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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri • Page 77

Location:
St. Louis, Missouri
Issue Date:
Page:
77
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

CETCI- ES FROM High Lights on Unusual Personalities JOSE ITURBI ROSE MACKENBERG The Calm That Follows Senor Iturbi Storms ji I HAT little incident in Robin Hood Dell. Philadelphia, not long ago was a typical example of Jose Iturbi'a temperamentan explosion and hasty words, and then, after the storm had passed, contriteness. apologies, pleas of hav ing been understood. The muscular, volatile Spanish pianist-conductor gave a concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the Fell, bowl in Fairmount Park, for the benefit of the Musicians' Union. It was one of a summer series' he has con- Jductsd there, which has drawn large crowds, and was to consist mainly of American music, with solos by singers Lucy Monroe and Jan Peerce.

Iturbi declared later that it was his understanding that in the first half of the program, to be sent over a nation-wide hook-up of the National Broadcasting Company, he would conduct the orchestra and the singers would not appear until the second half, not to be broadcast, with another conductor in charge. Maybe it was the humid evening that put the maestro's temper on edge. Anyway, when he arrived. Peerce and Miss Monroe were starting to sing a program that included songs by George Gershwin. Victor Herbert.

Oley Speaks. Daniel Wolf. Coleridge Taylor. Frank LaForge. and Jerome Km.

Iturbi wasn't conducting, of course, and didn't even have to listen, but he grew greatly irritated as he waited in the audience. After Peerce sang two songs, Iturbi exploded. Up on the stage he jumped, and began signaling wildly to the radio announcer. The program was cut off the air because of the outburst, and an emergency organ was used by the broadcasting company to fill the breach. "There is good American music." Iturbi KriAlrAri urnvina him nrmi rtnrl wrtllrinrt about the staae while Peerce.

nuzzled and offended, withdrew. "But all this Move you stuff is just trash. It is far below the dignity of the great Philadelphia Orchestra to play such cheap, rotten music. See. I cannot permit such stuff on a broadcast.

I have been put on a spot. I refuse to go on unless the songs are cut out." When his fine rage had subsided a little, he was persuaded to go on. the Dell officials agreeing to postpone the "I love-you" songs until the second half of the program. Then Iturbi sat down at the piano, and gave an electrically brilliant performance of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Infuriated. American musicians threatened reprisals.

Edwin Claude Mills of the American Society of Composers. Authors and Publishers, suggested the society might forbid Iturbi to play its copyright works. Quickly Iturbi relented. He had been mis understood. He had not meant to call the songs "trash." he insisted; all he had meant was that they were very light, and they could have been heard over the air any time.

As for Gershwin por piedad! -he greatly admired Gershwin; he had seen "Girl Crmv" 14 Iittiaa In an interview in St. Louis in 1933. Iturbi said: NEW YORK. OSE MACKENBERG hunts non-existent spirits. More, she even finds them at certain spiritualistic seances and readings by mediums, for her work is investigating and exposing fakes who milk a susceptible public by pre tending to psychic powers.

Banks employ hsr if they suspect a client is being harmfully influenced by mediums through fake psychic phenomena. Sometimes her clients are relatives of susceptible people. Chambers of Commerce or other civic groups that feel charlatans are imposing on residents of a community ask her to help expose the im-posters. A bank once engaged her to investigate a certain medium suspected of using supposed spirit advice to acquire securities owned by a gullible client. Largely on the strength of her investigation the medium as found guilty of grand larceny.

Another time she exposed a medium who was using to be included in a will for a generous bequest. She hers been at the work for 13 years, with more h-jn 1500 exposures of fakes to her as Rose Mackenberg she is pretty known throughout the country to the spiritualistic gentry If she wants ing" become one as as erous fiction spend, to be o) th. for thj ants comj os I-the pirM a seance or "have a being handicapped, she must other than herself, some to the medium's usual clients So she has to resort to as num- isual disguises as the old-time ive i he starts her investigation by time, in the town which is ene of her operations, in a study mine residents. The local de ores, she says, are the best place ood cross section of the inhabit run to be observed there in a short time But occasionally woe; is taken before she (eels ntly familiar with the 'ype sh start her delving rm "Artistic temperament? Bah. that's bluff, more or less.

No. not less. More! I'm sick of these longhaired artists, musicians or what have you. who don't behave like human beings. The type that sobs with Beethoven.

Fond of agonizing. Affect to scorn certain types of music. Bah! Enough of such people. They are limited themselves when they attempt to limit music. They are not true artists.

What we need today is sincerity." Iturbi started out his career as a boy playing popular tunes on the piano in Valencia's first motion picture house. At 7 the Great Lakes Symphony Orchestra at Cleveland, shouting: "I can't stand these hot dogs, pop, whistles and street cars." The radio broadcast was held up for nine minutes while the audience was combed for a substitute piano soloist. His usual morning-after explanation was that he "adored" hamburgers himself, but did not think they should have been eaten during a concert. He got in wrong with a Canadian audi-dence by opening a concert with "God Save the King," instead of the Canadian anthem; and he had to send out for the score of the Canadian anthem to appease them. Recently he drew the wrath of women musicians everywhere with an unfortunately blunt statement that he doubted whether women had ability in music.

"Women are physically prevented from attaining the standards of men." he said. "They are temperamentally limited besides. They never achieve greatness." This idea of physical ability being an integral thing in the fashioning of art is a favorite one of Iturbi's. "Is a pianist more of an artist than a golf player or a boxer?" he once said. "No.

True, there may be more of a spiritual in music, but there is harmony, there is grace, in perfect physical timing." He prides himself on his bulging biceps and on his ability as a boxer. He has been an amateur boxer since he was 9 years old, and still does much shadow boxing and gymnasium work. He is fond of fast automobiles and fast driving, and can pilot a plane. He hasn't been hurt, but had a narrow escape when he was a passenger on the Pan-American Clipper that upset when it ground-looped on the surface of Port-of-Spain Bay last year, drowning three passengers. He pushed his secretary.

Miss Jean. Dalrymple. out through a port hole and followed her just as water flooded the cabin. A passenger scrambling out ahead of him stepped on his head, and Iturbi said that he was hurt. He would not be able to play again "for some time." he said.

Possibly, he cried, he might never conduct again. Then he cabled his New York office that he was "all right." Although he is only 41 years old. Iturbi is a grandfather. His daughter. Mrs.

Stephen Hero, wife of a young American violinist, had a child last February. When not engaged in concert work, he spends his time at his Paris apartment and looks forward to the time when the civil war in Spain will subside and leave him free to visit his orange groves near Valencia again. MYLES STANDISH. picked the right moment to release shutter and flash, for she obtained cm excellent picture of the medium reading the slips by hidden light, with mouth to the through which she emitted guttural sounds supposed to come from the guide. There are numerous ways whereby mediums obtain money from those wishing to pierce the veil of after-life, besides the mere reading or seance fee.

LL that is required to be is to claim that you can "hear and "see'." Miss Mackenberg explains. "This means that one can hear voices and see forms. If such a thing occurs I think a good psychiatrist is a better bet than a medium. It would be better for the clients, for in a number of cases on which I worked I found they had unburdened themselves of things ordinarily told only a physician or attorney. And not infrequently this information has been used by fakes in an effort to do a bit of blackmailing." Naturally Miss Mackenberg has 'become quite an authority on mediums, their methods, and their clients.

There are as many men as women claiming ability to "hear and see," their prices are anything they can get, and society women, business men, students, clerks, shop girls, housewives attend seances or seek readings, and base their plans on what they are told. In 1926 she testified before a House Committee during a hearing on a bill to regulate clairvoyants in the District of Columbia, where they were doing a flourishing business. Discussing the prices asked by mediums. Miss Mackenberg told of a man who wanted $63 to cure her of a fictitious ailment. When she sought to bargain about the amount, he portentiously consulted a large book, and announced: "No.

the spirits will not permit me to work on youT case for less." The book, she discovered a bit an encyclopedia. Methods vary. Some mediums various methods. But, Miss Mackenfce-g serts, whatever the method they ud no matter what name she spirits never questioned it. he ha become established as the matinee idol of the concert stage, a sort of musical dream boy.

Women who flock to his recitals compensate with their admiration for the attitude of those critics who think he lacks depth in his playing. His career has been a stormy one. however, because of his genius for starting controversies. As far back as 1929. he refused to appear with the soprano.

Claire Dux. in a program at a New York hotel, and canceled an engagement in Washington because he didn't want to share the limelight with Mme. Marie Olszewka. The next year, he became angry when he saw that what he considered lesser lights were being featured with him. and so played only when a separate program was printed one with his name featured alone.

ABOUT that time, he stopped a concert at which Mrs. Herbert Hoover and many wives of Ambassadors were listeners, to wait until the wi(e of a naval officer who had been seized with a coughing fit left the room. After the embarrassed matron burst into tears, he continued. When the concert was over he went to his room and kept the luncheon guests waiting for him for some minutes while he composed himself. He tells of another controversy, one in which he was worsted, in Rio de Janeiro.

When he arrived there on one of his numerous South American tours, he was told to give 1000 tickets to music students. He refused. Not a ticket, he said. So the first of his series of four concerts was given to cm audience of 150 persons that was lost in the big auditorium; there were 50 listeners at the second, and 12 at the third. He surrendered and left without giving the fourth concert.

At the outbreak of the Spanish rebellion last year, he was asked by a Philadelphia newspaper man where his sympathies lay. He replied that Spain needed a strong man. according to the reporter. That gave many people the impression he was pro-Fascist, and there was a vigorous protest and picket lines around the Dell concerts were talked about. But Iturbi explained hastily that he had not meant he favored Fascism, but that he favored neither party, and, anyway, he was a musician and not a politician.

Then, annoyed by the stir in the audience when Mayor Wilson of Philadelphia and Mayor La Guardia of New York were photographed by flashlight, he stamped off the Dell stage. Next day he apologized, explaining he had not known the cause of the disturbance. A few weeks later he got into the news again when he quit conducting Hose Mackenberg. from the floor and served as a speaking tube for the spirits of the dead seeking to communicate with their kin. During the seance attended by Miss Mackenberg.

the sitters had written their names, addresses and questions to be asked the "spirits" on pieces of paper. The medium then placed powder puffs over her eyes, and asked a sitter to tie over therri a blindfold. To the uninitiated, it appeared a double precaution against the medium's ability to see; to Miss Mackenberg the powder puffs were a device for raising the blindfold with the forehead when the head was tilted back. The room was darkened and the medium called upon her guide for instructions, as she fingered the question slips. Miss Mackenberg fingered her flashlight camera.

She Her Business Is Exposing Spirit Faers years of age, he had begun teaching. His father, of Basque descent, was a poor piano tuner, so when the time came for Jose to go to the Paris Conservatory, people who admired him took up a collection. He earned his board and food in Paris playing in cafes, and after his graduation at the age of 17. kept on playing in cafes. Because his performance in a Zurich hotel attracted attention, he was appointed head of the piano faculty at the Geneva Conservatory.

After tours as a concert pianist in Europe, he came to this country in 1929, was But Miss Mackenberg denies that her attitude and efforts are an attack on sincere spiritualism. "I'm just exposing these charlatans who prey upon the public by claiming they can speak to the dead. So can but they don't answer. And I am not a skeptic, despite all the imposters I have uncovered. I would be the first to acknowledge a message from the Great Beyond if I were convinced that it was genuine.

But the fact remains that despite the pact I made with the late Harry Houdini before he died whereby he promised to communicate with me after his death if it were at all possible, I have never as yet received the slightest semblance of a bona fide message along the lines upon which we agreed." It was through Harry Houdini, noted escape artist and duplicator of psychic phenomena, that Miss Mackenberg entered a career as a debunker of fraudulent mediums and continued in it after his death. She was a firm believer in such manifestations, and working as an investigator for a large detective agency when a mutual friend introduced her to Houdini, who at the time was in the midst of his fight on things psychic. He had announced that he was prepared to pay SI 0.000 to any medium who produced a psychic manifestation that he could not duplicate by natural means -a prize often claimed but never won and offered her a place on his staff as advance agent and investigator. She hesitated at first about accepting because of the conflict with her own views, but Houdini pointed out it would be an excellent way to find a real medium. She asserts she never did.

In her new capacity, she would precede Houdini to a town where he intended to lecture' by about 10 days, and make the rounds of the mediums, in disguise, compiling information about them. Most of them were certain to attend the lectures, and from the platform Houdini would name those visited by Miss Mackenberg. and decry their psychic powers for failing to penetrate her disguise. Such a demonstration was certain to be answered by one of the mediums in the au- generally well received, and returned in 1930 for 77 more concerts. From then on he was famous.

He also had conductorial ambitions, however, and in 1933 organized an orchestra in Mexico. D. and directed 12 concerts there. From then on, he has appeared with most of the big symphony orchestras in his double role of pianist and conductor; last spring he was alternate conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra on its nation-wide tour, and he has filled in as summer conductor of several orchestras. He last appeared with the St.

Louis Symphony in February, 1935. Handsome and volatile. dience with the lie direct, whereupon Miss Mackenberg was called to the rostrum to describe her visit and the outstanding furnishings of the mediums' house, as well as some secret mark of identification she always left. Once when a medium became especially vociferous in his denial that she had been to see him, a volunteer committee from the audience escorted him to his home. There on the wall paper near the floor they found the seven-pointed star drawn with green crayon she had said was there.

One of her investigations for Houdini was that of an outstanding "trumpet" medium of Chicago. Her seances were held in dark ness, and during them a trumpe1. supposedly motivated by supernatural power, rose 12. Then she acquires her new character, name, and outfit; housewives of the more careless type furnish her best samples. Back to her hotel she goes, to doff her customary attire and don her "working clothes." They are most likely to consist of heavy flat heeled shoes, cotton stockings, dowdy dress, and ill-fitting coat and hat.

Plastered-down hair and glasses lend further "atmosphere." Then a search through telephone books and directories to augment the information obtained from casual acquaintances concerning mediums and spiritualist centers, and Mrs. Lizzie Whoozit emerges from Miss Rose Mackenberg 's room. Seldom is her disguise penetrated. Fake mediums, she has found, are as gullible as the clients whose money they take. Pretended psychic powers fail to come to their aid by revealing that a member of the "circle" is sailing under false colors, and probably has a camera concealed about her person.

For flashlight pictures, as well as misleading questions, are vital adjuncts of the work. "I NEVER married." she relates, "but I have received messages from 1000 husbands and twice as many chil dren in the world to come. Invariably they told me they were happy where they were, which was not entirely flattering to me. "During the course of my investigations I have visited mediums all over the country, but whether they lived in luxurious hotels or fire trap tenements, their messages were all of the same caliber. I have even been ordained six times as a spiritualistic minister.

These ordinations took anywhere from 20 minutes to three days, and cost me from S5 to $25. In order further to test the psychic powers claimed by the presiding mediums. I tock such ridiculous names as Allicia Bunck (all is a bunk) and F. Raud, easily read as "fraud," but was not suspected. My money was accepted, I was presented with a nicely engraved certificate of ordination, and became a supposedly lull fledgod seer, ready to communicate with departed spirits at so much per communica Snntlay Magazinv St.

f.orn.

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Pages Available:
4,168,996
Years Available:
1849-2024