Ensemble from 1917 production of Florenz Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic, which was performed from a stage on the roof of the New Amsterdam Theater. Pictured in the middle is Will Rogers, who became one of Odd McIntyre’s best friends.

Odd McIntyre’s first assignment while working for the iconic showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. was managing the publicity for Ziegfeld’s show Midnight Frolic. It had premiered in 1915 on the roof of the New Amsterdam Theater. With a start time of midnight, it provided New Yorkers who didn’t want to go home with a place to go after the other Broadway shows had ended.

Working for Ziegfeld wasn’t easy, especially for Odd. “I do not see how anybody could work for him long,” he wrote. “As a conversationalist he is delightful and stimulating. But when he becomes an employer, he is a tyrant.”

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. in his office. Note the photo of wife Billie Burke at the far left. Burke later played the role of Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz.

One major problem was that Odd stayed up very late—sometimes not going to bed until dawn—and then slept until noon. If Ziegfeld had a thought or an idea, he thought nothing of calling Odd’s hotel room at six a.m. According to all accounts, Ziegfeld loved to communicate, and he used every tool available to him at the time. He sent thousands of telegrams, made phone calls constantly, and had long letters and notes typed and mailed or sent by messenger. Many times Odd witnessed Ziegfeld dictating cables about mundane topics of no consequence that would cost hundreds of dollars to send.

For three years I was as close to him as anybody in the world of theater glamour. I was his press agent, and in priming the pumps to feed his insatiable vanity, I was in the whirl of a mind that seemed in constant chaos, yet paradoxically was as straight and sure as an arrow. O. O. McIntyre

By this time, Odd had become a master at getting items placed in the newspapers and magazines, and had developed a network of contacts who were well placed in New York media. Ziegfeld was hard to impress but he was very impressed with Odd. So much so that he gave him a large raise and the job of promoting Sally, a new musical comedy that featured singer and dancer Marilyn Miller. Already an established entertainer when Ziegfeld put her in the Follies of 1918, she became a huge hit in his production of Sally.

Sally, starring Marilyn Miller, was first produced by Ziegfeld in 1920. It ran for 570 performances, one of the longest runs on Broadway at the time. In the musical, Miller performed the song “Look for the Silver Lining” by Jerome Kern. It became a huge hit and has been covered by many performers through the years, including this performance by Judy Garland.

This gave Odd the opportunity to experience the genius that was Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. up close, as he was part of the show’s development from the beginning.

Several times Odd infuriated Ziegfeld and he was either fired or he quit, but a few days would pass and they would both carry on as though nothing had happened. Although Ziegfeld didn’t have much of a sense of humor, Odd told a story about a time when Ziegfeld exhibited a rare moment of witty sarcasm: Ziegfeld and his family were sailing for Europe in late February 1922. Odd had photographers and reporters at the pier who took photos and interviewed him with the intention of writing a story for the next day’s papers. Meanwhile, in Norfolk, Virginia, the Roma, a huge dirigible, crashed to the ground killing thirty-four men. After Ziegfeld arrived in London, he looked over the New York newspapers and saw nothing but news of the disaster. He wired Odd, “Sorry you sneaked me out of town.”

Odd was growing weary of being the one on the other end of the phone as Ziegfeld whined and raged, and his patience was growing thin. He wanted to spend more time working on his column, but Ziegfeld wanted him focused on promoting his shows. One morning they argued, and a few hours later Odd received a very wordy letter from Ziegfeld telling him he was fired. When Ziegfeld called the next day acting as though nothing had happened, Odd resigned, once again. This time, as Odd put it, “he stayed resigned.” He told Ziegfeld, “I like you Flo as a friend, but you haven’t got enough money to hire me for another day.”

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