But ‘boys’ were still serious business. I am reminded here of a story told me by the Broadway star, Elaine Stritch. She was dating the actor Jack Cassidy. Her parents, Mildred and George Stritch, came to New York from Birmingham, Michigan, to meet him. They were Old Guard Roman Catholics and Mr. Stritch worked for the B.F. Goodrich tire company. (He always referred to it as the G.D.B.F. Goodrich tire company.) Jack Cassidy had charm, humor and talent galore. But after the four of them dined at ‘21’, things didn’t work out well. When the Stritches returned to the St. Regis, George began to pace, wearing out the carpet.
Finally, Mildred asked, ‘What’s the matter with you, George?’
He spluttered: ‘Mildred! Did you see that guy Elaine is going with? Did you notice? Why that SOB was wearing suede shoes!’
This may not seem so funny these days, but was a perfect comment on the stringencies with which parents still behaved and judged their children’s significant others during the forties and fifties. I recognized instantly that to Mr. Stritch, suede shoes on a man were tantamount to ‘makeup’ or ‘wearing jewelry’, a question of character. I could just see my own father reacting in the same narrow-minded manner.”