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November 23, 2010



Brief shaggy dentist story: The life partner of poet W.H. Auden was Chester Kallman, a librettist and translator of librettos and operas. His father, Dr. Edward Kallman, was a personable and urbane NYC dentist. Dr. Kallman's third wife was Dorothy J. Farnan, who taught English at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx.

In 1965 Farnan became the first female chairperson of the English Department at Erasmus Hall High School, following the death of A. Barnett Langdale. As a student, I'd worked for Dr. Langdale in the English Department office. (He was fond of very strong Turkish or Egyptian cigarettes, which he smoked in the Boys bathroom, standing at either an open window or in one of the stalls. This habit no doubt contributed to his fatal heart attack.)

In 1984 at the urging of her husband, Farnan wrote Auden in Love, an engaging and moving literary memoir of the relationship between her stepson and the poet. It was favorably reviewed and well-received.

When Farnan died in 2003 the New York Times Magazine end-of-year issue, The Lives They Lived, profiled her. The profile was written by Arthur Lubow, is currently freely searchable online, and is excellent. Farnan even made the cover of the Magazine in a long-shot summer photo of herself in the mid-1950s on a NYC ferry or excursion boat. She is carrying a stylishly boxy handbag that resembles a child's school lunchbox.

Briefer shaggy dentist story: My former dentist, Dr. Santo J. Bevacqua (dead last month at age 89), was a good dentist who knew his audiences were captive ones. He would regale his patients with verbal catalogs of his stereo recordings and his deep-sea fishing exploits -- as he made sure  our mouths were stuffed with cotton. Alarmingly he would one year be grossly fat, and the next thin and haggard -- and he alternated from one to the other regularly. He once pulled up his shirt to show me his not-quite-healed bypass scars. I could only come up with "Mghpfwapsh." And he would faithfully trot out his second wife, who was also his receptionist, to curl her lips and grimace so we could see the extensive cap work he had lovingly performed on her. Dr. B., RIP.

Briefest ultimate shaggy dentist story: Right up there with Dr. Caress and Dr. Yankowitz was a dentist I went to as a young boy in Williamsburg. His name, as God is my witness, was Dr. Harry Oral.


I just found this post...you should have gone to Dr. Yankowitz. He was my father...but alas...he died in 1960 of a heart attack.

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