Above: a 1907 portrait of Winsor McCay by his friend and fellow cartoonist Cliff Sterrett.
Back in 1914, Winsor McCay had finished a performance at Chicago's Hammerstein Theatre. Gertie the Dinosaur, his pioneering animated film debuted that year.
He got a surprise when he retired backstage: a strange woman was there. She wanted to extort money from the famous cartoonist -- or maybe she just wanted to drink and smoke and go out with him. Yes, she was strange indeed.
She was Irene Lamkin and she wanted restitution.
Her story was that her husband Harry was secretly going out with McCay's wife. Mrs. Lamkin's marriage had busted up because of it. There was a threat that this would all come out in the papers. A big scandal for one of the nation's most famous cartoonists.
Mrs. McCay confirmed that Harry Lamkin was, indeed, infatuated with her.
Kevin Collier, for the Grand Haven Tribune, writes:
Winsor McCay reluctantly met with Mrs. Lamkin, concerning the threat, at the Hotel Hermitage on March 11, 1914. She told him she had no money and would be put out of her house if McCay didn’t pay her rent.
Then she was said to remark, “They go out together, doggone, so why can’t we go out together?” McCay told the court, “She did not act like a lady."
In fact, McCay reported that Irene “drank and smoked cigarettes” with him in the hotel restaurant “to the tune of $28.”
McCay asked her why she had picked him out “to disgrace.” Mrs. Lamkin was said to reply, “I will drive your wife out of New York if you do not give me the money!”
The evidence did not hold up. Mrs. McCay, Winsor's wife of 23 years, had been at home the evenings she was supposed to be galavanting around with Irene's husband. The infatuation was not reciprocated.
The whole story is here.