Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The Early Follies of Cap'n Joey and Worth B. Carnahan / W.B.C. Pt. 7

at Flickr 

Get the cover to cover scan here

or you can view it online or grab a .pdf of the issue at the Internet Archive here.

Worth Carnahan, 1924.  The November edition of Burten's Follies, the Turkey number.  Perhaps Carnahan's first published magazine cover.  An appropriate way to start a post on Carnahan's earliest work in New York City, eh?  A deceptively layered cover with in the interplay of form and shadow.  And after Cap'n Joey Burten's heart, too, no doubt.  F is for flapper and F is for football, two of Burten's keenest interests. 

Based on the date of Carnahan's marriage to Genevieve discussed in the previous post and the fact that Carnahan says he worked in Connecticut for two years after before striking out for "the big time", that would put the Carnahan's arrival in The Big Apple around September of 1924 which just happens to be the same month he first appears in Burten's Follies, sounding his arrival to the magazine with a single illustration in the September issue of Follies.

An edited image via Will Straw, who has most kindly supplied me with a wealth of materials regarding Joey Burten for my investigation of Carnahan.  I've linked Will's pages before (and here is a fantastic page he's put up that has some great information on Burten as well a wonderful gallery of magazine covers).  Will has been working on a book on Stephen Clow (a notorious publisher in his own right and occasional contributor to Follies himself) which has material on Burten as well as other publishers in the Broadway/Scandal/Artists and Models milieu.

I've spent the last couple of days reading Burten's publication leading up to Carnahan's arrival, and it's been quite the trip.  Joey Burten (born Joseph G. Bernstein, I'm assuming he Americanized his name like so many others of that time to fit in) is an interesting character to say the least.  I haven't been able to find very much in the way of hard information outside of what other pulp scholars have written and even some of those bits of background seem iffy.  Born in New York in 1893, his brother was Morris Bernstein who was also in the publishing business and also on Statements of Ownership for Follies beginning in 1923. Burten had a lengthy football career in that he played for LSU starting in 1914 which would have had him starting his schooling at 21.  Burten described himself as a rolling stone, and if his constant tales of travel and ribaldry in his magazines are to be believed, it's no surprise he started school a bit late.  He played in 1915 and 1916 as well but then went off to World War I where he would make lieutenant in the Army.  Burten doesn't write about his war experiences in Follies often, and when he does he seems haunted by the experience (like most WWI veterans who had been through that meatgrinder). Burten returned to LSU for his last year of football eligibility in 1919, and would play up into his publishing career playing for the New York Giants in 1921 (different Giants than we know now) and the Rock Island Independents out of Illinois during the Fall season from 1923-1925. He's listed in the football records at 6'0" 205 lbs.  In the December 1923 issue of Follies, Burten writes, "Art Williams who is the whole show on sports in the Middle West printed that I was some 'plunging fullback.' In refutation, Art, let me tell you that I'm the best in the world when it comes to plunging my fork into a mess of potatoes, and I don't mean maybe."

It so happens that the only picture of Burten I've ever seen is in the issue I shared at the top of this post.  Here's Burten next to Jim Thorpe.  You think Beau (Jackson) knows, but Jim Thorpe is the most versatile athlete I've ever heard of, winning a a gold medal in both the pentathlon and the decathlon in the 1912 Summer Olympics and then going on to play six seasons of Major League Baseball, play for six National Football League teams (as well as other pro football leagues), and even play on a traveling pro all Native American basketball team.  And that's not even getting into the All-Star/All-American/number of championship accomplishments or his career in college sports.  We've got some territory in common, as he spent some time at Haskell Indian College in my hometown of Lawrence, KS.  They still lift hard at the fitness center at Haskell named after the man 💪 I imagine Thorpe and Burten got on like gangbusters on the Rock Island Independents (and probably drank the rest of the team under the table, good lord.)

The mysterious Celestine Vichy provides caption.  Vichy is often referred to as an on again off again lover girl of Burten, though both Vichy and Burten seem to have plenty of amorous adventures on their own.  Vichy is described as a sporting woman herself, ready to hop in the ring with any woman that will put on a pair of gloves (or man for that matter).  And I better give a close-up crop of Burten here, too, just in case this really is the only picture that makes it to the internet of the guy.  Heaven forbid he goes down in perpetuity in a pulpy photograph wearing a goofy helmet and the letter 8, obscurity might be better ><

But I'd be selling Burten short if I were to categorize him only as a football player.  He's a joker, a traveler, a lover, and a poet.  He was a hustler with such a vivid imagination that it's incredibly hard for me to cipher out what's real and what's imagined in the yarns he spins in his magazines.   Here's this fullback living in Greenwich Village with all sorts of bohemian artists, poets, and free love types, hob-knobbing with the celebrities of the day but also apparently partaking in globe-trotting of the most adventurous variety.   His magazines contain many distinct editorial and poetic voices, and I've no doubt he had help with his magazines, but I also have to wonder how many of the pseudonymous contributors are figments and how many are real people.  Adding to the mystery in all this is that, in risque magazines, authors,artists, and editors deigned to give their real names because of the risk of obscenity blow back. Money men and distributors always had the smaller fish (like Burten) taking all the risk on the paperwork as figureheads so that they would be fall guys when decency groups managed to get somebody hauled off to court for obscenity.  Which is a little puzzling for the modern reader, because it is very hard to recognize these charming little magazines as smut.

I didn't really mean to get into all these details regarding Burten, but I don't think I can set the stage for Carnahan's entry without looking at the nature of the mag and the couple of years that came before he arrived.  Cap'n Joey's Jazza Ka Jazza (which would turn into Cap'n Joey's Follies then Follies then Burten's Follies) started as a Greenwich village version of the folk humor that made Capt. Billy's Whiz-Bang a success out of Minnesota.  It started out very simplistic in terms of graphics. Bruce Long has scanned a couple of the early issues which are available at the Internet Archive, a *fantastic* contribution, and the image below is from his scan of the second issue:

"Jule," 1922.  Or here's the cover of the following issue courtesy Will Straw.

I suspect "Jule" here as well.  I do think the graphics are very striking in their simple wildness, and I love the colored cover stock.

After a single wrap of photos, Joey opens issue number two touting the success of the first issue and alluding to his Greenwich Village den.  The copyright registration card for the second issue lists Burten's residence as 39 7th Street in the village (and I do get a kick out of Google streetviewing these addresses, perhaps Joey lived above the space that is now a Subway).
How appropriate is the quotation from the NYT here as celebration of Rabelaisian comedy. Even the most star-aspiring amongst us are motivated by the same Darwinian drives shared by the lowest primate - the juxtaposition of the two makes for great comedy and the art of the 20s mined that vein in art high and low.
The following page:
By the fourth issue, Burten is upping his game in terms of graphic and production quality.  One hallmark of the 20s magazine market was that it was ever-changing and quickly.   Magazines like the Whiz-Bang or Cap'n Joey's learned that the public wanted not only people's humor but photos, illustration, and novelty.  The magazines that were initially produced for a nickel and sold for a quarter needed to up their game if they were to stand out from the newsstand competition.  From the slick section at the center of issue four printed in green ink, an account of Joey, the mysterious Celestine, and circulation-manager Rozatski attendance at the Quat'z Arts Ball at Tammany Hall after the Parisian tradition:
Subject unknown, Celestine Vichy?  Hard to know, the subject of artist's model is a constant topic of ribaldry in the era (and, indeed, I refer to a whole genre of magazine as artists and models mag - someday I'll get hot and heavy into that maze of publications of which later incarnations of this very mag were a part).  The copyright registration card for this issue lists Burten's address as 44 Greenwich Ave (Perhaps his den was above what is now the Greenwich Treehouse and Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers).  By the sixth issue, Jo Burten is still the copyright claimant, but the publisher and printer is listed in the copyright registration as Bohemian Mag. Co., Inc, the namesake of the "Bohemian Group" of magazines of which Worth Carnahan would be engraver and art director for almost immediately upon his arrival on the scene.  There are *many* other players within the magazines and behind the scenes in the printing and distribution aspects of this group that played key parts in the magazine history of the first half of the 20th century.  

For the second volume which would appear quarterly starting with the Pre-Spring Number in 1923, the magazine title pivots from  Cap'n Joey's Jazza Ka Jazza to Cap'n Joey's Follies (after the various Follies of Broadway no doubt) and the format switched from humor digest to a full magazine size on a slicker variety of paper.  Not high-end by any means but aspirational with color covers, more space for higher quality advertisements (though still mostly local clients), much more spot and full page illustration, photos all over the place and an increasing number of contributors art-wise and article-wise, whereas previously you get the feeling Joey was doing most of the penmanship himself.  Necessary because Joey was a traveling man?  Investors come aboard because of the obvious opportunity the Jazza Ka Jazza's success provided?  An increasingly competitive magazine environment that demanded novelty at every turn? I'd say so.  The first cover of the second volume, courtesy of Will Straw's page on Burten:

Starting with this issue and running through the first five issues of the volume, Burten is listed as Travelling Editor while the Assistant Editor is ostensibly a Jeff Jiggs. During this year, Burten spins tales of trips to visit rum runners in the Bahamas, adventures in the wild oil boom towns of Oklahoma, as well as happenings in various town in the rust belt (assuming these last travels were during football season). Starting with this issue, the address for the Bohemian Mag. Co. is listed at 1416 Broadway, in the heart of Tin Pan Alley, and, indeed, there seems to be many ties between Burten and the song printers and publishers of Broadway.  New contributors like Albert Vargas, Harry Glynn, and Merle Hersey, and Dan Baker would make contributions.  Beginning with the May 1924 edition, Wayne Sabbath would be listed as Assistant Editor, a name that would be linked to Burten for much of his later career.  The art was getting better and better, partly because of "borrowing" of foreign material from France's La Vie Pariesienne and the UK cartoons of Starr Wood, but also with the addition of American artists like Chas. A. Smith, Millard Hopper, and Phil Love.  Also, the photography improves, as credited photos from John de Mirjian start to appear. And then our man, Carnahan comes on the scene.
At this point, I'm going to kind of drift off here from a sequential history of Burten's Follies and just get into sharing issues and Worth Carnahan pieces. When exactly Carnahan becomes the art editor isn't clear, but I'd say pretty fast.  I have a feeling his engraving experience was a great boon to the enterprise along with the layout skills, and starting with the cover that opened this the post, Carnahan is given the cover for the next seven issues (between Burten's Follies and Follies Quarterly), always a sign of publisher's favor (not to mention strong sales).
But Carnahan's first credit begins with this issue from the month before the issue I led this article with.  The issue is an old scan of mine October 1924 issue of Follies (from before I had a proper interest in Carnahan) and was edited by my long lost pal, McCoy.
Cover to cover scan available here.
Online viewing and .pdf available at the IA here.
"The People Be Tickled," and I imagine Carnahan was pleased to see his name in print amongst the contributors on the frontispiece:
Artist unknown, possibly Wayne Sabbath, as W.S. signed below a variation of the same frontispiece in the next issue.  Also unknown is why Worth Carnahan is credited as R. Carnahan in a number of these contributors lists, but there is plenty of funny business going on with other names in these as well.
Here's Carnahan using one of his many signatures, simply a C (which he had a number of variations on).  I suspect the illustration may be an adaptation from La Vie Parisienne:

Or here's one made up of a series of small figures, a common sighting in the artists and models magazine and girlie pulps, as you might be able to squeeze a little lass in many a spot on these pages.  The signature has a W, B, and C, cramped into one spot, he hadn't come up with his distinctive "bug" signature yet that combined his initials in a stamp-like configuration.

One more illustration from the issue, not from Carnahan but a self-portrait by Burten himself, caveman indeed.  If I'm including a photo of him looking goofy in the old-school football helmet, I might as well give another option in the portraiture department, heh heh

More Worth Carnahan, from the following month's issue linked at the top of the post.  Already in just the third issue he's appeared in for Burten, Carnahan has the cover spot as well as a couple of feature illustrations.  The Leg of Nations:

at Flickr. I like his signature on that one.

I particularly enjoy this one, impressions of a newcomer to the Playboy's Frolic:

and some fun spot illustrations (which are fairly small on a three column page) from the issue...

The Turkey Number.  Meditating on a turkey?  Quite the bird.

 There's a zen to these.

One last cartoon from Carnahan for this post.

I've got more W.B.C. Follies material share and ruminations on the evolution of the magazine but think looking at the first three issues of Carnahan appearances is a nice stopping point.  I'd stress that though I'm focusing on a single artist in a some of these Carnahan posts I'll be doing that there is all sorts of neat material in these issues, go ahead and thumb through 'em and see what there is to see :)

I'm feeling happy about the trajectory of my Carnahan project here and realize there's still so much ahead to get to.  Still, I'm gonna be mixing up the subject matter here in a couple of posts going forward.  I've been scanning so many neat magazines and have so many ongoing and newfound investigations.  Like this rooster, I believe the next couple posts will be on some recent discoveries, and I'll write about some new subjects while I do some further edits behind the scenes regarding Mr. Carnahan.  (From the first issue of Frank Armer's Whoopee! April 1929):

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