Detour on the Road to the American Dream

It’s a traditional “What might have been” story: A good-looking younger man wanders the streets of the Village on a phenomenal fall day in 1960. A clown delights a quintet of children on the sidewalk in entrance of a grocery retailer. The gamers on this serendipitous drama cross paths at Sheridan Sq., inside the viewfinder of Voice workers photographer Gin Briggs.

We all know from the remainder of that November 17, 1960, paper’s entrance web page that future mayor John Lindsay had been re-elected to Congress per week earlier, that District Lawyer Frank Hogan was selling a plan “by which narcotics addicts will be treated as patients rather than criminals,” and that the clown’s identify was Lumia—a trio of these fabled “eight million stories” the TV present Bare Metropolis beamed from coast to coast again then.

One factor we don’t know is the identify of the younger man in rolled shirtsleeves, high-water denims, and unruly forelock, who glances at the yawping harlequin as he strides by. However it was not from lack of making an attempt on the a part of the producer of a brand new Off-Broadway play, as we all know from this discover, which appeared in the December 1, 1960, version of the paper, below the nameless man’s picture, cropped out of Briggs’s picture from a fortnight earlier:

If a big-screen author had gone to his producer and proclaimed, “I’ve got a smash: An Everyman is strolling along West 4th when he’s spotted by an impresario who transforms him from a complete nobody into a glittering star of stage and screen! I call it, ‘The American Dream’!”—little question the moneyman would’ve muttered, “Too sentimental. Come back when you’ve deep-sixed the cliches.”

But there it was, in black and white: the Off-Broadway model of teenage Lana Turner—she of the marquee seems to be that launched a thousand pin-ups and scores of movies—being found in Schwab’s drugstore in Hollywood. Fantasy turns into the fame of infinite press clippings! So it was with no little anticipation of a legend in the making that we thumbed by way of the winter leaves of the 1960 Village Voice editions, searching for the subsequent chapter, solely to be stopped quick by a headshot on web page six of the December 29 subject:

So, was the broody page-one thriller man not an actor? And would that basically have stopped him from a minimum of going to a tryout and faking it? Or did neither he nor any of his pals learn New York’s bible of downtown tradition? Had this Thriller Date–esque stud merely been a day tripper, simply off the bus from his hometown to absorb the wildlife he’d heard roamed the crooked streets of the Village?

And who’s this Tom Hunter, he of cleft chin and furrowed forehead? Nicely, one thing occurred between the publication of his headshot in the Voice and the debut just a few weeks later of Albee’s one-act play at the York Playhouse. Turning to the February 2, 1961, subject of the Voice, on a web page that included an advert for the cantankerous, ghoulish monologist Brother Theodore in addition to a discover for Lenny Bruce at Carnegie Corridor ($2.75 to $4.75 to see “America’s Most Controversial Comedian”), we get the paper’s first theater critic, Jerry Tallmer, reviewing The American Dream, praising “Mr. Albee’s unquestionable talent for making a hilarious joke of his grimmest forebodings,” however in the end concluding, “you just can’t get satisfaction from The American Dream.”

Which, presumably, was true for Hunter, who was not included in the solid checklist—the function of “The Young Man” as an alternative being taken by Ben Piazza, who later devoted his 1964 novel, The Actual and Very Unusual Fact, to Albee, and went on to play the father of the household harassed by Jake in The Blues Brothers

So what ought to have occurred? First, the unknown heartbreaker photographed with the clown would’ve trooped into the producer’s workplace, gotten his break in a breakout function, and been plied with Broadway gives and a first-class Pan-Am ticket to Hollywood, adopted by a string of hits, just a few career-stalling flops, collapsed marriages, DUI’s, despair, medication, after which rehab and a boffo comeback function main to that long-deferred Greatest Actor Oscar.

Or, the fact? Though Thomas O’Driscoll Hunter (1932–2017) was apparently bumped from The American Dream, he did make a profession in showbiz: He studied with Sanford Meisner and Uta Hagen and in 1966 landed a minor half in Blake Edwards’s What Did You Do in the Warfare, Daddy?, then went on to larger roles in varied motion movies and scored leads in a string of second-tier spaghetti Westerns. He additionally earned varied writing credit, together with co-scripting the star-studded sci-fi flick The Ultimate Countdown, in 1980. Later, he based the New England Repertory Firm, and instructed an interviewer, in 2007, “Teaching is almost as exciting as acting. Passing the torch. Creating a more supple and emotional Frankenstein monster. Too many people have lost touch with their feelings. Nice to feel like a kid again and get back in touch with the joy, anger, and sad times. As an actor, there are no negative feelings. Maybe that’s why audiences enjoy villains.” 

For actual.  ❖

Future “Voice Lore” columns will focus on no matter strikes our fancy—staffers, tales, artworks, adverts—to illuminate the Voice’s 67-year-and-counting historical past.



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