Born in 1858, young Gustave Metz renamed himself after Harry Hill’s saloon when he went into show business, transforming himself into Gus Hill. He was a wrestler, juggler and Indian club twirler back in the day, billed as the “Champion Clubman of the World”. Like many a successful performer, he later directed his earnings toward producing, producing vaudeville and burlesque revues (often called “Gus Hill’s Novelties”), musical comedies, minstrel shows ** and dramas from the 1880s through the 1920s. Weber and Fields, Montgomery and Stone, Eddie Cantor and Billie Reeves are all artists who can be said to have been discovered or nursed along by Gus Hill.He was also one of the founders of the Columbia wheel, burlesque’s premiere circuit. In later years he was well known for tab shows based on popular comic strips like Mutt and Jeff, the Yellow Kid, and Happy Hooligan. He passed away in 1937.
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.
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.