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You Can Lead a Horticulture

I can’t let today pass by without paying homage to birthday girl Dorothy Parker who, much to her chagrin, was born in New Jersey on August 23rd, 1893, while her parents were summering on the Jersey Shore. Being the quintessential New Yorker that she was, she'd often voice her irritation about her mother’s inability to wait until they got back to Manhattan before giving birth.

Although Dorothy, known as Dottie to her friends, lived a fairly privileged childhood, everything changed after her father’s death when Dorothy was 20 years old. Parentless and penniless, she began sending out samples of her poetry to the major magazines of the day. Having some success with Vanity Fair, she was eventually hired by its sister publication Vogue. Recognizing her talents, publisher Conde Nast moved her back to Vanity Fair as its drama critic within a couple of years.

Although these days she's best known for her cocktail-swilling antics and vicious wisecracks, many of which occurred at the now infamous Algonquin Round Table (she was a founding member), she was also a financially self-sufficient author, poet, critic and satirist at a time when women had only just attained suffrage. By her early forties she was an Oscar-nominated Hollywood screenwriter and a household name.

She was a passionate liberal, always ready to defend human rights. One of her proudest moments was getting arrested when protesting the impending execution of two Italian immigrants sentenced for a murder they likely didn't commit. She developed a reputation while in Hollywood of being a communist sympathizer. Although she never testified in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, in spite of being subpoenaed, the FBI kept a dossier on her until she died in 1967. She bequeathed her estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After his assassination, it transferred to the NAACP. In typical Dottie fashion, her memorial marker at NAACP headquarters in Baltimore, reads “Excuse My Dust!” - an epitaph she’d suggested years prior to her death.

In honor of her birthday, below are a few of her famous one-liners. (I used the best in the title of this post.) As you can see, she was quite the wag! If you’d like to learn more about the remarkable Mrs. Parker, or read her works, check out The Dorothy Parker Society. It’s a group dedicated to the life and works of Mrs. P, and purports to be a drinking club with a book problem. I’m sure Dottie would have wholeheartedly approved! Do you have an author you especially revere? Do you do anything to celebrate them?

You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think.


That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say 'No' in any of them.


The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.


I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.


That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment!

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