You won’t be hearing much from me today, as I am preparing for my presentation to honor the American Vaudeville Museum’s Frank Cullen at the Theatre Museum’s annual gala at the National Arts Club. (Halleluiah, say you).
It seems a fitting day though to plug Frank’s tireless and selfless work. I don’t doubt that he finds his work enormously pleasurable — so why “selfless”? Well, we can start with the fact that from the start (1982) his American Vaudeville Museum has been a not-for-profit enterprise. In 2009, he donated the entire holdings — the world’s largest collection of vaudeville memorabilia — to the University of Arizona. Most would have chosen the collector’s route, and made a buck off that material. It wasn’t on his agenda. In 1998, he started putting the excellent quarterly Vaudeville Times — back issues are still available. And in 2007, his masterwork, co-authored with Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly Vaudeville Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, two hardbound library volumes comprising 1300 pages with 500 photos, an index a bibliography, a survey of vaudeville, and 1500 entries including more than 1000 biographies of old & new performers from 1850 to 2000, and a glossary of hundreds of terms. Needless to say, my copy of that book is well-thumbed.
Further, his web site, vaudeville.org is a handy resource, featuring tons of short profiles of vaudevillians organized alphabetically. I urge you to avail yourself of these resources if you’ve any interest at all in the subject, and I imagine you do, seeing as how you are HERE. At any rate, this is how begin our day. Three cheers for Frank Cullen!