Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snakes and Fish

"The best tippers ('fish') and the worst ('snakes') were well known to the Pullman porters, by occupation and name. Grooms were fish, to impress their blushing brides. Musicians were skinflints, actors marginally more philanthropic, journalists sugar daddies. Baseball players - especially Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson - were cheapskates. They let off steam by punching the stuffing out of their pillows or lathering windows with shaving cream - and left the porter not a penny. Ditto with boarding school brats. Valets held on to money their masters intended for tips. Drunks and hookers were almost as generous as mobsters. So were salesmen, moms with kids, Jack Dempsey, and nearly everyone who rode the Twentieth Century Limited. Sammy Davis Jr. would hand over twenty dollars 'as soon as he looked at you,' agreed porters who waited on him, but pals Peter Lawford and Jack Benny were snakes who snuck out the back door. George M. Cohan, Morton Downey, 'Diamond Jim' Brady, and Humphrey Bogart were grand, Jay Gould miserable. Old man Rockefeller would hand over a mere penny; his wife discreetly added a dollar. Japanese were the most generous foreign businessmen, followed by Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians and Russians. Adhering to the adage 'watch what I do, not what I say,' porters themselves tipped big after eating in the dining car."

- Larry Tye, "Rising from the Rails"

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