Archive for July, 2012

Coney Island Talent Show

Posted in Amusement Parks, BROOKLYN, Coney Island, Contemporary Variety, Vaudeville etc. with tags on July 28, 2012 by travsd

Well this is conflict with my own show somewhat as the times overlap but I can’t NOT plug it. So many of my friends are competing I dasn’t single any out. I wish I could be there today myself! More details at

The Passing Show

Posted in Broadway with tags , , on July 22, 2012 by travsd

Today is the centennial anniversary of the launch of the Shubert Organization’s Passing Show series of Broadway revues. The Passing Show was the first attempt to compete with Ziegfeld’s successful Follies which had sprung up five years earlier. Many other annual revues would follow in its wake, and many would last longer; the last edition of Passing Show was in 1924. But while it existed it fostered the talents of many well known entertainers, including Willie and Eugene Howard, Ed Wynn, Fred Allen, George Jessel, Fred and Adele Astaire, Marilyn Miller, Charlotte Greenwood, Bessie Clayton, and Francis Renault.

In honor of the anniversary, my current show Travesties of 2012 is featuring a tribute to the Passing Show, including two songs written for two editions of the show, “Ragtime Jockey Man” by Irving Berlin, and “Carolina in the Morning” by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. The songs are being performed by the lovely Meghan Murphy. You simply must attend!

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.


Jake LaMotta’s New Show

Posted in PLUGS, Sport & Recreation with tags , on July 20, 2012 by travsd

No fooling! Not only is former middleweight champion Jake LaMotta (subject of Martin Scorcese’s film Raging Bull) still ALIVE, but, at the age of 90 he’s starring in a new show called Lady and the Champ through July 29.  Sharing the stage with Denise Baker (I’m guessing she’s the lady) LaMotta promises “an evening of stories, videos, and song and dance.”  Raging Bull, indeed. I wonder if he was inspired by Mike Tyson’s recent Broadway run? 

“Lady and the Champ” plays from Thursday July 19 through Sunday July 29, at Richmond Shepard Theatre, 301 East 26th Street (at 2nd Avenue).  The Off-Off Broadway opening is set for Sunday July 22.  Tickets are $25 for reservations call the theatre’s box office at 212/684-2690.

Inside the Shore Theater

Posted in Amusement Parks, BROOKLYN, Coney Island, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES with tags , on July 20, 2012 by travsd

Never-before-seen photos of the ornate interior of the Shore Theater Building by Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson are on view at their exhibition center through September 3rd.  The new exhibit “Inside the Shore Theater: Photographs by Charles Denson” is open to the public on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 12 noon – 6pm. Admission to the Coney Island History Project is free of charge.

Shore Theater Coney Island History ProjectThe seven-story, neo-Renaissance style theater and vaudeville house and adjacent 14-story office building at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues opened in 1925 and operated for half a century. Both structures have been closed and sealed up for decades. The theater’s facade was granted landmark status in 2010, but the interior is not protected and vulnerable to demolition. The images provide a rare glimpse of a Coney Island treasure.

Vent Haven Opens Today!

Posted in Contemporary Variety, Vaudeville etc., Ventriloquism & Puppetry with tags , on July 18, 2012 by travsd

Vent Haven the annual convention of ventriloquists (and their small wooden friends) opens today in Cincinnatti. For more information see their web site here.

Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, BOOKS & AUTHORS, Broadway, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Hollywood (History), PLUGS, Women with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by travsd

Today is Babs’s birthday, a fitting time to do a little plug for Dan Callahan’s recently released book Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman. Stanwyck wasn’t a vaudevillian (our usual hook on this blog) but she was a hair’s breadth away and was intimately connected with several people who were. Her first husband was comedian Frank Fay; her room-mate during her days of struggle was Mae Clarke. Stanwyck herself started out in night clubs and Broadway as a chorus girl. Her evolution was much like Jimmy Cagney’s: from a song and a dance to a meaty acting role on Broadway and thence to Hollywood. Both were prized for the simplicity of their acting, their blunt realism.

If you are looking for a definitive biography, a single, all-encompassing reference book to learn about Stanwyck’s life both public and private, Callahan’s would not be it. Callahan is a film critic. While he, of necessity, does include tidbits about her real life along the way, the real thrust of the book is a series of loving, blow-by-blow breakdowns of nearly all her performances. The book is organized by director (Stanwyck worked with nearly all of the greats of the classic studio era), and then by genre. Thus the book is highly idiosyncratic and subjective. Callahan is a man of strong opinions. And he is without a doubt expert — he has watched these performances with what seems to be an eagle eye, alert to minute nuances with an attention to detail and sensitivity at times almost manic. Still, most of what he offers, in the end are strong opinions, and opinions may be disagreed with. (I can’t go along with his rather sweeping dismissal of Capra, for example). This book, I think, is thus not for the neophyte or newbie seeking a primer on Stanwyck’s life and work, but more for the seasoned fan, looking for an interesting perspective and new insights. One morsel he offered was depressing indeed — in fact it practically sent me into a tailspin. The author reports that when he was working on the book, an informal survey of his friends (all young adults) revealed that very few of them even knew who Barbara Stanwyck was. I usually use her as a landmark to help me tell the story of Frank Fay, assuming that she, one of the biggest stars of the 20th century (and a star as late as the 1980s) would be a universally known entity, a household word. How hard is my job going to be now, if people have never even heard of Stanwyck????

Woody Guthrie Turns 100

Posted in American Folk/ Country/ Western, AMERICANA, Crackers, Music with tags on July 14, 2012 by travsd

Today is the 100th birthday of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, better known as Woody. I first learned about him in third grade from a very groovy music teacher (it was 1973), but didn’t really get heavily into his music until my early twenties. My best friend in high school’s parents were serious folk fanatics, their old records provided the education. His Dust Bowl Ballads were a huge influence on the songs I created for my play House of Trash in the 1990s, and more recently (last year) for The Ballad of Jasper Jaxon. We’re doing a musical tribute to him in our current show Travesties of 2012 in the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I hope you’ll come see and hear it! Details are here.

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