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 February 18, 2009
“All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening”

Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943) was the drama critic of the New York (NY) Times and a member of the Algonquin Round Table. On a radio show in September 1933, Woollcott mentioned a story about the lunching Mr. Frank Rand of St. Louis, who was eating undressed lettuces:

“‘Do you eat that stuff because you like it?’ someone asked Rand. ‘No, I hate it,’ he replied. ‘But it seems as if anything I like is either illegal or immoral or fattening.’”

The saying was further popularized by Woollcott in the Reader’s Digest in December 1933: “All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening.” (This changes “illegal or immoral or fattening” to “immoral, illegal or fattening.")

[This entry was prepared with the research assistance of the Quote Investigator.]


Wikipedia: Alexander Woollcott
Alexander Humphreys Woollcott (January 19, 1887 – January 23, 1943) was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine, and a member of the Algonquin Round Table.

He was the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside, the main character in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and for the far less likable character Waldo Lydecker in the classic film Laura. He claimed to be the inspiration for Rex Stout’s brilliant detective Nero Wolfe, but Stout, although he was friendly to Woollcott, said there was nothing to this idea.

Woollcott’s review of the Marx Brothers’ Broadway debut, I’ll Say She Is, helped highlight the renaissance of the group’s career and started a life-long friendship with Harpo Marx. Harpo’s two adopted sons, William (Bill) Woollcott Marx and Alexander Marx, are named after Woollcott.
(...)
Quotes
“All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening.”

Old Fulton Post Cards
16 September 1933, Albany (NY) Evening News, “As I Hear It” by The Listener, pg. 14, col.  6”
As for instance quoting Woollcott’s story about the Mr. Frank Rand of St. Louis who in the interest of his girth was lunching on bouillon cubes and undressed lettuce.

“Do you eat that stuff because you like it?” someone asked Rand. “No, I hate it,” he replied. “But it seems as if anything I like is either illegal or immoral or fattening.”

Google Books
Brewer’s Famous Quotations: 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them
By Nigel Rees
Published by Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
2006
Pg. 506:
Alexander WOOLLCOTT American writer and critic (1887-1943)
All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.
The Knock at the Stage Door (1933). W. C. Fields uttered the line, “According to you, everything I like to do it either illegal, immoral or fattening” in the film Six of a Kind (US 1934). Hence, presumably the song, “It’s Illegal, It’s Immoral Or It Makes You Fat” by Griffin, Hicks and Bruce, and popularized in the UK by the Beverly Sisters (1950s).
(This saying does not appear in “The Knock at the Stage Door” by Alexander Woollcott, September 1922, The North American Review—ed.)

The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 838:
Alexander Woollcott
“All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening.”
Quoted in Reader’s Digest, Dec. 1933.

1 March 1934, Albert Lea (MN) Evening Tribune, “News From Washington, D. C.” by Carl Eastwood, pg. 10, col. 5:
We all have to admit that women get the worst of the deal, as one said today that most women now find that what they do is either illegal, immoral or too fattening.

26 December 1934, Fayetteville (AR) Daily Democrat, pg. 2, col. 2:
Mr. Woolcott is remembered by us who are rather rotund for a joke he originated some months ago when he said: “Everything I want to do is either illegal, immoral or fattening.”

5 November 1937, Oelwein (Iowa) Daily Register, pg. 7, col. 8:
From middle age on everything is either “illegal, immoral or fattening.” (Alexander Woollcott in one of his duller moments.)

OCLC WorldCat record
It’s illegal, it’s immoral (or it makes you fat)
Author: Ken Hecht; Wally Griffin; G Bruce; Edward Martin; Ben Barton; All authors
Publisher: New York, NY : Tabb, [1957]
Series: WNEW collection.
Edition/Format: Music : 78 rpm : Popular music : English

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Wednesday, February 18, 2009 • Permalink