Sime Silverman

Sime (born today in 1873) is one of the most beloved figures in vaudeville lore. He was the founder/ owner/ publisher/ editor of Variety. You’d little  suspect so today, but Variety was originally established as the trade paper for vaudeville. Hence the name! Indeed, many regard that tragic day when movies were moved to the front of Variety, and vaudeville to the back pages, as the “writing on the wall” for the vaudeville industry’s demise.

Sime, originally from Syracuse, started out as a bookkeeper in his family’s business, but didn’t care for it much. He started out doing vaudeville reviews for the Daily American (which folded) and the Daily Telegraph (which canned him when he dared to trash an act who happened to be an advertiser). He decided to found Variety as a publication whose integrity would be beyond reproach, and for the most part he succeeded. Everybody, acts and managers alike, advertised in Variety (they had to) and the fact that they did so had no bearing on the sorts of reviews or coverage they would get. Consequently, some people adored him, others (the managers, for example, whom we often took to task in his pages) hated him. Sime passed away in 1933, just as Hollywood was starting to dominate the industry and the pages of his paper, and vaudeville was slipping into memory.

For more info on Sime and the paper he founded, check out this cool site.

To find out more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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