This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!
The Brooklyn Dodgers Sym-phony Band is a group of fans so rabid they used to gather outside of Ebbets Field and play music before, during and after Dodgers games. Since the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1956, these guys (who clearly already had a lot of free time on their hands) now even had more free time on their hands. But that didn’t stop them from still getting together and playing. They made delightful human interest copy for newspapers on slow news days, which is, I imagine, how I learned about them in the mid-90s, probably from the New York Times. I booked them for my run at the Charlestown Bar and Grill on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg in 1997. They brought with them a film crew, which was shooting this documentary. To this day I still haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know if any footage of my show made the final product.
What I do know is that they didn’t draw like I assumed they would. Audiences were scanty, and in Brooklyn, no less. The band played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and some other tunes for my cast, the bartender and the film crew. Then, when it was all over there was some difficulty about the money. I’d quoted them an amount on the phone and they were now telling me that they understood that I’d meant I’d pay the members of the quintet EACH that amount. It would have been a preposterous amount to have paid for a bunch of batty amateur musicians who couldn’t even attract crickets to watch them play at this venue. I was embarrassed. On their side, the conversation grew heated; one of the worst experiences I ever had as a variety booker. “Do you know who we are?” shrieked a humunculus named Jo-Jo, “We know people. Do you know what we can do to you? We can have you taken care of.”
Those who know me will tell you I am more jellyfish than shark. After a while they got tired of watching me tie myself into a pretzel, and left the bar, still hurling threatens and curses back at me as they piled into their car.
Ah, yes! Baseball! Brass bands! The sweet, nostalgic sound of a more innocent America!
To learn more about vaudeville past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.