“My Little Bag O’ Tricks”,
“The way for a fat woman to do the shimmy is to walk fast and stop short.”
Trixie Friganza was a frequent headliner at the Palace during its heyday. Born Delia O’Callahan in 1870, She took her mother’s maiden name when she went into show biz, which was in the chorus of the Broadway show Pearl of Pekin in 1889. Her second show was Charles Hoyt’s hit A Trip to Chinatown (1891-1893). Other notable shows include Joe Weber’s Twiddle Twaddle (1906), The Passing Show of 1912, Ned Wayburn’s Town Topics (1915), and Murray Anderson’s Almanac (1929).
In the oughts, Friganza started alternating vaudeville stints with starring roles in those Broadway musicals and revues, singing and joking about her weight. Built like Marie Dressler, she would underline the fact with a succession of large, elaborate costumes. In the teens and twenties she concentrated on vaudeville; in the twenties and thirties she played character roles in films. Her two dozen pictures include the original Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1928), Buster Keaton’s Free and Easy (1930), Myrt and Marge (1933), and the original A Star is Born (1937). Her last picture was the all-star If I Had My Way (1940), with Bing Crosby, Gloria Jean, Charles Winninger, and El Brendel. Friganza played herself, on a bill with Eltinge, Grace La Rue, Eddie Leonard, and Six Hits and a Miss.
In 1940, at age 70, Friganza left her fortune to a convent, where she then proceeded to live, much to the consternation of the sisters. She died 15 years later.
To find out more about history of vaudeville and great stars like Trixie Friganza, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.