Sid Grauman (born this day in 1879) is most famous of course for his eponymous “Chinese Theatre”, site of fabulous Hollywood openings with sweeping floodlights, red carpets, and stars placing their handprints in wet cement.
Lesser known is the fact that he was a second generation impresario; his father D.J. had produced minstrel shows** in San Francisco years earlier. Sid started out in vaudeville as an acrobat. According to the book Vaudeville Old & New, for a time he was partnered with Joel Whitehurst: the pair would roller skate upside down suspended from a giant magnet. Grauman opened his first house the Million Dollar Theatre in 1918. There followed the Egyptian (1922) and the Chinese (1927). And back in those days of course, vaudeville acts were still a part of the presentation. Grauman passed away in 1950.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, please consult my critically acclaimed book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other fine establishments.
**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.