The new J. Press Spring/Summer Brochure regenerated my seersucker blood lust. It also rekindled my seersucker time on the off-Broadway stage.
George Axelrod’s play “The Seven Year Itch” lit up Broadway in 1952 and stayed there for 1,141 performances. The star, Tom Ewell, a dedicated J.Press fan, won a Tony Award, although his performance was later dimmed in the movie version when he was paired opposite Marilyn Monroe.
Once upon a time during J. Press off-seasons I pursued a part-time acting career. Engaged to perform the Tom Ewell role as the off-Broadway revival was starting rehearsal, I gave Mr. Ewell a call having met him several times in the 44th Street store sharing theatre talk. “Any suggestions how to play the role,” I asked him. “Why don’t you give Johnny Gerstad, director of the original Broadway show a call? I’ll ask him to give it a look.” On Ewell’s recommendation Gerstad followed through, a neighborly courtesy considering he lived on Sutton Place nearby only a few blocks from the theatre. A delightfully witty gentleman possessing well-earned theatre savvy, he unofficially joined the team as an onlooker offering many helpful hints. Dave McNitt, our real time director with summer theatre experience was grateful for the Broadway veteran’s tutorial. Gerstad also directed Eddie Albert in the successful London run. He ended our stint with a winking bribe, “How about gifting me a J. Press seersucker suit like the one you wear in the show?” I plead guilty.
Taking time out from my mainstream obligation running the J. Press store on 44th Street, my problem as an actor in the Tom Ewell role of the 1977 off-Broadway 37 performance run was to make the spurious extra-marital affair a laugh provoking kerfuffle. My beautiful seasoned brunette stage wife (not unlike my real-life wife) was obviously far more with-it and attractive than the busty dim-witted blonde I was attempting to seduce. Gerstad clued me in, “Play him like a schmuck.”
The original play was an amiable piece reflecting the culture and social mores of the so-called Heyday of Ivy during the Eisenhower years. My character, a mid-level Madison Avenue advertising manager, lived in a rent-stabilized apartment on Gramercy Park. Wife and young son go off to Cape Cod for a vacation while the summer bachelor is left in the sweltering city with a pre-television era radio and only baseball games to listen to. He has promised his wife he won’t smoke or drink. Suddenly a potted plant drops onto his terrace narrowly missing him. Its owner, a single girl renting upstairs, is in his horny eyes a drop dead knockout. Richard, my eponymously named stage character, invites her down for a drink.
Ending Act I, leaving the blonde asleep in the marital bed, I entered stage front mournfully bleating Kurt Weill’s soulful “September Song.” In frayed bedroom slippers, untied ancient Madder necktie dangling over unbuttoned blue cotton Oxford button-down shirt with matching blue cotton Oxford drawer undershorts, grey seersucker suit fitfully tossed in a moment of passion on the living room floor, I let loose my shameful lament.
Appropriate for my off-stage of life today and 43 years later, summertime still finds me garbed in a J. Press cotton Oxford and seersucker suit.
I always look forward to and enjoy your Ivy stories!
Richard, I loved the seersucker memories. Although I have a couple of pairs of seersucker trousers, my seersucker suit has been replaced by a tan poplin suit, unfortunately.
As a matter of clarification, wasn’t Chipp on the second floor across the street from J. Press?
Stay safe and keep the stories coming.
I remember your 44th Street store. Chipp was almost next door to you.
I have been wearing Seersucker, Madras and Linen attire for years. The younger generation doesn’t know what looking dapper means. .When in Washington again I will stop in your store..
G. Richard Morris
P>S> It must be interesting to hear from two G, Richard’s the same day
Great stories- I loved the movie and can see how it was a play. Who could keep up with Monroe!
Let’s hope this summer- we will be wearing our seersucker in force! I will be there!
One of my favourite films, have only seen three versions of the stage version, but I endeavour to watch the Ewell/Monroe film every Summer, and have managed it, with a glass of Champagne and a bagful of potato chips (!) since the late 1970s. Well done for posting your engaging memories – so much more valuable than just a fading photograph of some clothing! Even when the clothing is our beloved J Press! Thank you for keeping traditions, and Tradition, alive. Stay safe, sane and sage in these trying times.
Richard, Love your posts. Be well and keep them coming. I love my jsqueeze stuff — even the jackets I no longer fit into.
My best seersucker suit was a grey model manufactured by Corbin in the mid-1980s and sold by a small haberdasher, J. Craig, in Greensboro, North Carolina. I bought it out of storage in the attic sight unseen for fifty dollars! I wore it to work and church regularly, and even once used it as beach wear frolicking in the surf at Oak Island!
Thought Tom Ewell was great in the movie, in his JPRESS seersucker, wish I could have seen him on Broadway.
Richard and I are of the same vintage, while I am Big Ten and he is Ivy, I can relate to all his stories. Please keep them coming.
Great memories !!!!