Eugene Kramer is not just my father. As Talker’s jazz critic and baseball historian, Eugene is an indispensable staff member.
That said, working with Eugene often proves challenging for the editorial board. Among our stable of writers, Eugene is known as bit of a prima donna. We trace Eugene’s prickly style to a brush he once had with literary greatness (besides his own): T.S. Eliot.
As seen in The Artist and the Critic: 8 Famous Author/Editor relationships, poet Charles McGrath once called Pound and Eliot the “‘Odd Couple’ of 20th-century poetry” with Pound as Oscar Madison and Eliot as Felix Unger.
We wish Eugene could be more like the sports writer Oscar, pounding out his copy indifferent to clutter or chaos.
Alas, Eugene is much like what McGrath said of Eliot: fussy, clerkish, conservative in both politics and religion.
But as Eugene’s final producs put The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to shame, we are tolerant.
As the story goes, in 1951 when Eugene was an M.A. student at the University of Chicago, he attended a lecture by Eliot.
At the lecture, Eugene chatted with Eliot, who signed his autograph in Eugene’s leather bound notebook. In the notebook, Eugene jotted down his observations of the evening, include a remark about the kind of cigarettes Eliot smoked.
(Alas, despite an exhaustive search, the autograph and notebook cannot be found. Eugene believes the cigarettes were Kents.)
The evening with Mr. Eliot proceeded with apparent promise. Enamored by Eugene’s aplomb with the preeminent figure of Anglo-American letters, his date – a comely young lady of 19 or 20 – invited Eugene back to her family home for him to read to her poesy,
Upon arriving at the house – and slipping into the young woman’s boudoir – the pair was joined by the equally comely younger sister. Looking like double duty poesy for Eugene. Eugene seemed on the cusp of the proverbial – and for him unprecedented before or since – trio.
But throughout the interlude, Eugene was wary and distracted by the proximity of the parents whose own bedroom was directly above. Acting rather Prufrockian himself, at the proverbial moment of decision, Eugene vacillated. He took the opportunity to leave, or as he says, escape.
While this love song has not been told until now, for decades before their disappearance, Eugene regaled audiences with the autograph and leather bound notebook, believing he carries forward within himself the under recognized mantle of Eliot’s genius.
Hence, Eugene’s imperious attitude toward the other “hacks” on staff.
In Thanks, Mom! we recounted T.S’s long suffering wife’s equally indispensable role in the magazine. On Father’s Day, it is Eugene’s turn.
You first met Eugene in Vivid memories of the four year Super Bowl run. There you met Taylor Ray, one of Eugene’s groupies.
During Taylor’s appearance at a pep rally before the 1991 Bills-Giants Super Bowl XXV, the legally clad erotic artist wearing a body suit did make an indecent proposal that she and Eugene run away together to Tahiti.
Happily married — and because Taylor misspelled his name — Gene steadfastly refused, and Taylor had to settle for Hugh Hefner.
Throughout the life of the magazine, Eugene — our own Roger Angell — has been the “go to” baseball guy.
In On Yogi Berra and Dale Berra and the 1973 World Series and Willie Mays and my father, you saw Eugene’ 80th birthday gift. And relived the bitterness of ’41 when Eugene’s waving of his lucky bat in a Manhattan apartment failed to prevent Mickey Owen from dropping the third strike.
In Street & Smith’s now defunct. Here is Kramer & Kramer’s Official 2016 Yearbook ,Eugene made the bold but implausible prediction of a Subway Series: Mets-Yankees. For this article, we gave him the chance to retract. Not Nostadamus. Eugene says A-Rod is playing juicy again. Eugene foresees Tanaka winning the Wild Card Playoff Game.
In Royals 4 – Mets 3. An opening day World Series rematch with Eugene Kramer, Eugene did not panic when the Mets lost on Opening Day.
In “An early-spring renewal of the spirit” over 10,000 fungos later, you saw his vintage DiMaggio glove in action. The same glove seen in this previously unpublished photograph from 1974.
In 70 years ago today when Jackie Robinson broke the color line at Red Wings Stadium was his 85th birthday gift.
In NY Times asks for help with “A Jackie Robinson Mystery.” Well, Eugene Kramer was there. (Almost), Eugene added to the historical record a memory of his meeting Jackie and Roy Campanella on the CCNY campus. And there he is at 19 with Louis Armstrong.
Pivoting from groupies and baseball to music, in On the road from Texas to Brighton for the love of jazz we saw Eugene willing to share his jazz heyday collection with the world.
And in Visiting a Talker haunt: the Brickyard Trail with Leslie Frances and Audrey Eugene was there when his daughter and grand daughter broke the ghosts’ cell phone encryption.
Recently unearthed photographic evidence adds much credence to that claim.
As for that hard-to-come-by complete Howard the Duck collection, my father bought the series one by one in 1976 and 77, enamored with its puckish, bookish, lady slaying hero, Howard. The rarest issue is the British version of #1, purchased by Eugene for 9 pence.
True, our life might be easier if Eugene were more like Ezra Pound — “a yapper, provocateur and shameless self-promoter with a radical opinion on just about anything” — a Talker if there ever was one.
But if Eugene writes another Wasteland or solves another Jackie Robinson mystery or is right about the Subway Series, we’ll keep him on staff.