Two members of the Los Angeles branch of the Dorothy Parker Society visited the Writers Guild West headquarters on Fairfax a few days after parties settled the 2008 Writers Guild Strike last month. Brian Diedrick and I were on a mission to verify a rumor that the WGA harbored a portrait of Mrs. Parker (as her best friend, Robert Benchley, called her), hidden from public view. Working his boyish charms, Brian obtained an appointment at the The Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library and invited me along
We were there at the behest of the Dorothy Parker Society President , Kevin Kitzpatrick, who longed to add the image to his collection of Parker memorabilia.
Patricia Eliot Tobias, Guild historian, set the record straight for us: the WGA West created a mixed media wall display of women writers that includes Dorothy Parker's photo. When the WGA West moved into its present headquarters in 2000, staffers decided to decorate its entrance with displays commemorating Guild history, including panels focused on the importance of women writers. Ms.Tobias, past WGA West President, Del Reisman, and Susan Golsarry of the Warner Bros. Sign Department collaborated on the artworks.
Photo Credit: Writers Guild of America West
Ms. Tobias offered to show us the works on display in a conference room, called "The Women's Room" by staffers, located on the upper floors of the Guild building.
Huddled in a tiny elevator filled with other Guild staffers, we ascended in rapt silence. Ms. Tobias led us into a wide room with an antechamber where we saw a photo collage honoring the founders of the Screen Writers Guild in 1932-33 (not to be confused with the Screen Writers Guild formed in 1921 as a social organization). We scanned the sepia-toned faces for our dear Mrs. Parker but she wasn't there.
Ms. Tobias explained that while Mrs. Parker played an important role in the Guild's early formation, she was not one of the 10 writers who started the fledgling union. According to The Hollywood Writers' Wars by Nancy Lynn Schwartz and Parker's biographer, Marion Meade, Dorothy Parker hosted several clandestine Guild meetings after studio moguls banned union organizing activities prior to 1938 when a National Labor Relations Board ruling paved the way for screen writers to organize themselves legally.
Our search continued.
We entered a larger conference room filled with picket signs left over from the recent strike. A cute staffer smiled at us with bemusement as he dismantled placards. But this was no time for flirting as I was on a sacred mission.
Brian and I spotted a large exhibit on Frances Marion, a silent film pioneer. Anita Loos, in all her flapper glory, eyed me from a separate wall display to my left.
Where was our Dottie?
We found her on a smaller display board, commemorating several other female screenwriters, in a corner near the room’s entrance. There was Dorothy Parker, front and center, posed as a sexy jazz baby stepping off the train. We paid our respects by snapping numerous photos (see accompanying photo) because we forgot to bring a flask of gin to toast her properly. Brian, Ms. Tobias and I returned to the library where we inspected a 1933 script of "A Star is Born," co-authored by Mrs. Parker along with her husband Alan Campbell and several others. Even better, Ms. Tobias Patty found Mrs. Parker's Guild membership application and shared a copy with us.
Content in the knowledge that we had solved the mystery of Dorothy Parker and the WGA Portrait, we headed home.