| "Got a tip," one of them told the desk sergeant, "that Barbara Stanwyck's son has been arrested."|
Fay held his breath as he watched the sergeant check the booking sheet. "Nope," the officer finally said. "Nothing here to indicate it."
Standing just a few feet from the reporter, Fay sighed with relief.
A pair of hours later, one of the reporters was back, armed with the knowledge that Miss Stanwyck's son's legal name was Anthony Fay.
Confronted, Fay denied he was the one. "A coincidence," he explained. The reporter left, not convinced, but not about to take a chance on printing the wrong identification.
A few more hours passed and reporters were back with proof positive, so Fay denied it no longer.
"But," he added plaintively, "it's the first time I've been in trouble in my life."
Yesterday, after his mother-in-law bailed him out of jail, I talked with Tony Fay.
"I've got a wife and a kid," he told me. "They were the ones I was trying to protect. Not Barbara Stanwyck."
Tony is Miss Stanwyck's only child. In 1932, he was adopted as an infant by the actress and her first husband, Frank Fay.
But for years, he told me, he's made it a point never to identify himself with his mother.
"The reason? Well," he said, "it just wasn't important. I never saw her -- except for a lunch date in 1952 that was arranged by an uncle -- since she sent me away to military school in Indiana. My first year of high school.
"I was a bad student," he continued, "I guess that bothered her. She didn't expect me to be a genius or anything, but she wanted me to take advantage of the education she was buying for me. I didn't. I didn't do anything real wrong. I just wasn't interested.
"I was told that she would have sent me to any college I wanted to go to," Tony added. "I'm sorry now that I didn't take advantage of the offer.
"I guess it was more my fault than it was hers. How we each went our separate ways."
After high school graduation, Tony put in two years of honorable service in the Army. After that, he took employment where he found it. At first, he lived with the man he calls his uncle, James Mack, an old vaudeville actor who was a friend of the family and the go-between for Tony and his mother for years.
Three years ago, he married a girl he met on a blind date.
He Just Doesn't Know
"We've got debts," he said, "but we get by, or at least, we were getting by." The most he ever earned was $90 a week. He's been out of work since last November. He told police that he tried to sell the lewd books for money to tide him over until his next unemployment check.
I asked him if he'd tried to push the touch on his mother.
"No," he answered.
"Obviously," I added, "she didn't even go to your wedding."
"I invited her but she didn't make it. She bought us a bathroom set, though," he said. "And when the baby was born, she bought furniture for him and sent us $100.
"It still bothers me," he added quietly, "that she's never come to see her only grandson, my son."
I asked him if he'd thought about that son when he was walking the streets, peddling pornography on other kids.
"I don't know what I thought," he replied. "I just don't know."