John L. Sullivan a.k.a The Boston Strong Boy (born this day in 1858) was by some lights Amerca’s first sports star, the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing, and the first heavyweight champion of the “gloves” era. He lost his title to James J. Corbett in 1892, and thereafter earned his living on the vaudeville and lecture stage. He passed away in 1918. Greg McClure portrayed him in the 1945 bio-pic The Great John L.
To learn more about the roots of vaudeville and variety entertainment, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.