Gus Sun

The name Gus Sun was synonymous with bottom of the barrel small time. Actually named Klotz, Gus changed his name for professional reasons when he became a juggler. (I imagine “Klotz” sounded too much like “Klutz”.) He went from circus performer…to head of a medicine show…to opening his first movie and vaudeville theatre in Springfield, OH in 1904. His operation grew like wildfire: by 1907, he controlled 70 houses and oversaw the booking for 100 others. By 1909, the number had leaped to 200. By 1926, 300. In addition to Ohio, his territory included Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, New York, New England, and Canada, yet his enterprise remained too small to provoke the worry of Keith and the other Big Time managers. In his poverty, Sun introduced all sorts of miserly innovations that were later picked up by larger organizations that had less of an excuse. Among these were: the “split week”, i.e., a three day gig that forced an act to spend a sleepless night on the train getting to a town for their next three day gig (the previous norm had been a week’s worth of work, allowing for a more humane full day of travel and rest on Sunday); and the “cancellation clause”, a contractual provision allowing managers to fire an act deemed unsatisfactory after the first performance, leaving the performers stranded. Still, he gave many important performers their starts and he is justifiably immortalized today in a mural (see picture above) on the back of the Regent Theatre in Springfield, Ohio.

To find out more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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