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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Damon Runyon Theater

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Damon Runyon (4 October 1880[1] – 10 December 1946) was a newspaperman and writer.
He was best known for his short stories celebrating the world of Broadway in New York City that grew out of the Prohibition era. He spun humorous tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters; few of whom go by "square" names, preferring instead to be known as "Nathan Detroit," "Big Jule," "Harry the Horse," "Good Time Charley," "Dave the Dude," and so on. These stories were written in a very distinctive vernacular style: a mixture of formal speech and colorful slang, almost always in present tense, and always devoid of contractions. The musical Guys and Dolls was based on two Runyon stories, "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure"; the play Little Miss Marker grew from his short story of the same name. Guys and Dolls is a musical, with the music and lyrics written by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, based on The Idyll Of Miss Sarah Brown, a short story by Damon Runyon. A short story that the musical guys and dolls is based on. Little Miss Marker (also known as The Girl in Pawn) is a 1934 film which tells the story of a young girl whose father gives her to a gangster as collateral to pay off a gambling debt.

He was born Alfred Damon Runyan in Manhattan, Kansas, and grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, where Runyon Field, The Damon Runyon Repertory Theater Company, and Runyon Lake are named after him. He was a third-generation newspaperman and started in the trade under his father in Pueblo. He worked for various newspapers in the Rocky Mountain area; at one of those, the spelling of his last name was changed from "Runyan" to "Runyon," a change he let stand.

After a notable failure in trying to organize a Colorado minor baseball league, Runyon moved to New York City in 1910. For the next ten years he covered the New York Giants and professional boxing for the New York American. In his first New York byline, the American editor dropped the "Alfred," and the name "Damon Runyon" appeared for the first time.

A heavy drinker as a young man, he seems to have quit the bottle soon after arriving in New York, after his drinking nearly cost him the courtship of the woman who became his first wife, Ellen Egan. He remained a heavy smoker.

His best friend was mobster accountant Otto Berman, and he incorporated Berman into several of his stories under the alias "Regret, the horse player." When Berman was killed in a hit on Berman's boss, Dutch Schultz, Runyon quickly assumed the role of damage control for his deceased friend, correcting erroneous press releases (including one that stated Berman was one of Schultz's gunmen, to which Runyon replied, "Otto would have been as effective a bodyguard as a two-year-old.")

Runyon frequently contributed sports poems to the American on boxing and baseball themes, and also wrote numerous short stories and essays. He was the Hearst newspapers' baseball columnist for many years, beginning in 1911, and his knack for spotting the eccentric and the unusual, on the field or in the stands, is credited with revolutionising the way baseball was covered. Perhaps as confirmation, Runyon was inducted into the writers' wing (the J. G. Taylor Spink Award) of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. He is also a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame and is known for dubbing heavyweight champion James J. Braddock, the "Cinderella Man." The J. G. Taylor Spink Award is the highest award given by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to its members.

Gambling was a common theme of Runyon's works, and he was a notorious gambler himself. A well-known saying of his paraphrases Ecclesiastes: "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

Runyon's marriage to Ellen Egan produced two children (Mary and Damon, Jr.), and broke up in 1928 over rumors that Runyon had become infatuated with a Mexican girl he had first met while covering the Pancho Villa raids in 1916 and discovered once again in New York, when she called the American seeking him out. Runyon had promised her in Mexico that, if she would complete the education he paid for her, he would find her a dancing job in New York. Her name was Patrice Amati del Grande, and she became his companion after he separated from his wife. After Ellen Runyon died of the effects of her own drinking problems, Runyon and Patrice married. Though Runyon forged a better relationship with his children, the marriage ended when Patrice left him for a younger man in the same year he died (1946).

He died in New York City from throat cancer in 1946, at age 62. His body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered over Manhattan by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker on December 18, 1946.

Runyon was also a newspaperman. He wrote the lead article for United Press on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inauguration in 1933.

Broadcast from January to December 1949, "The Damon Runyon Theatre" dramatized 52 of Runyon's short stories for radio.


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