Billy Watson was born Isaac Levie in the Lower East Side circa 1852. His nickname arises from his most famous gambit — presenting parodies of burlesque shows starring women in the vicinity of 200 lbs. He started out as a boy singer in old time dime museums such as the Globe, the New York, and the Chatham Square before becoming a full-fledged Dutch comedian in vaudeville and burlesque. After a couple of decades as a burlesque star he formed his Beef Trust troupe of plus-sized women in 1899. Competition to get into the shows was heavy; hundreds of hopefuls would show up at his “cattle calls”. Watson retired around 1925, a man of some substance, not only as a producer and performer, but part owner of the Empire Burlesque circuit. He found retirement stifling, however and mounted a well-publicized revival of his Beef Trust show in 1938. And now, the real stars of his show:
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.