Weegee by Weegee

Once, we were all packed and ready to leave, but it proved to be a false alarm. The money my father had sent over turned out to be stage money. We didn’t know that he had sent it as a joke… the money looked real enough to us. On one side each bill said, “20.” On the other side was the joker… on the back of what looked like gorgeous twenties, the Madison Avenue boys of 1910 had printed advertisements for everything from sewing machines to phonographs. To my mother in Austria, Father had sent a dozen of these beauties… two hundred and forty dollars. Overjoyed, she took them to the bank in our town of Zlothev. The bank, without a question, exchanged these “throwaways” for good Austrian money. Mother bought steamship tickets for the whole flock of us and still had money left over. We were ready to leave for Hamburg, where we were to go aboard, when the bank officials came after us. They had made a mistake. The money Father had sent was phony! So we had to unpack and wait until he could send real money.

Father kept on working. By this time, he had decided that he could do better as his own boss with a pushcart. When the second shipment of money came to Zlothev, it was O.K., and the five of us, Mother, my three brothers and Weegee, could leave by first-class steerage.
Weegee by Weegee, pp. 8-9

Even in those days, I was one of the night people. We lived next door to the public school but I just couldn’t get up in the morning. When I heard the school bell ringing, I jumped out of bed, dressed quickly and dashed to class . . . no breakfast. Lunchtime, I returned home. My mother had a light, warm lunch for me and, also, a penny for a piece of candy.
Weegee by Weegee, p. 10

After the sweat-shops I stationed myself at the elevated station at the Third Avenue “L” at Bowery and Grand. Often I was chased by the special cops of the elevated because the candy stands up on the platforms considered me unfair competition. But I always came back. I stayed on until I had sold out my stock, at about eight o’clock at night, and then proudly went home to hand over my money, in pennies and nickels, to my mother.
Weegee by Weegee, p. 12

Every day to work I wore a white shirt, reasonably clean, with a hard Arrow collar and tie, and knickers. My mother gave me a couple of sandwiches and fifteen cents, ten cents for carfare and a nickel for a pint of milk. Many mornings, when there was no money, I had to take my alarm clock to the pawnshop. I hocked it for half a dollar. On pay day, I always redeemed that clock. Big Ben spent more time in the hock shop than with me.
Weegee by Weegee, p. 15

(Weegee’s mother, Rivka Felig , in Chapter 1, Tintype, from Weegee by Weegee, 1961…)

“One case that I broke concerned a girl who was going around holding up only Child’s Restaurants. (She must have like their blue-plate special.) She was making a monkey out of the cops… I remembered having photographed a girl about a year before [1936], who had gotten into a knife fight with another girl over the affections of their mutual ‘Pineapple’ (pimp). Even true love can be overdone, and the unromantic cops pinched her. On the way to the court I photographed her in the patrol wagon, smiling brazenly with a rose between her teeth. ‘Spanish Rose’ was my title for the shot and it made the front pages…”
“On a hunch, I showed the picture of this girl to a detective friend who was working on the case. We went around to the different Child’s Restaurants. One cashier after another identified her as the gun-girl. Soon she was picked up and brought to the West Sixty-fifth Street stationhouse. Her gun turned out to be wooden. While the other photographers were waiting to get her picture, and while she was telling her life story to the cops, I was out selling my picture of her. It made every New York paper but one… The Times ran four lines on the story, but no picture…”
Weegee by Weegee, 1961, pp. 61-62

Elevator to the Gallows, 2009, p. 127


“I once helped the cops capture a gun-girl. A very beautiful brunette was going around upper Broadway holding up Child’s restaurants. The cops were at their wits’ ends as it made them look very foolish. I was getting annoyed because every time a restaurant was held up I had to go and make pictures which distracted me from Murder Inc., which was my true love. On a hunch, I remembered that some months ago, I had taken a picture of a girl, “Spanish Rose,” who had a little knifing match with another girl over a boy friend. I had taken pictures when the girl was arrested. I played detective and took the photos of the pretty knife-wielder around to the restaurant cashiers who had been held up. They all identified her as the one who had been taking their cash. The cops picked her up quickly and it turned out she had been terrorizing the cashiers with a wooden gun. I think I did her a great favor. The sob sisters went to work on her. She sold her confession to the New York Sunday Mirror, made guest appearances on radio and TV, programs and retired to a life of ease.”

What in the world is Weegee talking about? Perhaps Weegee is talking about Norma Parker, the Broadway Gungirl, the coy moll who chewed gum and dressed in black… There are a few similar details: stabbing a girl over a guy, a toy gun, 65th St., West 65th or West 68th St police stations, holdups in restaurants or cafes, etc… Perhaps, 24 years later, Weegee gilded the rose (“to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow”) a bit… The tellings in 1953 and 1961 are very similar. In the next few posts we’ll look a Norma Parker’s arrest in a few tabloids of the time…

Daily News, February 16, 1937 (NEWS foto) – Weegee photo
[Norma Parker, the Girl in Black, in a West 68th St. police station.]

Screenshot from a museum’s website… Weegee’s photos of Norma Parker…

PM Newspaper
PM Daily, June 8, 1941
“The Cumfort Hotel, an unoccupied flop house at 21 Bowery, was swept by fire yesterday. Battalion Chief Patrick Carey and Fireman Thomas Deady fell from a ladder while climbing to the roof. Here is Deady being taken to a hospital where he was found to be suffering from concussion of the brain. Chief Carey suffered only bruises.
PM Photo by Weegee

Weegee Daily, June 8, 2013
The Cumfort Hotel, now the Confucius Florist, at 21 Bowery, was swept by… a broom :-)…
WD Photos by Ceegee

21-bowery-2013-08e copy
WD Photos by Google Street View…

WD Photo by Google Street View

To be continued…