I’ve been reading a book on the Gilded Age, code for lavish, over-the-top living in the early 1900s, in the bowels of rich, Victorian New York. A time where Astors, Whitneys and Vanderbilts roamed like diamond laden dinosaurs erecting mansions filled with every opulent item money could buy, all at the helm of the late, great infamous architect, Stanford White.
In my ghoulish travels, I went down to 26th Street and Madison Avenue where the second Madison Square Garden he designed, once stood, a plaque preening in its lusty, historical lore. It was where, on June 25, 1906, White was gunned down by the unhinged millionaire, Harry Kendall Thaw, to retaliate over a previous relationship with his carnal, wild, showgirl of a wife, Evelyn Nesbit the tabloids coining it, The Crime of the Century.
I stood there getting chills.
Mary Cummings, author of, Saving Sin City, penned in 2018, did so in lovely language, always music to this reader’s ear, using a word that stayed with me...corposity, not found in any dictionary.
Carved from the adjective corpulent, basically meaning fat, a half century ago it was used to describe a portly gentleman who was perceived as having, quite a corporation, referring to the size of his stomach. And though it may sound insulting, it was considered a compliment appearing well-fed, a sure sign of prosperity.
Things sure have changed. This was in an era where no one ever heard of a cholesterol count. Livers the size of hams, would occasionally explode like in the case of Reggie Vanderbilt, father of Gloria, who truly drank himself to death. In other words, where eating and drinking were concerned, all bets were off.
If one indeed had a corporation, fleshy, pudgy and plump, you can guarantee he also had a good tailor to let out all seams, cover and conceal the results of an over-active appetite.
Stanford White was only 53 when he died instantly on the Garden’s parquet floor he himself had installed, but during Thaw’s trial who justly ended up in an asylum, it was said, due to White’s flagrant corporation haunting his health, if Thaw had just waited a little longer, he indeed might have died of natural causes.
And, could you please pass the butter, in memory of those tubby, pudgy, overweight gluttons in white tie and tails, proudly preening in their porky, plucky, plus-sized, corpulent, incorporated, corposity.
Words, they give me chills.