Day 5 Bedazzled by the amount of fake bling on Canal Street I make my way to Tribeca to have brunch at Bubby’s with an old Post journalist, who gives me the telephone number of a man whose father was a famous silent movie stunter.
As the sun edged over the top of a particularly spectacular office building I called him on my mobile. The voice that answered seemed tired but when I explained who I was and what I was researching I heard the voice become more energised. We agree to meet near central Park in an old coffee shop on Madison.
Sometime around noon sitting in a booth in Viand, sipping my third cup of coffee of the day, an ancient man hobbles in, after some introductions I settle down to the most entertaining hour I have had so far in New York.
I am in the presence of Ben Cassidy, the son of Cal Cassidy, who was one of the legendary publicists of the 1900’s. Ben has a pile of his fathers old papers in a huge attaché case, it is a rich seam of information.. There are about six diaries dated 1915 to 1921 which a first glance seemed to be the real McCoy. I manage to persuade Ben to lend me the stash. I have every intention of cross referencing them with both the Reichenbach and Nottage files. He is pretty frail and seemed overjoyed to hear about my book, he is passionate about getting his fathers endeavours on the record. We talked long into the afternoon and passed on some great anecdotal stuff to accompany the archive.
One of his better stories concerned a travelling circus his father promoted. When the show visited Boston he set up one of the acts , a chimpanzee called Hokusai named after the eccentric Japanese artist. The story spun was that the ape was the reincarnation of the artist and to a gathered assembly of academics he got the monkey to prove the claim. The challenge set was to conduct a public experiment to see if the chimp could repaint the artists best known work called The Wave. After five minutes the experiment morphed into a riot with more paint being splashed on the art cognoscenti hired to adjudicate, than on the canvas. Fortunately it generated the required ink. Unfortunately the chimp proved to be a pitiable artist and a local paper uncovered the scam discovering that the monkey was really called Joanie and had never picked up a brush before the public trial.