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 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.