Today is the birthday of Bert Gordon (1895-1974) best known as “The Mad Russian” on Eddie Cantor’s radio show and in comedy films of the 1930s and 40s.
NOT to be confused with Bert I. Gordon, producer of such excellent movies as The Amazing Colossal Man and Food of the Gods. I have little doubt I will write a glowing post about him some one of these days however.
This Bert Gordon, the Mad Russian, started out singing in Bowery theatres as a very small child, then moved up to some of vaudeville’s legendary kiddie acts like Nine Crazy Kids, and Gus Edwards’ Newsboys Sextette. A master of dialect comedy, he worked with his brother for a few years doing German, Irish, Jewish, and his famous specialty Russian (his real last name was Gorodetsky). Then he began partnering with beautiful showgirls, and moved the act up to Broadway revues. It was Jack Benny who broke him into radio, but his most successful relationship was with Cantor. His famous tag line “How do you doOOOOO?” was so popular that tributes even wound up in Warner Brothers cartoons. His fortunes seem tied to the old time radio era. from the late forties through the early sixties, he did a handful of tv spots (notably Berle and Dick Van Dyke) and that was it. As I think we can all extrapolate from the photo above…a little of the Mad Russian goes a long way.
To find out more about the history of 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.