PETER PAN OF THE PRAIRIE
Peter Pan Author Has A Wonderful
Book For Just About Everybody
“All the world is made of faith,
and trust, and pixie dust.”
― J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Local bookstore Town Crier was bustling with activity Saturday afternoon as a result of its Surprise Author Extravaganza starring Denise Kelly with her charming NEW YORK TIMES Best Seller novel A PRAIRIE PETER PAN.
It was a hot spot for the promotion of one of Emporia’s local authors and the discovery of a new dimension of outré Fly Over State literature.
Tables were set up in a crescent formation, surrounding the smiling author who was truly the new Royal Queen Bee holding Court there on busy bustling Commercial Street this weekend.
Crowds crammed through the door to meet the new Grande Dame Guignol Queen of Prairie Literature, Denise Kelly, who was promoting her startlingly new and rather risqué biography of Mary White.
It’s the dreary-dearie story of the tragic little darling of the little Kansas town made famous by her famous father, William Allen White, editor of THE EMPORIA GAZETTE.
White was known as a Republican Wheeler-Dealer back then—entertaining such Beltway celebrities as Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and the whole gamut of powerful Conservative Political Potentates that epitomized what America was all about.
There in William Allen White’s prestigious, portentous mansion on Exchange Street, known as “Red Cock,” is where his lovely, pampered, spoiled brat of a daughter, Mary White, grew up.
William Allen White was so infatuated and devoted to his charming little daughter that he did everything to please her—with all the class that money could buy back then.
William Allen White lavished Mary White with truly everything he could buy. As if she were the one and only young pretty Goddess of that dumpy little Santa Fe Cowtown—Emporia the Great Sacrosanct Athens of the Midwest.
With the style and audacity that only money can buy, William Allen White bought off the effete rather fem J. M. Barrie, author of the fabulously successful play on the London stage, PETER PAN.
White shipped the dainty playwright across the Atlantic from England and halfway across America just to dedicate his magnificent sacred temple to his beloved daughter, Mary White. PETER PAN happened to be Mary’s favorite piece of literature.
Like so many young and impressionable adolescent girls, Mary White simply fell in love with the whole idea of a charming elfin boy flying through her open window—to whisk her away off to some kind of Wonderland far beyond dreary Emporia, Kansas.
Modeled after Barrie’s pedophilic romps with the Davies boys in Kensington Gardens, perhaps it was an incestuous fantasy on William Allen White’s part to built an extravagant Peter Pan Park down along the edge of the dumpy, meandering Cottonwood River south of town.
White let it all hang out—Peter Pan Lake, Peter Pan Amphitheater, Monkey Island, acres of manicured lawns and grape arbors. Even tennis courts and convenient bathrooms for the secret Emporia queer cognoscenti.
It’s to this extravagantly decadent, well-planned out, dainty Den of Iniquity that Miss Barrie came to town. She seemed rather stunned, there at the quaint little Santa Fe Emporia train depot, mincing down the steps not knowing what to expect from these gauche country bumpkins who’d invited him to America.
After all, Miss Barrie had got used to rave London reviews and accolades of fame on the British stage. She’d even had the audacity to have a sculpture of young lithe nude Peter Pan erected late one night—to surprise and shock the Kensington Park strollers. Parliament was shocked by such faggy audacity—but Miss Barrie simply shrugged and got rich on the royalties.
Miss Barrie would still be getting plenty of royalties today—given the almost slavish, eternal worship and gay devotion by the Chicken Queen masses of her PETER PAN classic of stage, film and television.
Most notably, my dears, of course, there’s the Cyril Ritchard campy, TV & stage rendition of Captain Hook camping it up in the 1954 musical adaptation which starred Mary Martin as coy Peter Pan.
Cyril’s surprise ejaculation—“It’s a LADY!!!”—having been surprised by the quixotic appearance of Mary Martin leads one to surmise that perhaps it’s this same coquettish, androgynous ambience that was at the heart of William Allen White’s devotion to his tomboy rambunctious daughter.
“It’s a LADY!!!” must have been the very first precious impression of the masses of Emporians gathered there that day at the Santa Fe Depot to welcome the famous British author & playwright picked for the dedication of Peter Pan Park.
THE EMPORIA GAZETTE proclaimed in huge garish headlines—“PETER PAN COMES TO TOWN!!” and it was all quite the quite Extravaganza.
Naturally there was a wonderful parade beginning at the Santa Fe tracks and all the way up lovely Commercial Street. Past Newman’s and the all the banks, past the throbbing crowds lining the streets, past the charming Hollywood Temples—the dumpy Lyric, the creepy Strand and the classic Granada.
Cheering rowdy crowds of drunken Kansas State Teacher’s College students lined the streets—as the Peter Pan Parade paused at the Sunken Garden.
There where Alma (Geraldine Page) of Tennessee Williams’ SUMMER AND SMOKE partook of her happy pills and sucked off young studly traveling salesman Earl Holliman.
Ending up after a drunken fraternity orgy, the lovely Peter Pan retinue spending the night at the newly renovated and refurbished Breckinridge Hotel there on Sixth Avenue. Miss Barrie spending a restful evening in the Wood Bloxom Bridal Suite.
Then the next day, the wonderful Peter Pan Park dedication ceremonies—with all the pomp and circumstance that money could buy. The usually miserly, miserable, penny-pinching Republican Red State attitude toward the Midwestern Muse loosened up somewhat—permitting the infatuated GAZETTE editor to have his day in the sun.
After a tour of the exquisite premises of the new Kansas Kensington Park of the Sunflower State—Miss Barrie was greatly impressed by the verve and vivacious devotion of William Allen White to his lovely daughter, Mary.
Miss Barrie wept tears in the Amphitheater, sensing the same feelings of the great editor of THE EMPORIA GAZETTE.
The newly created Peter Pan Park dedicated to Miss Barrie’s eternally boyish British Boyfriend reminded him of the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens back in the British Isles.
Erected secretly overnight for May Morning in 1912, the statue was supposed to be modeled on old photographs of Michael undressed in the nude.
However, the sculptor, Sir George Frampton, used a different child as a model, leaving Barrie grievously disappointed with the result. "It doesn't show the devil in Peter," he said.
Whisked off on the Santa Fe Super Chief with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint as quickly as possible, the Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans and other semi-religious Jesus Freaks breathed a sigh of relief after Miss Barrie made her exit out of lovely Emporia.