Archive for May, 2011

Stars of the AVT #15: Dirty Martini

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags on May 31, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

I first beheld the vision that is burlesque sensation Dirty Martini back in ’98 or ’99 when she was in Tex and Trixie’s All Girl Revue at the Wow Cafe. Seeing her for the first time is intrinsically memorable; I bet everybody remembers their “first time”. I’ve written about her a couple of times on this site before, here and here. My credentials as a fan are therefore well established…although I have only had the honor of presenting her the once, as part of my American Burlesque series at Surf Reality in 2001. She’s an international jet setter, model and movie star now. Naming herself after a cocktail has worked so well for her, from now I think I am going to call myself “Harvey Wallbanger”.

And here’s an exciting news bulletin Dirty just starred in the film Tournee with Julie Atlas Muz.  Based on a 1912 Collette novel,  it  won the critics prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival!

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Antique Phonograph Music Program Live From Bryant Park

Posted in Dixieland & Early Jazz, SOCIAL EVENTS, Tin Pan Alley with tags , on May 31, 2011 by travsd

One of the best radio shows on the air, WFMU’s Antique Phonograph Music Program is broadcasting live from Bryant Park Tonight. (I should know the show is excellent — I’ve been a guest on it twice!) Host MAC is encyclopedic as he is entertaining, and his collection of 78s is fairly awe-inspiring. Tonight he promises a program of songs about New York along with bird calls, poets and recitation. Music starts at 7pm and LIVE broadcast is from 8-9pm.

Stars of the AVT #14: Mr. Spoons (and Daphne Hellman Shih)

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Music, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , on May 30, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

I was saddened to learn when preparing this post that George Gully (a.k.a “Mr. Spoons”) had passed away about six months ago. More recent photos and videos on his web site (here) are unrecognizably unlike the guy I presented at the Charleston Bar & Grill and the Duplex back in 1997, who seemed sort of well-fed and full of piss and vinegar. He gave the impression of being a tough old bird, a bit of a scrapper. Does my memory embellish? Were they just whispers and rumors at the time? But I seem to remember something about scars from stabbings or even shootings. He spoke fondly of playing roadhouses with chicken wire to protect the performers from the flying beer bottles. Saloons were his usual turf; he’d been performing in them since the age of seven when he began performing with his father, from whom he’d learnedto play both the spoons and the bones. He was a dazzling showman when he was more vigorous, one of the most professional I’ve yet presented, with his yellow rhinestone suit and derby, bowtie, and his virtuosity on those things you usually eat soup with.

Here is a touching clip I just found on Youtube of Spoons playing with a young admirer:

For a couple of his performances at the AVT he brought his sometime musical partner, socialite and harpist Daphne Hellman Shih. She was as lovely and gracious as you can imagine, lugging that gigantic harp to our tiny dive gigs and soothing my distress at paying them such a small stipend. She was a class act, and when she passed away in 2002, she rated this Times obit. What a remarkable life.

Anyway, they’re both in vaudeville heaven now, and for the first time ever, an angel’s harp is being accompanied by a guy playing the spoons.

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Stars of the AVT # 13: Jonny McGovern

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Art Stars, Contemporary Variety, Drag and/or LGBT, Stand Up, Television with tags , on May 29, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

Jonny McGovern (“The Gay Pimp”) has gotten a lot of play with his homocentric raps and comedy routines in recent years on Comedy Central, and was a regular on Ricky Lake’s syndicated show. The graphic nature of his humor isn’t to everybody’s tastes, but to many young gay people he’s become an icon. He’s been the Gay Pimp since his Surf Reality days around the turn of the century, which is where I first knew him. Before that, he did a routine I liked still better: a LaWanda Page-esque aging Blaxploitation star named Chocolate Puddin’. Her tagline was “Gonna cut ya!” Jonny was in my sketch variety night called Rave Theatre at Surf back in ’99.

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Stars of Vaudeville #328: T-Bone Walker

Posted in African American Interest, Blackface & Minstrelsy, Blues, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on May 28, 2011 by travsd

A true bridge between the old world and the new. To the extent that most contemporary people are familar with T-Bone Walker (born this day in 1910) it’s probably as an electric bluesman, an influence on B.B. King and Chuck Berry, and an inductee into the Blues and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. But he also has a vaudeville pedigree. After singing on the streets of Dallas as a child, he performed in medicine shows and black vaudeville. For a time he sang, danced and played with Ida Cox; after that he performed with Ma Rainey. Some claim that he is the first electric guitar player. His real name is Aaron Thibeaux Walker. Pronounce “Thibeaux” the French way and you’ll see how he came to be known as T-Bone. He passed away in 1975.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Wit’s End

Posted in PLUGS, SOCIAL EVENTS with tags , , , on May 28, 2011 by travsd

Tonight at Flute, the regular monthly party Wit’s End will launch two swell new confections: Issue #4 of Zelda Magazine (the magazine of vintage nouveau), and “Moonlight Rendezvous”, a new early jazz/ ragtime CD by Gelber and Manning. It all starts at 7pm. Call 212.265.5169 on that appropriately antiquarian device the telephone to make your reservation.

 

Stars of the AVT #12: Brooklyn Dodgers Sym-Phony Band

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, AMERICANA, BROOKLYN, Music, Sport & Recreation, Vaudeville etc. with tags on May 28, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

The Brooklyn Dodgers Sym-phony Band is a group of fans so rabid they used to gather outside of Ebbets Field and play music before, during and after Dodgers games. Since the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1956, these guys (who clearly already had a lot of free time on their hands) now even had more free time on their hands. But that didn’t stop them from still getting together and playing. They made delightful human interest copy for newspapers on slow news days, which is, I imagine, how I learned about them in the mid-90s, probably from the New York Times. I booked them for my run at the Charlestown Bar and Grill on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg in 1997. They brought with them a film crew, which was shooting this documentary. To this day I still haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know if any footage of my show made the final product.

What I do know is that they didn’t draw like I assumed they would. Audiences were scanty, and in Brooklyn, no less. The band played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and some other tunes for my cast, the bartender and the film crew. Then, when it was all over there was some difficulty about the money. I’d quoted them an amount on the phone and they were now telling me that they understood that I’d meant I’d pay the members of the quintet EACH that amount. It would have been a preposterous amount to have paid for a bunch of batty amateur musicians who couldn’t even attract crickets to watch them play at this venue. I was embarrassed. On their side, the conversation grew heated; one of the worst experiences I ever had as a variety booker. “Do you know who we are?” shrieked a humunculus named Jo-Jo, “We know people. Do you know what we can do to you? We can have you taken care of.”

Those who know me will tell you I am more jellyfish than shark. After a while they got tired of watching me tie myself into a pretzel, and left the bar, still hurling threatens and curses back at me as they piled into their car.

Ah, yes! Baseball! Brass bands! The sweet, nostalgic sound of a more innocent America!

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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