News & Politics

Bill Manville: Hey, Nineteen!

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

February 10, 1960, Vol. V, No. 16

Saloon Society

By Bill Manville

Ben Buxton…threw a party last Saturday night to celebrate his return from the Coast. When the booze ran out, everybody decided to go over to the new Last Chance Saloon, where John Clegg is working these days. “I hope he doesn’t have his Bennington following waiting around for him to get off work,” Big Mary said. “Every year, John is one year older, the girl with him is always 19.”

Ben went around and poured the remains of all the glasses, bottles, and tea cups into one big bowl. He squeezed a lemon in and loaded the bowl up with plenty of ice, and we had a punch you could drink. I sat down beside Libby, who was feeding salami chunks to her white French poodle, Lavish.

“You look marvelous,” I told her.

“Doesn’t it figure? I’m looking for a new man.” There was a small, elegant, dark-green box on the table in front of Libby. The label said HENRI WINTERMANS. Libby opened the box and offered me a delicate little cigar, smaller than a cigarette. “The least harmful of my current affectations,” she said, lighting up.

“And Mr. Rattigan?” I asked.

“The Rat and I,” she said, “have had our last glimpse of the moon.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

She ignored me. “I wish they wouldn’t put John Clegg down like that. These men, the ones who specialize in young girls, they perform a public service, you know. Like the Rumanian. Granny was an idiot. She should have taken him aside, she should have said: ‘Listen, Andy, pour us a little cup of wine, and sign this paper. It’s a little financial agreement, so that no one gets too badly hurt, and then you can marry the kid.’ She should have done that, and in a year, two years, the kid gets divorced, there’s one spoiled, dopey, hysterical, swooning, angry virgin less in the world, one understanding, tough-minded, groovy tender, legitimate woman more. Listen, you know what a knobby proposition a 19-year-old girl is? I know.” She laughed. “The demands they make on the man! the threats, the reproaches, the suicide notes, the 3 a.m. phone calls, the tears and guilt over 5 a.m. coffee in strange cafeterias, the Miss Julie numbers – listen, the world owes a lot to these guys who specialize in 19-year-olds, John Clegg, this Andy…bronco busters.”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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