Over the course of the next day Sophie very nearly changed her mind a dozen times or so. What had she been thinking in agreeing to go out with a man that she had just met the day before? All that she knew about him was his name and that he was with the Follies. He might be some sort of ruffian or ne’er-do-well, yet he seemed so kind and he had offered to take her out on the town. She would simply have to take the chance.
The next afternoon she took the subway across town and disembarked in Times Square and walked across the street to the famous New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street and Broadway. The gruff looking character with the menacing eyes at the theatre’s stage door asked her what she wanted after she had knocked. She nervously handed him the ticket that Jack Barrowman had told her to present. He looked it over and suddenly smiled, telling her to wait there. Her nervousness knew no bounds, but then Jack popped out through the door a few moments later and greeted her warmly as if they’d known each other for years. Sophie had worn her best dress for the occasion, although it looked so plain by comparison to what Manhattan women were wearing that she feared that everyone would stare. Jack told her she looked lovely and offered her his arm as they walked up Broadway among the dazzling glow of one million lights that set the dusk afire.
It was an evening that she would never forget. They dined at Delmonico’s Restaurant across the street from the Hotel Astor. It was a heady and good-natured place and she was surprised to feel so welcome in so splendidly formal a restaurant. Elegantly dressed waiters sang old Irish songs in harmony and a ragtime piano in the corner played nonstop amidst the laughter and conversation and the exquisite food that was the best in the city.
During dinner, Jack said he was a press agent for Florenz Ziegfeld, the celebrated showman of the Follies revue. Sophie quickly learned he was apparently as well known as any of the glamorous showgirls that graced the New Amsterdam’s stage. A steady stream of people, actors, financiers, and an orchestra conductor or two, stopped by his table for a word, including one that Sophie recognized: actress Gloria Swanson. The glamorous moving picture actress was far tinier in person than she was on the screen. She said a few nice words to Jack before rejoining her dinner party.
“Do you know everyone?” Sophie asked him in amazement after Gloria had left her with an autograph at his insistence.
“Actually, everyone knows me,” Jack told her.
After dinner he took her to Murray’s Roman Gardens to see the late show. Mae Murray, a celebrated dancer, was performing a special engagement there. “Miss Murray is a good friend of mine,” Jack said after shaking hands with the Maitre D’. “She always saves me the best table for her shows.”
Indeed, they had a reserved table waiting for them right next to the revolving dance floor. They received a free bottle of champagne, courtesy of the management. Jack opened it and poured Sophie a glass. She had never had champagne and it was surprisingly good, although she giggled at the way the bubbles tickled her nose.
“Don’t drink it too fast,” Jack told her. “You don’t want to miss the show.”
Blonde and dainty Mae Murray was a longtime darling of the cabaret crowd for good reason. To the accompaniment of a string quartet, Mae and her handsome partner danced the tango and the foxtrot with such ease that it seemed that their feet never touched the floor. Sophie was amazed to hear from Jack that a wealthy gentleman from South Africa had thrown a handful of diamonds at her to show his appreciation for her dancing. As the pair finished their brief act, applause erupted and Mae was showered with red roses, the biggest bouquet coming from Jack who stood and applauded mightily. Sophie noticed that Mae, clutching a single rose, sought him out in the audience and when she spotted him she blew him a kiss from her red bee-stung lips.
“She seems very fond of you,” Sophie remarked, feeling a tiny pang of jealousy although it might just be the champagne that was making her feel that way.
“Aw, it’s just because of the roses,” he told her in an aside. “I always send her the largest bouquet. I’d hear it from her if I didn’t.”
Sophie found his gentle charm attractive…and maybe it wasn’t the fault of the champagne she was drinking. Then before she knew it, it was very late in the evening and to her surprise he was asking her if he could see her again some time soon.
“I enjoyed your company, Sophie,” he told her, putting her into a cab for the trip back home. “It’s nice to be able to talk to someone who hasn’t seen or heard it all before and who can afford to be sincere. I don’t get that much.” He smiled, a little self-consciously for once. “I hope you had a good time tonight.”
“I had a wonderful time, Jack.” She was a little drunk
“I’m glad to hear that, Miss Jaruselzki. May I, perhaps, call on you again?”
“I would like that,” she told him, pleased that a man like Jack should think so highly of her. “I would like that very much.”
He promised to take her to see Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolics at the roof garden of the New Amsterdam Theatre and he kept his word. It was a nice and breezy place atop the sweltering hot city and Sophie nearly laughed herself sick at the comic turns of Will Rogers and William C. Fields. The show was a lavish one with a bevy of beautiful girls, colorful costumes and scenery and catchy songs that you couldn’t help but be still humming a few days later. After the show he took her backstage to meet some of the performers and Sophie was impressed that Jack fit in so easily among the rarified airs of show business. She’d always heard that actors and theatre people were a dishonest lot in a less-than-desirable profession, but Jack was so absolutely polite and gracious…so perfect…that she thrilled to be in his company.
He was full of surprises. He took her to the Polo Grounds for New York Yankees baseball. She didn’t understand what was happening on the field despite his efforts to explain the rules of the game, but it was all very exciting. They spent one evening dancing at Brawner’s Restaurant atop the Strand Theatre. She loved going out with him to dine and dance and if a couple of days passed without hearing from him she felt a misery that she’d never thought possible.
Jack told her about himself. He’d started out as a newspaper stringer, collecting stories about treading the boards, and then moved into publicity in his late twenties when there were still few who made it their profession. His friends were vaudevillians, stagehands, and songwriters and Sophie found that they each had a story to eagerly tell her about “Broadway” Jack Barrowman. To promote one show, he had once spread a rumor that a certain “distraught” actress would commit suicide by jumping into the pond in Central Park by the old aqueduct. Smelling a story, the press had run over to the park only to find the dummy that Jack had dumped into the water. A few years after that he passed off a troupe of knife throwers as Turkish royalty feted at a big lavish dinner that had been hosted by the imperious J. Pierpoint Morgan. He’d even once left a real live Bengal tiger in a room at the Hotel Astor to promote a circus playing at the Hippodrome. His outlandish antics had earned him friends and free drinks and food at Billy La Hiff’s Tavern for life.
Sophie also learned that he hungered for respectability. His father, a newspaperman, had never really approved of what Jack did for a living. He had passed, dead from the Spanish flu, before the two of them had been able to reconcile. He was ambitious…and alone. A man, he told her, needed a good wife to move up in the world. He needed someone to keep him on the straight-and-narrow, who didn’t want any involvement in the theatre business, and whom wouldn’t mind being introduced as “Mrs. Jack Barrowman.” Sophie decided unequivocally that he should marry her, and that someday he would, and that she wouldn’t care what he was or did.
So that day when Jack finally…finally…proposed to her after a courtship of two years, Sophie accepted without a second’s hesitation. She answered him with a demure, “Yes, I will marry you,” while trying to keep from shouting for joy. When Jack slipped a shiny engagement ring on her finger and kissed her on the forehead she was so overwhelmed with happiness that she began to weep.
“What’s wrong, darlin’?” Jack asked her, wondering why she was suddenly crying.
“Nothing bad,” she said with a sniff and a smile. She was getting the man she had wanted all along. He had told her about his new job at the Capitol and she was thrilled and proud of him. “I’m just happy. I didn’t think I would ever be this happy.”
“Good, ” he told her with a satisfied smile. “I want you to be happy with everything. We’re going to go places, Sophie. When everything is said and done, Broadway will belong to us. Do you believe me?”
“I don’t need anything but you, Jack,” she told him blissfully. “You’re my whole world. I don’t what I would do without you.”
“You’ll never have to wonder about that,” he said and kissed her again. “I promise you.”
She turned down a long engagement. She felt like she had waited all of her life. So Jack and Sophie were wed at St. Malachy’s Chapel on 49th Street in September of 1919. But there would be no honeymoon for the newlyweds. Jack had to return to his job at the Capitol Theatre almost immediately after the ceremony was over. Sophie told herself that she didn’t mind, although it was the first time that he had disappointed her.