Ted Lewis was the original party animal. His catchphrase “Is ev’rybody happy?” still rings on the lips of millions who never even heard of Lewis himself. He wore a dented old top hat when he performed, and himself a crazy old good time up on the stage, and as any veteran will tell you, that’s half the battle.
Born Theodore Freidman, in Circleville, Ohio (1890), he started out singing and playing his clarinet in nicklodeons, medicine shows and carnivals. For years he played the small time and his own nightclubs and cabarets with the Ted Lewis Nut band. His debut at the Palace in 1919 was a wow, and he was to repeat it many times. Trademark Ted Lewis tunes include “When My Baby Smiles At Me”, and “Me and My Shadow.” For good measure, he would roll his hat down his arm and catch it. He had great success through the twenties in revues such as Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and the Greenwich Village Follies. In 1925, he had successful run at London’s Kit Kat Club with the Dolly Sisters. By the thirties, he was out of style, and he gradually faded into the woodwork, passing away in 1971.
To find out more about vaudeville, and stars like Ted Lewis, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.