A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 09, 2015
“A politician is a man who will double-cross that bridge when he comes to it”

"A politician is a man who will double-cross that bridge when he comes to it” is a jocular one-line saying that is frequently credited to American composer and comedian Oscar Levant (1905-1972). Levant wrote in Memoirs of an Amnesiac (1965) that he once told a politician that “"he’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it,” but it’s not known when Levant first said this.

“Let’s not double-cross that bridge before we come to it” was cited in a 1954 newspaper, in a story about the McCarthy Subcommittee hearings. “One step at a time is the motto in politics. As one veteran puts it? ‘I’ll double cross that bridge when I come to it’” was cited in August 1959.

The joke was frequently told in 1960, but Levant is nowhere credited for it. One newspaper reported in March 1960, “Vice President Richard M. Nixon, when asked his stand on any controversial issue: ‘I’ll double cross that bridge when I come to it.’”


Wikiquote: Oscar Levant
Oscar Levant (December 27, 1906 – August 14, 1972) was an American pianist, composer, author, comedian, and actor. He was more famous for his mordant character and witticisms, on the radio and in movies and television, than for his music.
(...)
I once said cynically of a politician, “He’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it.”
. The Memoirs of an Amnesiac (1965), p. 13; also quoted in The Quotable Politician (2003) by William B. Whitman, p. 31.

23 April 1954, The Hamilton Journal and The Hamilton Daily News (Hamilton, OH), “We, the People” by John F. Carter, pg. 8, col. 5:
If the individuals involved were State Department officials called before the McCarthy Subcommittee everybody knows what the senator would make of it. But let’s not double-cross that bridge before we come to it.

22 August 1959, Rockford (IL) Register-Republic, “Potomac Fever” by Fletcher Knebel, pg. 1, col. 7:
One step at a time is the motto in politics. As one veteran puts it? “I’ll double cross that bridge when I come to it.”

2 March 1960, The Times (Corpus Christi, TX), “Washington Scrapbook” by Walter Truman (Chicago Tribune Service), pg. 2B, col. 6:
Vice President Richard M. Nixon, when asked his stand on any controversial issue: “I’ll double cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
26 April 1960, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, Mike Connolly (Hollywood column), pg. 21, col. 8:
A reporter pal of mine tells me that he probed a prudent Presidential possibility for his opinion of a peppery problem and got this reply: “We’ll double-cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Google News Archive
14 September 1960, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “nature’s Toast to Brandi” by Buck Herzog, pt. 1, pg. 17, col. 1:
THE STORY IS going the rounds that a local politician, in the heat of booze and arguments, answered a pertinent question by a young voter by saying, “Don’t be impatient, young man. I’ll double-cross that bridge when I come to it.”

6 October 1960, Lubbock (TX) Avalanche-Journal, “The Plainsman,” pg. C-8, col. 1:
A campaign manager was talking with the candidate.

“What,” he asked, “are we going to say about the farm program?”

“Don’t worry,” said the candidate. “We’ll double-cross that bridge when we come to it!”

Google News Archive
11 January 1963, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “A Cutting Insult, Indeed” by Buck Herzog, pt. 1, pg. 19, col. 1:
The story made the rounds in the news rooms about a reporter asking a local politician a very pertinent question, to which the politico replied, “Don’t get impatient young man. I’ll double cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Google Books
Memoirs of an Amnesiac
By Oscar Levant
Hollywood, CA: S. French
1965
Pg. 13:
I once said cynically of a politician, “He’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it.”

28 July 1965, Aberdeen (SD) American-News, “Earl Wilson’s New York,” pg .4, col. 5:
Oscar Levant’s latest book, “The Memoirs of an Amnesiac,” contains his greatest critiques, including one about a politician: “He’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it.”

23 October 1966, The Sunday Star (Washington, DC), “People in Action: Oscar Levant,” This Week magazine pg. 8, col. 2:
A POLITICIAN—“He’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it.”

Google Books
The Quotable Intellectual:
1,417 Bon Mots, Ripostes, and Witticisms for Aspiring Academics, Armchair Philosophers...and Anyone Else Who Wants to Sound Really Smart

By Peter Archer
Avon, MA: Adams Media
2010
Pg. 91:
“A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.” —OSCAR LEVANT

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, October 09, 2015 • Permalink