One evening...Houdini's manager told him of being called by Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish of 78th Street, who wanted to book Houdini for a private party...Mrs. Fish was throwing commemorative ball in honor of her friend the late Stanford White, the architect of her home. He had designed her home in the style of a doge palace. A doge was the chief magistrate in the republic of Genoa or Venice. I won't have nothing to do with those people, Houdini told his manager. Dutifully the manager reported to Mrs. Fish that Houdini was not available. She doubled the fee.
Marion Graves Anthon "Mamie" Fish was a socialite and self-proclaimed "fun-maker" at the turn of the century in New York and Rhode Island. Though she could barely read and write, she married Mr. Stuyvesant Fish at 23 years old, rising to become a ruler of society and renowned party planner. Doctorow calls her a member of the "Four Hundred", the social elite of New York City in the late 19th century. Ward McAllister named this group according to the four hundred people of New York who he believed "really mattered".
In her house Glenclyffe on 78th Street designed by Stanford White, she threw outrageous parties. One might see a monkey drunk on champagne throwing lightbulbs at guests from the chandelier, guests simultaneously dancing and feeding an elephant, or according to Doctorow, an entire party talking in baby voices. Houdini would have heard of her antics, prompting him to initially refuse her author. There is no record, however, of Houdini appearing at a Fish party.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
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