Archive for September, 2012

Stars of Vaudeville #490: Cholly Atkins

Posted in African American Interest, Broadway, Dance, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , on September 30, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the great dancer Charles “Cholly” Atkins (1913-2003). Buffalo native Atkins started out playing floor shows and revues with William “Red” Porter as the “Rhythm Pals.” By 1935, he was playing the Apollo Theatre, Hollywood and nightclubs. In the late 30s he toured with Bill Robinson in The Hot Mikado. World War 2 slowed his career, but he got to perform with army bands and take the occasional club date on weekends. After the war he teamed with Honi Coles and toured with the big bands of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and others. They peaked as a team with a three year run in Gentleman Prefer Blondes starting in 1949. After this, apart from a few television dates, work grew scarce and Atkins worked as a choreographer. He worked with all the great Motown artists during the 1960s and 70s, staged revues in Las Vegas, and climaxed his career as one of the choreographers on the Broadway show Black and Blue (with Savion Glover) in 1989.

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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Fally Markus

Posted in Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , on September 30, 2012 by travsd

It’s five for Fally Markus

At Only Half the Dough

But It’s Two a Day for Keith

And Three a Day for Loew

— “The Vaudeville Song”, 1938

Fally Markus (ca. 1887-1955) was one of those legendary show business figures, so much so that he almost seems like a rumor or a figure out of myth. He was the agent that vaudevillians big and small went to when they were either completely out of all possible other work (in other words had exhausted every other option) OR when they wanted to break in new material. The small time dates he booked provided little or no money (sometimes only travel fare) but at least kept you performing. Milton Berle, for example, spoke of resorting to him during his awkward adolescent years, during the fallow period between his childhood success and his adult stardom. Markus claimed he could book ANY act–provided the price was low enough.

By the same token, Big Time acts took dates from him at venues so out of the way and obscure that they could try out new material and feel free to risk bombing.

“There was a booker in New York, Fally Markus,” said Billy Glason in an interview in Bill Smith’s The Vaudevillians, “…Everyone that had to break in their act, either for the Palace or whatever, went to Fally and said, ‘Fally, I need three days.’ And he’d get them. Which meant that Fally got the biggest acts for bubkis–peanuts.”

When vaudeville dried up so did Markus’s niche as a booker. He kept a hand in the business as a ticket agent for the remainder of his career.

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable 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.

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Stars of Slapstick #1: Billy Bevan

Posted in Comedy, Silent Film, Stars of Slapstick with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2012 by travsd

Bevan is the One on the Right

Billy Bevan (1887-1957) was born on this day. The Australian native began performing as a child and spent eight years with the Pollard Light Opera Comedy before coming to the U.S. He started out at L-KO studios, Pathe Lehrman’s Keystone splinter group in 1916. In 1920, he moved over to Sennett, where he was to become of the King of Comedy’s top stars during the 1920s. His distinctive moustache (like a pair of brillo pads) and perpetual look of surprise made him one of the most distinctive comedians on the lot during its last decade. He is frequently credited with originating that bit later revived by Curly Howard and Lou Costello, where his efforts to eat a bowl of chowder are hampered by a spitting, apparently sentient oyster. That’s him in one of the most famous clips of the last Sennett years, wearing nightgown and cap driving his bed down the street. The 1924 comedy is called Lizzies of the Field, and also features his frequent co-star Andy Clyde. Part of it is below, with German sub-titles:

In the sound era, Bevan was no longer a star, but was he ever present in Hollywood films! He became a bit player, that Australian accent usually subbing for Cockney, and he was frequently cast in period pieces and horror films as the querulous lantern-holding constable, or the driver of a hansom cab. Look for his turns, still his unmistakable self, in such films as Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). His last picture was 1950’s Three Secrets.

Don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

Al Capp (Two Clips)

Posted in AMERICANA, Hollywood (History), Jews/ Show Biz, VISUAL ART with tags , , , on September 28, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of Al Capp (1909-1979), genius behind the long-running comic strip Li’l Abner. I wanted to share two Capp-related clips today.

The first you may have seen excerpted in the 1988 John Lennon doc Imagine where Capp ambushes John and Yoko at their Toronto Bed-in in 1969. I have to say, the older I get, the better Capp seems to come off in this exchange. He scores many points against the foolish-looking Lennon, and he does it provocatively and he does it with humor. Why not protest in Moscow, Peking or Hanoi, he asks, with incontrovertible reason. Unfortunately, Capp lets his passions gets the better of him and after a few minutes it rapidly devolves into ad hominem attack and then downright racism. He loses the moral high ground, and thereby the exchange, and just looks like an asshole in the end. But I’ve always found it one of the more revealing clips from that era, with both sides of the cultural war sort of evenly matched.

Next I wanted to share with you this exceedingly weird 1940 film version of Li’l Abner by RKO. Most people know the 1959 musical version. This earlier one has several old time silent comedy film stars in it, including Buster Keaton, Edgar Kennedy, Bud Jamison, Al St. John, Hank Mann, and Chester Conklin. And if you watch the trailer all the way through you will find some highly strange character make-up on some of the actors:

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable 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.

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Arnold Stang

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Radio (Old Time Radio), Television, TV variety with tags , on September 28, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of character comedian Arnold Stang (1918-2009). He started out when still a teenager in radio (with that voice, who’d have guessed?) In the 50s he was a regular named “Francis” on the Milton Berle Show. In the attached bit, he gets the better of Uncle Miltie in a Christmas episode. Stang’s entrance is at about 1:16. If you don’t recognize that face, you’ll know the voice right away when he speaks, from a million cartoons and commercial voice-overs.

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable 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.

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Ed Sullivan

Posted in Irish, Sport & Recreation, Television, TV variety, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on September 28, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of Ed Sullivan (for the full story on the great television showman, go here.) Sullivan was among other things a former sports columnist. To prove it, see how he conducts this interview with Wilt the Stilt in 1962:

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable 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.

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The Serial Killer Show at Coney Island Tonight!

Posted in BROOKLYN, Burlesk, Coney Island, Halloween, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Horror (Mostly Gothic), Women with tags , , , on September 27, 2012 by travsd

More info: Coneyisland.com

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