Originally Published 11/03/2011
Photo Source: Ida Wyman
“Madame, for your patronage and your exQUIsite beauty, in consideration of ten cents on top of the fifteen for your key, that I may purchase a cup of coffee, I will sing you on your way this fine morning! Two bits only! An exceptional value!”
They called him The Tudor, an’ the reason why varied dependin’ on who you talked to, an’ what time day it was, see? Some say it was ‘cause he was secretly rich an’ lived in Tudor City, o’er by the Chrysler Buildin’. An’ some say it was ‘cause he got hit by a Ford Tudor a time or two, or even three, again dependin’ on who you talked to, an’ what time day it was. The likely story was the car story, since The Tudor been known to Ride the White Horse, an’ bein’ old and frail, his reflexes wasn’t any hot even when we wasn’t on a White Horse bender. But who knows about these things?
Anyway, they called him The Tudor, an’ he was out e’ry morn’, come rain or come shine, makin’ keys, shinin’ shoes an’ singin’ for tips. He had a high talkin’ voice, almost like a girl. But son of a buck if that old guy couldn’t sing in the most beeUTEEful bass you ever heard! An’ he knew all them old songs, like Oh Danny Boy an’ The Sidewalks of New York an’ all. The Tudor could sing like nobody’s bidness, an’ he could charm your pants off an’ then sell ‘em back to you!
If you only believed half of what you heard, you could say he was full’a it. He was married forty some years, or so they said. ‘Course ain’t nobody seen his wife, jus’ like ain’t nobody knows where The Tudor REALLY come from. He jus’ showed up with his key makin’ tools an’ his shine kit an’ his hat an’ a song. An’ that’s how I like to think of him.
I worked the north corner of 44th an’ Lex, sellin’ my papers, an’ The Tudor worked the south side. It was a logical arrangement for those commuters heading south to Gran’ Central, see? First you get a paper, then you sit down to read it while you’re gettin’ a shine, or a key made. Perfect, right? Anyways, we had that unspoken arrangement for years.
Come to think of it, I don’ know as we ever did really speak. But we had a certain unspoken bond, you might say. Just a nod ‘cross the street e’ry day. An’ I heard that voice’a his echo all up an’ down Lex, an’ somehow the day just seemed a little better with a song from The Tudor.
Last I saw The Tudor, he was snowin’ the pants off’a that woman he was tryin’ to get coffee money from. She gave him the two bits, an’ he started singin’ “Will You Love Me in December (as You Do in May)?” Which, you’ll ‘member, was written by our former mayor Jimmy Walker. Anyway, he started singin’ that crazy old song, beauteeful as a phonograph, an’ that woman jus’ beamed. 100 watts, at least. Then she was off, headed west on 44th toward Park, an’ I had run outta papers, so’s I went home for the day.
Never saw The Tudor after that, an’ I got no idear what became of him. Some say he went home sick himself an’ never got out of bed. Some say he retired to Miami an’ was livin’ the good life with some dame half his age. Who knows about these things? Dependin’ on who you talked to, an’ what time day it was, anything could’a happened to The Tudor. But I’m glad I was there for his gran’ finale.