Best known today as a footnote in the career of Eddie Cantor, Jean Bedini (ca. 1880-1955) began his career as a juggler who was teamed up with Roy Arthur shortly after the turn of the last century. Bedini was the only actual juggler in the act, Arthur was just a blackface** stooge who brought him props. (Cantor, an old neighbor of Arthur’s, was later brought in as yet another blackface stooge, and was eventually fired for upstaging Bedini, the star). Bedini later became a producer of burlesque revues on the Columbia Wheel, and is credited with giving boosts to the careers of Clark and McCullough, Joe Cook, Ted Healy, and George White (he of the Scandals). Bedini was still producing in the early 1940s, and still performing for years after that.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, including acts like Bedini and Arthur, 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.