Unlike Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Beatrice Lillie or Vesta Tilley (who went from show biz INTO society), Ms. Draper was a socialite FIRST, then shocked her compeers by stooping to go into show business. The Draper family had been in America since Pilgrim times; by the time of Ruth’s birth they were one of New York’s first families. From childhood she evinced a talent for mimicry. Her specialty was the character monologue. With great depth and great fidelity she would assume the personality of one of countless characters she had observed as she went through life. She was the theatrical equivalent of a sketch artist. She had always done this on an amateur basis at family gatherings, parties, and benefits. As she grew into adulthood, the demand grew until she was performing for the President and even Royalty.
She was in her mid-thirties when she decided to go on the stage professionally. The year was 1920. She booked Aeolian Hall at her own expense with her one woman show, and began to tour the world. Despite the fact that she never had to work a day and her life, she worked and worked hard. She had been bitten by a bug that normally afflicts those far below her station: the obsession to perform. She normally did a full-length solo show on her own, but occasionally took vaudeville bookings. Draper worked her tail off until she gave herself the heart attack that proved fatal, following two performances on December 29, 1956. She was 72 years old.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
[…] show has a grand old pedigree, stretching back over the years from Leopoldo Fregoli….through Ruth Draper…through Chic Sale…through Jonathan Winters…through Whoopi Goldberg and on and on. […]