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 March 20, 2015
“Steal a hot stove and then come back for the smoke” (brazen criminal)

A person who can “steal a hot stove and then come back for the smoke” is a brazen criminal. Not surprisingly, the remark has often been directed at politicians.

American playwright, raconteur, and entrepreneur Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) is usually given credit for the line. “Among the clever lines of the late Wilson Mizner are: ‘He’d steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke’” was cited in 1943.


Wikipedia: Wilson Mizner
Wilson Mizner (May 19, 1876 – April 3, 1933) was an American playwright, raconteur, and entrepreneur. His best-known plays are The Deep Purple, produced in 1910, and The Greyhound, produced in 1912. He was manager and co-owner of The Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles, California, and was affiliated with his brother, Addison Mizner, in a series of scams and picaresque misadventures that inspired Stephen Sondheim’s musical Road Show (alternately known as Wise Guys, Gold! and Bounce).

Google News Archive
2 April 1943, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, pg. 18, col. 6:
Wisecracks From Wilson Mizner
From the New Yorker Magazine.
Among the clever lines of the late Wilson Mizner are: “He’d steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke.”

30 August 1944, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, “Lindell Had a Check for $5600—Who Could Cash It?” by Bob Stevens, pg. 1H, col. 4:
“What a bandit that umbay is. Why, that blue serge burglar is the type of guy who’d steal a hot stove and come back half an hour later and gather up the smoke.”

Google News Archive
25 April 1945, Berkeley (CA) Daily Gazette, “Try and Stop Me” by Bennett Cerf, pg. 11, col. 1:
He could only admit he (Wilson Mizner—ed.) added, the skill and dexterity of the croupier. “That guy,” he declared, “would steal a hot stove and come back later for the smoke.”

Google Books
The Legendary Mizners
By Alva Johnston
New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Young
1953
Pg. ?: 
Among his miscellaneous lines are “You sparkle with larceny,” “He’d steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke,” ...

20 March 1971, The Plain Dealer, (Cleveland, OH), “Boxcar Burgle,” pg. 8-A, col. 1:
The former champion shoplifter was the fellow with enough gall to steal a hot stove and then come back for the smoke.

9 February 1975, Sunday Herald Advertiser (Boston, MA), “The con game” by Jim Bishop, pg. A6, col. 3:
He (Wilson Mizner—ed.) once said, perhaps of himself, “He’d steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke.”

17 August 1976, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “Today” by George Barmann, pg. 4-A, col. 3:
The judge, sifting through some of Patty’s papers—the uncle died, at 88, recently in County Clare—came across a paragraph on a card that had been written in an alehouse. It said: “Yes, that fellow would steal a hot stove and then go back for the smoke.”

Google News Archive
17 February 1978, Daily Record (Ellensburg, WA), “Lincoln humored his cabinet men” by L. M. Boyd, pg. 3, col. 3:
Wilson Mizner made a name for himself early in this century mostly with his putdowns. Wisecracks such as: “He’d steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke.”

Twitter
The Boston Globe
‏@BostonGlobe
Little Rhody is the one state where pols would steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke, @GlobeCullen writes. http://ow.ly/xQaMy
6:01 PM - 10 Jun 2014

SouthCoast Today
COMMENTARY
Steve Urbon: A storm over Eversource’s ‘storm performance’
Posted Mar. 19, 2015 @ 8:00 pm
(...)
Now something comes along that reminds me of that old saying about a politician who “would steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, March 20, 2015 • Permalink