Today, reading Odd McIntyre’s columns from the early twentieth century is like stepping into a time machine and traveling back to a New York exploding with creative energy. At the time, new urban points of view were starting to clash with traditional values, and Odd was one of the few writers who could bridge both worlds with ease. Odd wrote more, made more money, and had more readers than any other columnist of his era. Odd was there to share the stories of the men and women responsible for creating the music that exploded out of Tin Pan Alley and spread across the world. As Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.’s press agent, he was also backstage absorbing—and then sharing—every detail as theater shifted from vaudeville to something completely new and different on Broadway. He was the first to write a feature on the stars of Amos ‘n’ Andy, a radio program that became a national sensation. As a close friend of Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, and other actors, Odd had a literal front-row seat as moving pictures became nickelodeons, nickelodeons became silent films, and silent films became talkies. Odd also had a passion for literature. He spent hours in Parisian bars with a group of writers who came to be known as the “Lost Generation,” and was there as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote their earliest groundbreaking works. His newspaper column, “New York Day by Day,” and his thousands of stories in magazines like Cosmopolitan, Life, McCall’s, and The Saturday Evening Post were filled with pop culture news, tales of celebrities out on the town, and humorous observations about the city he lived in and the society in which he moved. Odd’s writing was remarkably relatable for millions of readers who would never get to see New York, Paris, or Hollywood for themselves. Through Odd’s eyes, we have a unique view of pop culture during one of the most exciting times of change and innovation in history. As The New York Times wrote in 1934, “His quality of breathless wonder was coupled with an extraordinary ability to make the name of an actress, a crooner or a newspaper rewrite man shimmer in the eyes of the public, who sat on an aisle seat of what for him and them was the greatest show on earth.” This compilation of select items from Odd’s early columns, featuring commentary and behind-the-scenes information by R. Scott Williams, is meant to introduce Odd to a new generation of readers and secure his legacy for all those who love a good story.
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R. Scott Williams earned his degree in journalism from the University of Memphis. He then held positions at several advertising agencies and organizations, including Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Today he lives in Arlington, Virginia and is Chief Operating Officer of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Passionate about discovering and sharing forgotten stories from the past, in his spare time he explores the history of the American south, especially around his home in West Tennessee. He currently serves on the board of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and the DC chapter of the American Advertising Federation.