This morning, seeking distraction from COVID and Trump, I switched to TCM. There was Leo Gorcey and the East Side Kids, co-starring with Bela Lugosi and a 2’11” dwarf (Angelo Rossitta), who got his start playing opposite Lon Chaney. The East Side Kids starred in 21 films; before that, as the Dead End Kids, they had starred in seven (and a Broadway play), and later, as the Bowery Boys, in another 41, which is when I first met them, and at the conclusion of this run Gorcey was 39, a “kid” or “boy” no more. Except there. a stumpy, cocky screen presence the leader of the gang, all the way.
But never above 5’6″. Which wasn’t bad, since his father, a Jewish immigrant, was 4’10” and his mother, an Irish Catholic one, was 4’11” They were vaudevillians, so Leo, while more-than-half-a-foot better nourished, had sawdust, as they say, in his veins.
He had five wives, the first of whom, a dancer, was 15 and, after their divorce, she became Groucho Marx’s second.
An alcoholic, Gorcey died of cirrhosis of the liver at 52. He could have been on Sgt. Pepper’s cover, but he demanded money and was painted out.
Probably more than you wanted to know.
Only in America, I couldn’t help thinking.