History of The Tip
A mercurial personality, who didn’t suffer fools gladly, Miles was at first amused by this presumptuous California car dealer who had stopped by the great man’s apartment building unbidden. For four days straight, Miles talked to Mickey over the intercom. Once, he even loudly blew his horn into it, after which Mickey could hear him laughing. But Mickey, ever the used-car salesman, was undaunted. And on the fifth day, the jazzman, perhaps short on funds, invited him up. As Miles recounted in his autobiography, the two had a cocktail (Pernod on the rocks) in the apartment, and then the trumpeter invited Mickey to take them both out on the town. More or less, for a month.
Miles was on a booze and heroin bender, and “Mickey the Millionaire,” as Miles called him to everyone they met, was his perfect pigeon.
In the course of their 28 consecutive days of carousing, the “odd couple of cool,” as Whitney Balliet dubbed them in the New Yorker, cut a swath through the Big Apple wide enough to end up as, well, a Whitney Balliet item in the New Yorker (June 17, 1950 issue). They were tossed out of the “21” Club after a drunk and high Miles climbed on the back of a booth and grabbed the little electric train that ran around the perimeter of the storied main room. Miles made Mickey buy a continuous evening’s worth of drinks for everyone at Toots Shor’s, while the jazz great and Frank Sinatra cackled like high school bullies in the corner.
With Mickey’s money, they rented the presidential suite atop the Waldorf Astoria and proceeded to completely trash the place during a now legendary (among the cognoscenti) and still top-secret (among the rest of us) three-day party, where, as documented by gossip columnist Earl Wilson, guests included Frankie, a dozen Rockettes, Today Show co-hosts Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters, Joe DiMaggio, Rock Hudson, tennis great Don Budge, George C. Scott, the Swedish starlet Anita Ekberg, Albert Einstein, Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle, Don Knotts and, for a few unbelievable hours, a completely smashed Russian premier Nikita Kruschev, in New York to deliver his famous, shoe-thumping speech to the UN and evidently practicing his performance by thumping his shoe on the suite’s bar to demand Russian vodka. (Later in the evening, columnist Wilson reported in a posthumous, unpublished, transparently encoded memoir housed at NYU’s Bobst Library, “Miles D.” turned “Comrade K.” on to “H.”)
And that was just the first week.
Suffice it to say, there never was and never will be a bender quite as bent, and while Miles eventually went home and slept it off, Mickey Haff was launched into orbit. After about two more weeks, Mickey the Millionaire was hopelessly hooked on heroin and completely lost touch with his family and business associates. Six weeks after that, his banker called Mickey’s distraught wife Georgette at their vacation home in Palm Springs to say that, between the drugs and the Tip, the financial well had run dry, and it would be necessary to sell the Adam Grant Building or declare Chapter 11.
Previous · Chapter 10
Masons, millionayres & the Birthe of the Cool
Next · Chapter 12
The phall after the Phall
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