The Ruin of Louie the Gat
Our hockey hero meets fifty fair women and one ugly gunman
ADVENTURES crowd in upon certain people as iron filings gravitate toward a horseshoe magnet or words swarm into a dictionary.
My friend Beefy Bannister is like that. Mr. Bannister is a hockey player; a young hockey player. He is huge and pink and blonde, with perfect teeth and hair marcelled by Nature, clean, healthy to boisterousness, and entirely unsophisticated—a commonplace person save for his exceptional athletic prowess. Nevertheless, things are always happening to him. His entrance to professional hockey from the ranks of what some generous minded individuals persistently describe as the amateur game, was spectacular; and the stratagems by which he was persuaded to leave Montreal, where he rightfully belongs, and join the New York Pumas, would have done credit to Niccolo Machiavelli, although actually they were contrived by a much more charming personality whose stage name is Valerie Valentia.
Knowing that it was the strange destiny of Mr. Bannister always to attract adventure, I was not surprised when he broke out in a rash of publicity by reason of his remarkable encounter with that famous gangster, Louie the Gat. I was not surprised; but I was curious. I thought there must be undercurrents.
The tabloids, of course, had a swell time with Beefy. “Hockey Star in Hero Rôle.” That sort of thing. Pumas came to the Forum to tie up with Maroons about ten days after the story broke. This was quite an occasion. A delegation from Cosmos Creek, Beefy’s home town, presented him with a loving cup; and although Maroons took the New Yorkers by a four-two score. Beefy played one of his best games, so that everyone was happy except the fattest member of the Cosmos Creek committee, who fell flat as he was teetering off the ice. got himself laughed at by 11,000 people, and remained in a melancholy mood for the rest of the evening.
After the game 1 kidnapped the hero of the hour from a horde of adoring juveniles and snaked him around the block to my apartment, where 1 fed him cold meats and pickles and a moderate amount of beer. In common with most of our younger athletes, Beefy talks best when he is eating.
At length: "Now,” I said, “tell me why you socked Louie the Gat.”
“Aw, nerts!” Beefy prides himself on keeping up with the most modem Broadway idiom. “That wasn’t nothing.”
"All right, if you say so. But why did you do it?”
“Well” -pugnaciously—“what was he doing wearing a white camelya?”
“Wearing a what?”
“A white camelya. It’s a flower that you put in your buttonhole.”
“Oh, you mean a camellia.”
‘That’s what I said, camelya.”
“Wait a minute. Let’s get this straight. All the stories I have ever read about this thug stated plainly that he always wore a white camellia. It was a sort of superstition of
his. They called him ’the Camellia Kid.’
Now. are you telling me that you pounded this notorious gunman into a pulp, sent him to the hospital with two broken ribs, a smashed nose and a skull fracture, just because he was wearing a white camellia?”
With a gesture of extreme ferocity Beefy speared two pickled onions with his fork. He said viciously:
“This Martin Acton is a heel.”
“Half time!” I said. “Let’s stick to Louie the Gat.”
TF YOU will keep that big yawp of *■ yours shut for a minute,” said Mr.
Bannister, “I will tell you what come off. As I am trying to explain, this Martin Acton is a heel, but he is also a big shot along Broadway on account that his father leaves him a lot of oil wells some place in his will, so that every time anybody buys a gallon of gas or a quart of oil it is heavy lead in this Martin Acton’s pocket. Which just goes to show that something very bad is wrong with the way things is fixed in this world at the present time, and no wonder we have these Reds and everything.
“Anyway, having all this jack coming in and nothing to do but spend it, this Martin Acton likes to be seen along Broadway with a lot of big stars like myself, because then people will think he is some potatoes himself instead of being just a heel, the bum.
“This Martin Acton is just a little fellow with dark hair and a dark complexion, but he is a very swell dresser. Of course he is friendly with Major Wardman that owns the Pumas, and he is always in and out of our rooms at the Garden; so what come off was that one night when we was all feeling pretty good on account of having just taken the Hawks five-three, me getting one goal and a assist, Herbie Thomas—that is my roomie— introduces this Martin Acton to me, and right away he begins to talk to me about my career as a great hockey star, saying that I am going to have a fine career and startle Broadway.
"Well, that is not no news to me. because everybody knows that I am the sensation of the league and have made good in a big way in my first season as a hockey star in the big time. Then this Martin Acton goes on to explain that he is interested in people, especially people who are on the road to fame and fortune. He says it is his hobby to interest himself in their careers and help them in every possible way, like getting their name in the papers and so on. But, this Martin Acton says, he is not very busy just now, on account that the three people he has been interested in—being Charlie Chaplin, the movie comedian, and Mayor Jimmy Walker, and this Indian fellow Gandhi that does not wear no liants—are all of them over in Europe together, so he has time on his hands, and he says he is going to take a interest in my career as a star hockey player.
“So. then, I am thanking this Martin Acton for taking a interest in my career when Spike Harrigan, our manager, comes along and he starts right off to bawl out Martin Acton, saying, ‘Listen, Martin. You may be a good fellow in Sardi’s, but in these rooms you are just something that you see when you roll over an old log, and I want that you should lay off these boys, and this kid in particular because he is not trained to appreciate your peculiar sense of humor, and I will not have you making a monkey out of him, see.’
“Well, Martin Acton does not take a sock at Spike Harrigan, but merely says, very sorrowful, ‘Why, Spike, I am surprised at you. I am only interested in Bannister because he is such a modest and retiring young man, and I am anxious to help him in his career. ' Then Spike Harrigan says, ‘Oh, yeah? Well, if you are looking for suckers you can go jump in a crick, but I will not stand for your prospecting around here. Anyway,’ Spike Harrigan says, ‘you cannot make a sap out of this punk, because he is one already.’
“Well, I do not like the way Spike Harrigan is talking, although, of course, it is only because he is jealous on account of Martin Acton taking a interest in my career and not paying no attention to him. So I said to Spike Harrigan that he should mind his own business and I would mind mine, and Spike Harrigan waved his hands around and said to me, ‘All right, ape, have it your own way, but when you are up to your neck in the thick soup, don’t expect me to throw you a life belt.’ And he walks away, seeming to be very sore about something.
“Then Martin Acton says to me: ‘Don’t mind him. it must be something he et.’ and he goes out, and I do not see him again until next afternoon, when I see him in a very queer manner indeed.
“We have been working out, and I am walking down Broadway to get the air, it being a fine day and me being hungry after all that exercise, and there is a place on Fortysecond Street where they give you all you can eat for sixty cents. So I am headed south on Broadway, and right at the comer of Fifty-third Street who do I see but Martin Acton, and he is wearing a blue overcoat and a grey hat. But it
seems he is in a hurry, because he just says, ‘Hello, Beefy,’ and keeps right on going.
“Well, I do not think anything about this except to think that Martin Acton seems to be in a great hurry to get to some place or another, but what comes off but at the corner of Forty-eighth Street I see Martin Acton again, only this time he is wearing a grey overcoat and a derby hat and carrying a walking stick which he waves at me and says, ‘Hello, kid,’ and scrams right by me.
THIS seems very funny to me, because how can you meet a man at one comer wearing one sort of clothes and then meet him again four or five blocks away wearing different clothes? But after I come to think about it I figure I must have just made a mistake, one of the times anyway, and just as I have got this settled in my mind what comes off but that somebody bumps right into me at the comer of Forty-fifth Street, and who is it but Martin Acton, and he is wearing a brown overcoat and a brown hat, and he
has not got no walking stick, and he says, ‘Oh, hello, Bannister. Excuse me, I’m in a hurry,’ and he walks away very fast.
“Well, I am very much puzzled, and I stand on the comer for quite a while trying to figure out what is coming off, because this time I am sure it is Martin Acton, and the others must have been fellows that looked like him. But. still and all, I do not like this very much, and I am still thinking about it when I turn into Forty-second Street to go to this restaurant like I told you, and here is Martin Acton again, this time in a different coat and with a hat that is a sort of cross between brown and grey, being a very light brown.
“I cannot figure this out at all, and Martin Acton comes up and puts out his hand and says: ‘Ah, there, Bannister. Just the lad I wanted to see. Come and have a cup of coffee with me,' and he takes me into this restaurant.
“Well, I am still trying to figure this thing out in my mind, and I do not say anything because I am thinking too hard, and Martin Acton says, ‘What is the matter with you? You look worried.’ So then I told him about seeing him three times already on Broadway, and him always walking north while I am headed in the other direction; and he says there must be some mistake because he has been to a matinee and has only just got out.
“Then Martin Acton looks at me very serious and says
that I should lay off the hard liquor, but I tell him that I never touch it on account that it is against the rules and anyway I do not like the taste of the stuff. So he asks me a lot of questions like: Do I have spots before the eyes, and do I lie awake nights tossing uneasy on a bed of pain, and have I been hit on the head lately with a heavy weapon.
“Well, of course, any hockey star like me that is always in there fighting is going to get hit on the head every once in a while, and I am no exception to this; only 1 am always in such good shape and, having such a fine physique and everything, I do not think nothing about getting hit on the head until now. But this business of seeing people that are not there and hearing voices and everything has got me worried so that I cannot hardly eat anything but just one steak and one piece of pie and two or three cups of coffee. Then Martin Acton says to me, very serious, that if he was me he would not say nothing to nobody about this, but go home and try to get some sleep and have the club doctor look me over next time we worked out.
“So I go home and try to sleep, but I cannot sleep very much on account of it being nowheres near, my bedtime, and the next day I tell Spike Harrigan I do not feel so good and maybe the doc had better look me over. Spike Harrigan says he supposes I lxave been eating myself stupid again; which is the sort of dirty crack Spike Harrigan is always making, but he calls the doc, and the doc puts his little telephone on my chest and taps me over the ribs and pokes his fingers hard into my stomach and asks me a lot of questions, until it begins to look as though something very bad is the matter with me.
"But when the doc gets through he laughs and says tlxat it is a good job I am not any healthier, because the human system can only stand just so much health, and if I had any more I would probably explode into little pieces because I already have enough for myself and two heavyweight rasslers to boot. ‘If everybody was as healthy as you.' the doc says, ‘the entire medical profession would be in the bread line tomorrow, so stop thinking you are sick. Then Spike Harrigan says tlxat he will do all the thinking necessary for this club, and that I should stop thinking anyway because I have not got nothing to think with. ‘Now get out on that ice and skate,’ Spike Harrigan says, ‘or I will fine you ten bucks for thinking.’
“Well, I do not have much time to think about anything but hockey for the next few' days, because we hop to Detroit and them Falcons has both the referees on their side instead of only one, which we are used to by now; and what with a couple of goal judges one of which is blind and the other must have owed money to everybody on the Detroit club, I guess, that bunch of punks carries us to a extra period and then smacks one past Duke Egan and wins five to four.
“So Spike Harrigan is sore and gives everybody a ride, including me, without no reason at all, because I played my usual star game and we was just outlucked, that was all. But what with this and that, I do not have any spare time to bother about having seen this Martin Acton four times instead of just once on Broadway, and when we get back to town I have pretty much forgotten what come off.
WELL, it is quite a surprise to me to find a lot of mail at my room, because I do not get much mail at my room except from my folks at Cosmos Creek, most of my mail going to the Madison Square Garden, being letters from people that want I should buy my clothes from them or rub their liniment into my muscles; and once in a while a letter from a fan that is either bawling me out for something that somebody else done or telling me that I am a swell hockey player, which I knewalready anyway.
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‘‘But this time there is, besides a couple of letters from home, three big envelopes of different shapes, and in these three envelopes is three pictures of very pretty girls and three letters.
“Well, all these pictures is written on, and one says, ‘To my hero, from Marlene Dietrich;’ and on another it says, ‘For the world’s greatest hockey player, writh the sincere homage of Jean Harlow,’ and the other one has on it, ‘You are so bold and daring, I think of you always. Lupe Velez.’
“So I look at the letters, and they are written on different colors of paper and have addresses from different hotels. They are all short, but they all say the same thing, only in different words, saying that the writer has seen me play hockey while in New York and has a great admiration for me, and will I send her a picture of myself in return for the one she is sending me, so that she will I always have it to look at even though she is 1 far away?
“Well, I am not no ignoramus, and, of course, I know that all these ladies are very big movie stars indeed, and I know they have all been in New York making what the movie stars call a personal appearance. Which means that they are there themselves and come out on the stage and make a speech about how happy they are to be in New York and meet in person the members of their great New York public.
“So it is plain that what come off was that they had went to the Garden to see me play hockey, and had admired me on account of me always being in there trying and also having the perfect physique. Then, of course, there is Miss Valerie Valentia that I had been in love with, only she had ¡ gone and got married to Mr. Mel Brewster,
! the big automobile man, and she had been in Hollywood all winter making a talking picture of her Broadway success, Clap Hands. So evidently Miss Valerie Valentia had been telling the famous stars of Hollywood about me and what a swell hockey player I am, and, of course, they became interested in my career.
"Well, I am one that always tries to be polite to ladies, more especially when they are famous movie stars, and I have got some pictures in my trunk of me in my i uniform with a stick in my hands and a i puck at my feet that we had took at the ! beginning of the season. These pictures are j very good, except that I am standing still,
; and everybody knowrs that on the ice I am a human dynamo and always in there trying; only it seems you cannot get good pictures of a hockey player while he is moving about, more especially one that moves as fast as me.
"So I get these pictures out of my trunk and write on them a wise crack, saying, ‘From one star to another, Bernard : Bannister.’ Then I put them in the envelopes that come with the pictures and went out and mailed them right them because I did I not want Herbie Thomas, my roomie, to ! come in and ask me what was I doing, which is what he is always asking me.
“Well, nothing much come off for a couple of days. We take Boston in the Garden five-three and I get two assists, and then we are laying over to keep a date with that other New York outfit, the Punks, and on the Tuesday morning I get a letter at my room written in a lady’s handwriting, which is a very mysterious letter indeed. It is not signed with no name but only, i ‘You Know Who,’ and it is a very hot letter indeed, saying the writer cannot wait another day. that she has something important to say to me. and I must meet her that afternoon.
“This You Know Who says that she will be in front of the home town newspaper stand at Times Square at 3.30 p.m. in the afternoon; and 1 must meet her there. So I will know which one is her. the letter says, she will wear a black fur coat with a white collar, and she will have on a red hat with a blue feather in it. and she will have a white camelya on the left shoulder of her coat.
“She says, too, that I must wear a white : camelya in my buttonhole so that she will ! recognize me instantly, because she just knows I will look different in my street clothes than on the ice. ‘Probably even better looking than on the ice,’ the letter says.
V\ JELL, like I said, I have always been VV brought up to be nice and polite to ladies, and anyway I wanted to find out who this lady, You Know Who, is, because it might be Miss Dietrich and then again it might be Miss Harlow or Miss Velez. I guessed right off that this camelya must be some sort of a flower, so I went out and bought one and it set me back a buck just for one flower.
“So, at 3.30 p.m. that afternoon I am down there in Times Square. You, having been in New York a lot, will probably know what that layout is. There is this home town newspaper stand backed up against that big building, where you can get your home town paper from most any place you want. Then there is a big open space of sidewalk in front of this home town newspaper stand, and a subway entrance and so on. Like always around Times Square, there is a lot of people rushing up and down like they was going four places at once and only had three minutes to get there, but nobody gives me a tumble at first, and I do not see anything of anybody thatlooks like she might be this lady You Know Who.
“Well, I am beginning to wonder what this is all about when all of a sudden around the comer comes a very pretty girl indeed, dressed just like it says in the letter, with a | black fur coat and a white fur collar, and she has a red hat with a blue feather in it, and a white camelya like mine on her left shoulder.
“Right away I could see that this must be the lady that wrote the letter signed s You Know Who, and then she sees me and runs up to me, holding out her arms and yelling ‘Bernard’ at the top of her voice like she was paging me in a hotel or something, and the next thing I know she has*got a stranglehold on me with both arms and is kissing me right there in Times Square.
“Well, I am not used to being kissed by ! girls at all. and more especially not by girls that have not been introduced to me, and more especially than all, not out in the middle of Times Square with a million people looking on. So I am trying to break away from this stranglehold when around the other comer of the building there comes ¡ another girl, dressed just like the first one, I with a black fur coat and white collar and the hat and camelya and everything. Then j this doll makes a dive for me, all the time j screeching ‘Bernard’ at the top of her voice like this first dame.
“Of course all this is very confusing for me, and I do not know at all what is coming off, but before I have a chance to do anyj thing about it, here is two more dames aiming at me from different sides of the building, and then two more and two more. All these dolls is dressed exactly the same ; as the first one, and they keep on coming at me until at last I guess there must have been fifty or maybe a hundred of these crazy janes, all dressed the same and all fighting over me and trying to get hold of my coat and all screeching ‘Bernard’ as loud as they know how—which is very loud indeed—and all trying to kiss me right there in the middle of Times Square.
“Well, I am thinking to myself that this is a swell mess, whatever it is all about, and I am scared for fear some of these dolls will maybe break an arm or a leg for me, when I am very glad indeed to see Spike Harrigan and Major Wardman coming up on the run. There is a couple of fellows with cameras up on a window ledge taking pictures, and Spike Harrigan grabs them by the leg and pulls them off so that they have to jump to save their necks, and then Major Wardman shoves his way through this mob of dames
and grabs me by the arm and pulls me over to the street, where he pushes me into a taxi and says that I should wait there because he will be back.
“Well, I am looking through the taxi window and I see the girls all walk away together laughing a great deal; which just goes to show that women have not got a sense of humor because, if they could laugh at that, they would probably laugh themselves sick if their old man fell off the Empire State Building; and the next thing I see is Spike Harrigan and Major Wardman and they are arguing very hot with somebody or other, and who is it they are arguing with but this Martin Acton who seemed rather upset.
“I do not see this Martin Acton up to this time, probably because of having all them dames hanging on to me, but it seems
like Major Wardman and Spike Harrigan! win their argument, whatever it is, because | they finally leave this Martin Acton and come over to the taxi where I am waiting, and Major Wardman tells the driver to go ! fast to the Garden, and nobody says nothing until we get in Major Wardman’sj office and he has locked the door.
“Well, I am very much surprised at what Major Wardman and Spike Harrigan tell me about this heel, Martin Acton, because it seems that he is one of these practical i jokers that is always playing tricks on his friends. He had got some doll to write me that letter from You Know Who, and then has turned a lot of chorus girls loose, wearing the same clothes that they wear in | one of the acts in their show, and has egged j them on to gang me right in the middle of1
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Times Square. Well, I am very sore at this Martin Acton for doing this to me, and then I remember about that time I think I see him four times on Broadway, and I tell them about that, and Major Wardman says, ‘Good lord ! That trick was old when Tex Rickard was still in Goldfield, only they didn’t have automobiles in those days. They used the trolley cars. What he did,’ Major Wardman says, ‘was have his car trail you down Broadway. He’d change his hat and coat in the car and when he had caught up with you he’d go on a block and then walk back.’
“So, when I hear this I am more than ever sore at this Martin Acton, and then 1 remember about getting those pictures from Miss Dietrich and Miss Harlow and Miss Velez, and when I tell Major Wardman about this he says that Martin Acton has got some more of his girl friends to write me them letters, and of course he could get the pictures easy enough. ‘He has probably been showing your replies to all his pals,’ Major Wardman says, ‘and getting a big kick out of it, but I will stop that. I will teach that snake he cannot make monkeys out of my hockey players, because Nature has got ahead of him.’
“Then I said to Major Wardman that I will give this Martin Acton a sock in the jaw next time I see him, and Major Wardman says he would not blame me but what I had better do in the meanwhile was not to do anything more important than washing my neck without talking to him or else to Spike Harrigan about it first. So I said I would, and that was all that come off.”
BANNISTER stopped short and lighted a cigarette. Then he yawned widely and politely covered his mouth with a capacious hand. I waited, but nothing happened, so at last I said :
“Very interesting; but what has all this to do with Louie the Gat?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Beefy. “I’d most forgotten about that. The way that come off was that Miss Valerie Valentia come back to town from Hollywood that I used to be in love with and that signed me for the Pumas, you remember. Well, we was home the next Sunday, which was the Sunday after I had found out about this Martin Acton being not a true friend but a snake in the grass, and Miss Valerie Valentia, being Major Wardman’s niece and a part owner of the club. Major Wardman is to give her a supper after the game at one of those swell restaurants over on Park Avenue, where they have a fellow that looks like a major-general in front of the door and a sort of 6triped roof over the sidewalk, and all us hockey players are invited to go to the supper.
“Well, J wanted to give Miss Valerie Valentia something to remember me by, like the old song says, and I was saving the first hockey stick I ever handled after I started to play with the Pumas to give Miss Valerie Valentia as a sort of souvenir. It was pretty much bunged up and no good for a stick any more, so I had been keeping it in my room, and I did not get to this restaurant with the rest of the gang but went over afterward in a taxi by myself.
“This party is being held in a private room upstairs, so the waiter or somebody shows me the door, and I open it and walk in, and here is Martin Acton standing inside the door with his back to me.
“You know how it is in these swell restaurants. There was lights in the ceiling but they was not turned on, and all the light come from lamps on the table that had heavy shades over them, so that I cannot see very well. But this fellow is just about the size of Martin Acton and he has black hair, and right away I think here is that heel, Martin Acton, but I cannot sock him on the jaw like I said because of this being in Miss Valerie Valentia’s party. “Next thing I know, this fellow that I
think is Martin Acton has turned round, and right away I see that he has a white camelya in his buttonhole. Also he has something in his hand, but I do not know that it is a gun, on account of the lights being so dim, until he lets go at me and there is a bang and I know then that this fellow is shooting at me.
“Well, I was good and sore at Martin Acton anyway, and when I see this white camelya I think that is rubbing it in a bit too thick, and then when he takes a shot at me I figure this is just another one of his jokes, but he is asking for it and I will give it to him. All this come off quicker than I can tell it, and I take a jump at him and swing on him with my hockey stick and give him a good cut over the head. His gun goes off again, and then I give him the butt end plenty right in the ribs, and I swing on him again; only he is folding up and I do not land on his conk but on his schnozzle, and that is how his schnozzle come to be busted. Then he goes down and I drop my stick and pile into him with my hands because I want to get in a couple of socks in the jaw, and then somebody j switches on the lights in the roof, and I see that it is not Martin Acton at all but some j fellow that I have never seen before, and j that he is out cold.
“Well, there is a lot of fighting, and all the women are screaming like women always do when something breaks loose even if it is only in a hockey game, because it seems that when I socked this little fellow all the other fellows in his gang that has been going through Major Wardman and the other guests and taking their wallets and their jewellery, turns around to see what is coming off, and right away the rest of our fellows piles into them, swinging chairs; and when you get twelve or fifteen hockey players swinging chairs, what chance has two or three punks of gunmen, because a gun is practically no good at all when you cannot see to aim it on account of having a chair hung around your neck?
“That is all that come off. Somebody brings in the cops, and they drag this little guy off to the hospital together with another guy that has a cracked skull where my roomie, Herbie Thomas, socks him with a bottle, and the rest of them they took to jail, I guess. Then some detectives are snooping around, and they figure this gang come up the fire escape, and then they scram and we get a chance to have something to eat, and it was about time because all that exercise had made me hungry. And that's all there was to it.”
“But,” I said, “great grief! What did you think when you found you had knocked out Louie the Gat, the most notorious gangster in New York?”
"Aw, nerts! He was only a little punk.
I bet if they turned us Pumas loose in New York and give us a hockey stick apiece there wouldn’t be a gangster left in town inside a week.
“The only thing makes me sore,” concluded Beefy Bannister, “is that it was Louie the Gat I socked and not that heel, Martin Acton.