Pauline: “Rigid!”

As you can see in the photo above, in this case the name Pauline refers  not to a lady, as in The Perils of Pauline, but to a fellah. Big time vaudeville’s premiere performing hypnotist he was billed variously as “Pauline” “de Pauline”, and “Dr. [or sometimes Prof.] J. Robert [de] Pauline”. He gave out that he was French, although he was born near Rochester, NY in 1874. He apprenticed under Herbert Flint and The Great McEwen before hanging out his own shingle. By 1909 he was playing Hammerstein’s Victoria. His was what we have come to think of as the classic hypnotism act. He worked with a large number of audience plants who’d pretend to be his subjects and do his bidding (cluck like a chicken or whatever) once he put them under his spell, commanding them to go “Rigid!”, which became a popular catchphrase of the day. According to Wiki, in 1925 he was arrested for throwing a waiter off the ninth floor of a hotel, which took him out of commission for a couple of years, but he fought his way back to the big time by the end of the big time. (I haven’t been able to find corroboration but this is intriguing so rest assured I will keep an eye out for for more info and share what I learn). Pauline retired from the stage in 1937 and himself went permanently “Rigid” in 1942.

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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