Russel Crouse was persuaded to emcee the Howard Lindsay Pipe Night [on May 23, 1965]. We think his humor and modesty and affection as he pipemastered the situation should at least in part be recorded here.
I am not your Pipe Master tonight by my own choosing. Presuming to take the responsibility of Pipe Master on an occasion which honors the greatest Pipe Master of them all is something which has given me real, genuine stage fright…or should I call it “pipe fright.” The Entertainment Committee will tell you that I put up quite a fight. Finally they said to me to go home and listen to the record of the Alfred Lunt-Lynn Fontanne Pipe Night and see how easy it is. So I went home, put on the record, listened to it, and it was easy…for Howard Lindsay. That night as Pipe Master he gave a performance as skillfully brilliant as any ever given on the stage by the two illustrious stars who were the guests of honor on that occasion. I heard his final quip, his goodnight, and I sat staring at the machine. I was suicidal. I got up and walked out into the dusk. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t care. I kept walking. I crossed streets I didn’t know, that I’d never been on before. I crossed streets against the traffic lights, but fortunately all the good drivers were out that night. Finally I found myself on a bridge. I looked up and saw that it was Brooklyn Bridge. I climbed up on one of the girders. I stood there swaying in the gentle evening breeze. I looked down at the inviting waters of the East River below me. Brooklyn Bridge. The East River. And then I remembered Kelly! Suddenly I realized that no man in my profession can afford to be identified with a $600,000 one-night catastrophe! So I didn’t jump. I got down off the girder and walked home, and here I am tonight your very humble Pipe Master…
I’ve been through a great deal with Howard in the almost 31 years that we’ve been working together and I’ve loved every minute of it…well, almost every minute of it. Of course there were the days of the “beard”…you remember…about a year ago…the beard. I was sure we were struck with it for life when he called up one night and said, “I got on a bus today and a lady got up and gave me her seat!” But somehow reason prevailed. It always does with Howard. I think it is an open secret that I am in love with him, in a nice way…but it’s all right…everybody else is too. He has more integrity than any man I know and more heart. I have asked him to leave his conscience to the Smithsonian Institution…it’s that kind. You’ll be walking along with him on the street and suddenly he’ll mutter “Damn!” It turns out that he’s still suffering over some unintentional hurt he caused a fellow scholar at the Boston Latin School more than 50 years ago! I could go on about him and his various qualities, but I don’t want to turn out to be the first crying Pipe Master in the history of The Players.
Russel Crouse joined The Players in 1927. He is best known for his work with long-time partner Howard Lindsay. They revised the book for the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes and adapted Clarence Day's Life With Father, which became one of Broadway’s longest-running plays. Their most famous collaboration was the book for The Sound Of Music. Their 1946 play State Of The Union won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Faithfully reproduced from The Players After 75 Years, ed., George Woodbridge Stewart. Copyright 1968 by The Players, New York.