Archive for November, 2011

Geez Louise: Alex Emanuel

Posted in Indie Theatre, My Shows, PLUGS, Rock and Pop with tags , , , on November 30, 2011 by travsd

Alex Emanuel as Boy-O, rehearsing a snippet of one of the tunes from Beach Blanket Bluebeard (with Sarah Engelke in wig). We do hope you can attend and drink beers with us at the sideshow! Go here for more info.

Trav S.D.’s “Beach Blanket Bluebeard” December 8

Posted in BROOKLYN, Coney Island, Indie Theatre, PLUGS, Rock and Pop with tags , on November 30, 2011 by travsd

Art by Carolyn Raship

Thursday, December 8, please come see a reading of my show Beach Blanket Bluebeard at Coney Island USA!

Johnny Guitar’s a way-out cat. A little TOO way-out: it’s pretty obvious he’s the one who’s been snuffing all the chicks on the beach! It’s up to Boy-o and the Gang to take the law into their hands before all the dolls are buried under the boardwalk. Clamburger, anyone?

Downtown impresario Trav S.D.’s new/old rock musical mixes elements of Elvis pictures, Roger Corman, Brecht’s Baal , and Monsieur Verdoux, featuring a dozen original Trav S.D. tunes. Directed by Carolyn Raship.

This script-in-hand play-reading stars Esther Crow of The Electric Mess as “Johnny”; with Anna Copa Cabanna, Audry Crabtree, Alex Emanuel, Sarah Engelke, Ian W. Hill, Mateo Moreno, Jillian Tully, C.L. Weatherstone, Stephanie Willing, and li’l ole me Trav S.D.!

$10 in advance or at the door.

Click the link to buy tickets in advance.

A St. Andrew’s Day Post

Posted in HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Silent Film, St. Andrews Day/ Tartan Day, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by travsd

Alreet, shet yer yap!

Maybe St. Andrew’s Day isn’t near as popular as St. Patrick’s, but somewhere under all this greasepaint there lies a card-carryin’, kilt-wearin’ member of the Stewart clan and ye ought to knaw where his fealty lies! In honor of the day of our patron Saint, some tributes to a few favorite Scotsmen:

Sir Harry Lauder

Believe it or not, one of the top five vaudeville acts of all time, up there with Houdini and Eva Tanguay, was this token Scotsman with bushy eyebrows, who came on stage in full kilt regalia and sang sentimental songs in a thick burr. His biggest hit was a song called “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’”. To modern eyes and ears he seems a Warner Brothers cartoon’s idea of a Scotsman. Ah, but perhaps we have it backwards—maybe Warner Bros. got their idea of a “Scotsman” from him.

He was born in Edinburgh in 1870 and got his first working experience in a coal mine. But a coal mine is no place for canaries. He made his debut 1882, in Arbroath. Today Arbroath, tomorrow the world! He debuted in London in 1900, and quickly became one of the most sought after entertainers in music hall, touring also Australia and South Africa before reaching American shores in 1907. His debut at the New York Theater was so successful, the audience held him over an hour.

Americans loved Lauder so much he toured the country 25 times. (His last was 1934). In an era when 17 minutes was a long time for an act to be on a vaudeville stage, Lauder usually did an hour fifteen, slaughtering the throngs with songs like “Wee Hoose ‘Mang the Heather” and “It’s a’ Roon the Toon”. His success extended to a very lucrative recording career (1902-1933) and numerous films, including several early talkie experiments. He was knighted in 1919 for his work entertaining troops. His last radio broadcast was in 1942, but  retired officially in 1949. He died the following year.

Will Fyffe

American vaudeville’s second favorite Scotsman was Will Fyffe (1885-1947), who broke into English music hall around 1916, and made numerous appearances at New York’s Palace Theatre in the late 1920s. His last appearance in the States was in Earl Carroll’s Vanitiesin 1932 (the last edition). He appeared in numerous talkies from 1930 until his death (reportedly by falling out a window) in 1947.

Jimmy Finlayson

I’ll be writing much more about Jimmy Finlayson (1887-1953) in the coming months, both here and in my new book Chain of Fools. Finlayson (known as “Fin” to the fans who revere him) is best known today as the comic foil to Laurel and Hardy, although he appeared in many other films, often as the star. His career spanned both the silent and sound eras. He got his start at Mack Sennett’s Keystone, but enjoyed greater success on the Hal Roach lot. He is best loved for his highly individualistic double-take, which involved the squinting of one eye in a suspicious manner while his head perked up in surprise. His influence is strongly felt today on The Simpsons, both in the person of “Groundskeeper Willie”, but also in Homer’s famous exclamation  “D’Oh!” — another borrowing from Fin. He is seldom identified as the Scotman he is in his pictures — he simply speaks in that unmistakable burr, just another matter-of-fact immigrant to American shores.

Dingus McDollar

Patron and star of the American Vaudeville Theatre 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza last August. (a.k.a Josh Hartung).  Stripped of all other ethnic stereotypes, we were forced to resort to “Scotch-face”.

Happy St. Andrew’s Day!

To find out more about these variety artists and 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.


Babes in Toyland

Posted in BROOKLYN, Christmas, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , , , on November 30, 2011 by travsd

I’ll be writing about another version Victor Herbert’s 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland (yes, the Laurel and Hardy version) in a few weeks. Meantime, this version opens at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg tonight!

The Brick Theater, Inc.  and Little Lord present a holiday “recession special”


This holiday season, join Mother Goose and friends on a romp through a land of manufactured make-believe! With exuberant song and shoddy spectacle, Little Lord’s Babes in Toyland will recall the happy days of childhood to those who are facing the stern realities of life.

(Not recommended for actual children.)

Adapted and directed by Michael Levinton

Musical direction by Kate Marvin

Produced by Jane Jung

Dramaturg/Associate Producer – Sarah Bishop-Stone


Corinne Donly, Das Elkin, Michael Levinton,

Tina Shepard & Laura von Holt

Musical Accompaniment by Nicholas Williams

Designed by Karen Boyer, Bevan Dunbar, Jason Simms & Christina Watanabe

Stage Managed by Dina Paola Rodriguez

Assistant Stage Manager – Lia Burrell

Wed 11/30 – Sat 12/10
Wed – Fri @ 8pm, Sat @ 8pm & 10:30pm
Tickets $18
Use code SCALLYWAG for $14 tix for performances

Wed 11/30 – Wed 12/7

buy tickets

Stars of Vaudeville #394 : The Three X Sisters

Posted in Radio (Old Time Radio), Singers, Sister Acts, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , on November 30, 2011 by travsd

The Three X Sisters were actually The Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce (i.e., Jessie Fordyce) who were later renamed to add glamor and mystery to their radio careers. Pearl Hamilton (1900-1978) started out in the late teens and early twenties in old school (non-stripping) burlesque. She teamed up with her sister Violet (1908-1983) and their friend Jessie in 1924. Their radio debut was in 1927. They were also in demand for cartoon voice overs during the 1930s. They gradually broke up the late 1930s, early 1940s. Pearl and Violet continued to pursue separate careers for a while. Little is known of what happened to Jessie.

The clip below is from their peak, around 1935:

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.


Stars of Vaudeville # 393: Lee Morse

Posted in Singers, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , on November 30, 2011 by travsd

Lee Morse (born Lena Corinne Taylor on this day in 1897) was a big time vaudeville singer and star of Broadway revues in the 1920s. She was the daughter of a preacher; her four older brothers formed a professional quartet; her younger brother Glen was Senator from Idaho for a time (known as “The Singing Senator” for his earlier career as a singer). She was married and pregnant by age 16 but still strove to enter show business. She began working local small time in the Pacific Northwest, accompanying herself on guitar. The tide changed when she was booked for a Kolb and Dill revue in 1920. Many such engagements followed, such as Raymond Hitchcock’s Hitchykoo series, and Artists and Models with Frank Fay. The peak of her career was 1924-30, where her pyrotechnic if gimmicky showmanship made her a star of vaudeville, numerous recordings, and some Vitaphone shorts. After this, vaudeville declined, and drinking got in the way of her career. For a time, her husband and accompanist was Bob Downey, a cousin of Morton Downey Sr (a popular singer and father of the briefly notorious tv talk show host). Morse and Downey tried to start a nightclub in Texas in the 30s but it burned down. They moved to Rochester, where the marriage broke up. Morse remained in the area and continued to perform locally until her death in 1954.

Now here she is singing the timeless classic “I Like Pie, I Like Cake”:

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.


Vaudephone #3: Carla Rhodes and Cecil

Posted in Contemporary Variety, Vaudephones, Vaudeville etc., Ventriloquism & Puppetry with tags , , , on November 29, 2011 by travsd

Here now, the third installment in our Vaudephone series: the impeccable rock and roll ventriloquist Carla Rhodes and her partner Cecil Sinclair:

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