April 15, 1908
CARTOONIST LEVI'S LIBEL OF "JOE" STEIBEL, THE POPULAR PRESS AGENT OF THE ORPHEUM THEATER, WHOSE SMILE IS PERENNIAL.
"Behold the man who never smiles, or to whom it is at least painful to smile," said Bert Levy, as he pointed out one of his drawings of Joe Steibel, the affable pres agent of the Orpheum. "I tried every way in my power to make him even look pleasant, and at last he turned on me, serious as he could be, and said, 'Levy, I can't smile; I'm a sick man.' But I know the reason why he is so doleful -- it's because he has been working too hard this season.
"Why, just look what he has been up against all year, another vaudeville house in town, a bank suspension and lastly, Judge Wallace. It's enough to take the humor out of anybody."
"In this man you see the one who has made and unmade vaudeville stars and Kansas City. He doesn't care whether the actor was headliner in the last city or whether he was put in the most inconspicuous place on the bill; if his act has merit, Joe will pick him out and begin work on him at once. Honest, he is the busiest man about the Orpheum theater -- no wonder he can't smile. He hasn't had time to practice.
The other picture here with the cop as centerpiece is true to life," continued the artist. "I made a sketch of this picture while standing out in the foyer of the theater, and this is just what I saw. People look upon this genial officer of the law, Joseph Bergfeld, I believe is his name, with real fear in their faces. What there is for them to be afraid of is more than I can see, for during the three years that Joseph has watched the box office window to see that the ticket seller does not take in any bad quarters, not an arrest has been made. At least that is what Joseph himself tells me.
THIS IS JOSEPH BERGFIELD, THE WEST NINTH STREET APOLLO, CAUGHT IN HIS FAVORITE POSE BY CARTOONIST BERT LEVY, WHO LABELED THE DRAWING "INTIMIDATION."
"It may be that the reason for this is that the benign cop is put together in such wonderful and fantastic proportion that the 'con' men prefer to risk arrest in some other quarters. Just what would be your feelings when you march up to the box office window and have to pass between it and a ferocious looking cop, slowly balancing himself first on his heels and then on his toes, his heavy club swinging behind his back in time to the musical movements of his body?"
Mr. Levy is cartoonist on the New York Morning Telegraph. In speaking of his life work he said:
"My career as an artist began when I was but 13 years old, in the rear of a dingy little pawnshop in Melbourne, Australia. It was a pawnshop which belonged to my brother-in-law. I was put in to mark the tickets which we used in the show window, an I would delight in cutting them out in heart-shaped and different designs. The letters I would form as artistically as possible. This gave me a start, and as days went on I began to sudy the faces of the men as they peered in through the show window looking at the articles for sale. Then I began to copy them, and I am afraid let my pawnshop business pass iwth little attention. Soon my brother in law caught me at the drawing and I was forthwith discharged. I was them put into school, and after much pleading with my father I was allowed to take a course in art.
"Two and a half years ago I left Australia and came to America. When I arrived in New York I was penniless. I had nothing save my portfolio of drawings and a courage which was born of centuries of persecution. Immeidately upon my arrival in that great whirlpool of hope and despair I went to the editors of the New York papers and tried to find a market for my work, but because I was poorly dressed, and I was, for my shoes were almost off my feet and my coat was in rags, and because I was a Jew, I was given no hope, no chance to show that I could draw.
"For five days I wandered about the Ghetto, hungry and in dire want. My meals were picked up at the free lunch counters, and my sleep, what little there was of it, I got any place htat I could find. Then after many efforts, I succeded in getting a trial on the New York Telegraph, and, well, I am still on their staff, and do work for many other large publications. I won out after a terrible struggle, but I think of the thousands of talented artists, geniuses, who are almost starving in New York simply because fate wills it."