Buff Prez Fred Ankenman: Some Like It Hot!

Houston Buffs President Fred Ankenman (far left) and two unidentified Buffs listen to Babe Ruth speech to the Knothole Gang in 1930. - Photo Excerpt from larger group shot owned & made available to us by the Story Sloane Gallery, Houston.

Do you remember “Some Like It Hot,” the 1959 Marilyn Monroe movie in which 1920s musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon escape from Chicago dressed as women to avoid getting rubbed out by mobsters who know they had been witnesses to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

In my book, it was one of the funniest movies of all time as the boys hide as members of an all girls band that features Marilyn Monroe as their lead singer. As Josephine (Curtis) and Daphne (Lemmon), the guys bite the double edge of the safety it provides along with the blunting effect it places upon their shared interest in the pursuit of Ms. Monroe. – For comedic plot purposes only, Marilyn Monroe (“Sugar”) cannot detect that her two very interested friends are actually men.

Wow! What a hilarious premise. Even today.

What it brought it to mind was a conversation I had this week with friend and fellow researcher Mike Vance about Fred Ankenman, the Houston Buffs Baseball president from the end of World War I through 1942. In Fred’s autobiography, “Four Score and More,” we may have been handed a double entendre dab of spice on the “More” part of that title that only comes to light when Fred recounts his younger days celebration of the once local holiday in Houston they called “N.O.T.S.U.O.H” – or, Houston spelled backward.

I’m not really sure how it got started, or why it ended so early in the 20th century, but “N.O.T.S.U.O.H” (1899-1915) was sort of like a one-night Mardi Gras affair in which people went downtown to walk around in costume, drink, eat, and party like it was …. WELL … 1915! Fred Ankenman turned 28 in 1915 and he was still in the earlier part of his career as an employee of Southern Pacific. Fred and his wife Nanny were enjoying their young married life in Houston, but Fred’s career with the Houston Buffs was still about four years down the road.

N.O.T.S.U.O.H turned out to be a time for Ankenman to act out one of his purely innocent interests – the art of female impersonation. In one unspecified year, Nanny and her sister decided to go to N.O.T.S..O.H on the streets of downtown Houston dressed in “baby doll” dresses that included skirts that came all the way up to the knees. fred like the idea so much that the decide that his “fun night” needed to include some of the same. He asked his wife to make him a baby doll dress too, which he wore with silk stockings and a corset he borrowed from his sister-in-law.

“I had pretty legs for a man and after a clean shave, I really was the best looking girl in the group,” Ankenman wrote. (Four Score and More, p 25.)

The real ladies quickly tired of being accosted by some of the men who reached out to pinch them and offer a few unrequested hugs.

“They treated me the same way, not realizing I was a man. I told the girls to go on home, but I was going to stay,” Ankenman added. “I remained until midnight when the crowd began to thin out, but only after I had experienced the greatest night of fun in my entire life.” (ibid, p. 25.)

Ankenman goes on to describe specific pick up attempts by various men that he plays to the  hilt with each guy before dropping his voice to its true deeper male testosterone-dripping tone.

Apparently Fred Ankenman failed to encounter the kind of guy that Jack Lemmon ended up with in “Some Like It Hot.” When aging rich man Joe E. Brown as Osgood went after the female-dressed Jack Lemmon in the movie, “Daphne” wouldn’t even shake the guy’s proposal in the end with the disclosure that “what the heck! I can’t marry you, Osgood, because … frankly,  I’m a BOY!”

Had Fred Ankenman used the “I’m a boy” defense against a N.O.T.S.U.O.H suitor like Joe E. Brown, he may have gotten the same response that Jack Lemmon received at the close of the 1959 movie:

“Nobody’s perfect!”

Not even a future iconic President of the Houston Buffs.

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