Madamesoille Fifi was one of the last gals out of the gate with that old vaudeville spirit. Her character was a complete invention. Her name was Yvonne Lussier and she was from Montreal, not Paris as she liked to give out. She came to New York in 1924, where she auditioned for John Murray Anderson, producer of the Greenwich Village Follies, by singing “Yes, We Have No Bananas” in French. She claimed to have come straight from the Folies Bergere. Why not? Anderson named her “Fifi”. Shortly thereafter, Gallagher and Shean joined the show and Fifi became Gallagher’s apprentice – in love as well as in work. She was in his vaudeville act for two years, learning the ropes, but aslo functioning as his common-law wife. From there, she went on to a Herman Timberg sketch with Herman Berrens called “Ten Dollars a Lesson.” After this she worked solo, singing and telling jokes well into the thirties at the same times she was starring in movies for Twentieth-Century Fox, such as They Had to See Paris (1930), Those Three French Girls, and Young as You Feel (1931). Her last film was What a Way to Go! (1964). She continued to perform live through the 1970s, notably in the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies (1971).
To find out more about the variety artspast and present, consultNo Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.