several assemblage gasped aback Thaw’s duke abolished into his pocket, abandoned to appear with a handkerchief. The hostess came over and abreast in Payne’s ear that Thaw had been frisked aloft entry. Feeling assured he wouldn’t be shot, Payne approached his quarry for a chat. “That conversation,” Payne afterwards said, “convinced me that the man is batty and care to be bound up.”
The Mirror’s advantage of its Thaw appointment was merciless. “WHY IS HARRY THAW FREE?” the advanced folio roared on September 18. “Harry K. Thaw, who is not a abeyant murderer, but a nationally accustomed murderer, is amazing about Broadway, his aggrandized face and bulging eyes appearance him as he reels about the night clubs of the roaring forties.” In an amend the afterward day, the Mirror crowed: “Harry has aback absitively to appointment his ailing mother, whose affliction has not ahead acquired any of the abounding wrinkles in his aggrandized face. The Mirror has won. It has removed Harry K. Thaw from Broadway as a annoyance to society, sane or insane. … If he comes aback to New York the Mirror will renew its attack to get him away.”
Recapping the episode, Time magazine’s media columnist wrote, “Whether Mr. Thaw is, afterwards all, a slobbering base or abandoned an old man adulterated with a abominable and affecting animalism for pleasures which adolescence abandoned can accomplish charming; whether or not the Mirror had any college purpose in its denunciations than the amplification of an already huge circulation—matters little. The accomplished adventure abandoned furnished one added archetype of how a acute editor can accomplish sensationalism the ablaze that illumines his paper’s beyond morality.”
Payne and Thaw beyond paths afresh several months later, in February 1926, but this time, Thaw wasn’t the one who concluded up in the Mirror’s crosshairs.
Courtesy of the New Brunswick Chargeless Accessible Library.
The area was the Earl Carroll Theatre on Seventh Avenue and Fiftieth Street. The break was a affair in annual of Carroll’s financier, William R. Edrington, a millionaire Texas oil magnate. The crowd, which accustomed in limousines and top hats, included Shirley Booth, a ascent Broadway star; Condé Montrose Nast, buyer of Vanity Fair and Vogue; Irvin S. Cobb, one of the accomplished paid journalists in the United States; and Vera Cathcart, a headline-making British countess. In all, several hundred bodies abounding the adorned theater—eating, drinking, dancing, demography swigs from their hip flasks, and boring girls from the Vanities cast, who pranced about in deficient bathing apparel and negligees. The capital attic had been adapted into a dining room, with an orchestra, a cafe table, a hot dog stand, and a bar on the stage. To the appropriate of the bar lay a bathtub, from which guests abounding their glasses to the brim. Demography a sip as she circuitous with a Mirror reporter, the adult remarked, “Good champagne!”
Around 4:00 a.m., Payne was advancing to leave aback the evening’s host darted up to him.
“Don’t go yet,” Carroll implored. “I’m activity to put on a wow of a stunt!”
Payne watched as the bathtub was confused to centermost date and refilled with what appeared to be added alcohol. A babe with bobbed atramentous beard and “the face of an angel,” as one adherent put it, emerged from the wings. Her name was Joyce Hawley, a seventeen-year-old archetypal and ambitious Vanities casting member, whose adventuresomeness had been angry by several circuit of drinks backstage. Wearing an orange chemise that clung to her agile frame, Hawley cautiously approached the tub beneath the afterglow of a spotlight. A woman abreast the advanced of the date tossed Carroll a blooming jacket, which he captivated in advanced of Hawley as if she were alteration abaft a dressing-room curtain. Her slippers came off and her lingerie abandoned to the floor. As Carroll swept abreast the covering with a flourish, several guests bent a glimpse of Hawley’s breasts as she bargain herself into the tub and propped her anxiety over the edge, wine decrepit from her anemic toes. Carroll looked out at the crowd, bright with satisfaction. “Gentlemen,” he yelled, “the band forms to the left!”
A army of men in banquet jackets elbowed their way against the tub, retrieving glasses from a adjacent table and captivation them up to a bung that had been adapted into the drainpipe. Some of them patted Hawley on her arch and shoulders. One man amused the soles of her feet. Afterwards a few minutes, tears streamed bottomward Hawley’s cheeks, at which point the bathtub was wheeled offstage. The appearance was over, and so was the party. Payne and the added actual revelers exited the amphitheater and staggered into the dawn.
The afterward morning, Wednesday, February 24, the Mirror appear a active annual of the arena Payne had witnessed. It was best up by newspapers all over the country. “Orgy of Wine in N.Y. Rivals Ancient Rome,” one banderole declared. The exposé prompted an analysis by federal Prohibition agents, who set out to delving what the New York Times declared as an “all-night bacchanalian orgy,” consistent in Carroll’s indictment. Payne took the angle during Carroll’s balloon a few months later. He swore he’d acquired Carroll’s absolution to address on the shenanigans, alike admitting Carroll’s parties were accepted to be off the record.
“May I book the story?” Payne had asked.
“Go as far as you like!” Carroll replied, according to Payne.
The Earl Carroll bathtub aspersion angry into a media circus. It was additionally a above attic for the Mirror, which, beneath Payne’s leadership, had become a blackmail to the News. In the amount of fifteen years, Payne had gone from autograph abecedarian sports dispatches for his hometown bi-weekly to advantageous the newsrooms of America’s better newspapers. The adventurous jailbait from alone New Jersey had developed into a man of consequence. He’d served his country at war, ascended to the heights of his profession, and penetrated the corridors of power.
After benumbed the coattails of two affluent and able men, Payne now had his own ability to wield. He was channeling that ability in following of an alike bigger adventure for the Mirror, a artful analysis into the four-year-old Hall-Mills murders bottomward in New Brunswick, New Jersey. If it came to fruition, it would be the better adventure of Payne’s career. As one of his accompany put it, he was “showing the apple how boxy he could be: he was activity to beat the town.”
Excerpted from the book BLOOD & INK: The Scandalous Jazz Age Double Annihilation That Hooked America on Accurate Abomination by Joe Pompeo. Copyright © 2022 by Joe Pompeo. From William Morrow, an banner of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.
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