Wednesday 15 April 2015

"Excuse my dust"

"Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, 'Excuse my dust'. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988." (via)

“Heterosexuality is not normal, it's just common.” 
Dorothy Parker

US-American poet, critic, satirist and short story writer Dorothy Parker, neé Dorothy Rothshild, was born on 22 August 1893. During the 1930s and 1940s, she became an advocate for civil rights and supported the foundation of the "Hollywood Anti-Nazi League" in 1936. The league was suspected to be communist and Parker ended up on the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy era (with a 1.000-page dossier on her) (via). In 1943, she applied to join the Women's Army Corps, the women's branch of the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1978, but was rejected due to her age. Her conclusion: "People ought to be one of two things, young or old. No; what's the good of fooling? People ought to one of two things, young or dead." (via).

In "Arrangement in Black and White" (1930), Parker describes the "well meaning racism" of a white woman who sees herself as progressive. The woman has a conversation with a friend of her husband at a party for a famous black musician. While the woman's husband's racist attitude is more obvious, in fact, he refuses to go the the party because he thinks that it is wrong to socialise with blacks, the woman's racist attitude is more complex - as the following excerpt illustrates (via):
“I am,” she said. “I know I am. Poor Burton! Now, me, I don't feel that way at all. I haven't the slightest feeling about colored people. Why, I'm just crazy about some of them. They're just like children – just as easygoing, and always singing and laughing and everything. Aren't they the happiest things you ever saw in your life? Honestly, it makes me laugh just to hear them. Oh, I like them. I really do. Well, now, listen, I have this colored laundress, I've had her for years, and I'm devoted to her. She's a real character. And I want to tell you, I think of her as my friend. That's the way I think of her. As I say to Burton, 'Well, for heaven's sakes, we're all human beings!' Aren't we?” (via)
Dorothy Parker passed away on 7 June 1967 at the age of 73. In her will, she stated her estate of $ 20.000,- (via) be given to Martin Luther King, Jr. (via) who she had never met (via). After his death, her estate was passed to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (via) which was a wish of hers if "something should happen to Martin Luther King". Today, the NAACP controls her literary rights. Parker was originally from New Jersey and considered New York City as her hometown. Her ashes, however, can be found at the headquarters of the NAACP in Baltimore, a place she had no connections with during her lifetime (via).
"That goddamn bitch Dorothy Parker. . . . You won't believe what she's done. I paid her hotel bill at the Volney for years, kept her in booze, paid for her suicide attempts—all on the promise that when she died, she would leave me the rights to her writing. . . . But what did she do? She left them directly to the NAACP. Damn her!" Lillian Hellman

photographs via and via and via and via

More on Dorothy Parker: Spartacus Educational


  1. I want a D. Parker poster for my studio wall!

  2. Replies
    1. Absolutely. Everything about her is cool... Her quotes, her texts, and, in particular, her look when her picture is taken ;-)