Archive for October, 2012

Aftermath of Sandy, Part Two

Posted in BROOKLYN, ME with tags , , , on October 31, 2012 by travsd

The friggin’ blog ate 3/4 of my post as a I published it a few minutes ago. Here it is in its entirety.

I walked into work and back again today, an hour plus each way — and are my dogs barking? No, ladies and gentlemen, my dogs are dead! Everything below the shin is throbbing meat in a shoe. But I’m countin’ my blessings, folks, I’m countin’ my blessings. Went a different route today, thinking I wouldn’t come across much, but I was wrong…it’s still a mess out there.

First I scooted past Prospect Park, but it’s still closed up (despite dozens of people I spotted inside who’d plainly jumped the fence). Ordinarily, I might have done the same but I read some very sobering stories in the newspaper this morning about people who died AFTER the storm, essentially by doing nothing more risky than going outside to do things like walk their dog, or to take snapshots. So I took a couple pix from the perimeter:

Next I made a loop through the neighborhood of Fort Greene:

And lastly, a small amount of damage at Fulton Mall I had missed yesterday:

Aftermath of Sandy

Posted in BROOKLYN, ME with tags , on October 31, 2012 by travsd

Yesterday morning, stir crazy from having been cooped up in the apartment a couple of days, with no subways running and having some stuff to check on at work, I made the trek from my Park Slope apartment to my office in downtown Brooklyn, and thence to the waterfront in nearby D.U.M.B.O. Note well that our area was among the least hardest hit in the city. Compared with Staten Island, Lower Manhattan, Coney Island and the Rockaways, to say we got off easy is putting it mildly. Still, for whatever it’s worth, here’s what I encountered along the way:

9th Street, Park Slope

7th Ave, Park Slope

Less spectacularly, awnings were down on the shop-lined street, as well.

Local school, 7th Ave

Garfield Street. A second tree was down past this one as well

Carroll Street

Carroll Street

At this stage I crossed the lovely Gowanus Canal as I always do on my walks to work, operating under the theory that a daily whiff of its vapors helps me build an immunity to industrial poisons. It was near the top of its banks and you could see where it had topped them the night before, but like the awnings it wasn’t very spectacular. Plus it’s a Superfund site, so I decided to move on.

Carroll Street, other side of canal

Carroll Street. These guys were already on the job sawing apart a fallen tree

Can I get a “yoiks!”? The construction scaffolding on the building next to my office on Jay Street had collapsed. Anyone who had been standing underneath would have been flattened like a pancake. That’s why when the Mayor says “Stay inside” it’s not a bad idea to listen!

After a brief interlude at my office, I proceeded on to D.U.M.B.O. At the corner of Jay and Tillary a traffic light had been blown completely down — I didn’t notice until I was on my back and my camera had died. Also it was when I crossed this intersection that I observed that the electricity was out — DUMBO was without power. Going down the hill I noticed a loud noise coming from the structure over the York Street F station. I’ve always assumed that structure was a ventilator for the tunnel. I’m assuming the sound was pumps emptying water out, as this is the first stop on the Brooklyn side of the East River.

Walking through DUMBO (at least on the approach) was more pleasant than usual. I find it one of New York’s more pleasing neighborhoods to look at, with its cobblestone streets, its views of the bridges and waterfront, and its beautiful old industrial buildings and warehouses. But aurally it’s almost unbearable, with the racket of cars, trucks and subway trains going over those bridges, and the sounds reverberating amongst the concrete canyons below. Yesterday, with traffic still stopped on the bridges, was a rare chance to enjoy the beauty of the neighborhood in peace and quiet.

My destination was Brooklyn Bridge Park, and I admit I was drawn there by a picture of Jane’s Carousel surrounded by water  I had seen online the night before:

 By yesterday morning the water had completely receded and the Carousel seemed safe and sound. The Park itself was closed off but in the surrounding area you could see where the water had risen MANY feet above its normal height, flooded the park and poured into the neighborhood at least as far as the aptly named Water Street.

This SUV had clearly floated to its position in the middle of the road

Note debris left by water on radiator grill

This beach grass records the flow of water over the wall

Soggy wood chips from Brooklyn Bridge Park were deposited all over the neighborhood

Back into the neighborhood, I saw lots of sad and worried looking people wandering in and out and around the water damaged shops. Note the waterline on this shop window

Galapagos Artspace. Much damage inside but couldnt photograph it through the window

Interior of powerhouse books through window. It looks like they did a good job of getting their merch to safety, but there was several inches of water and debris inside

 For Part Two, the aftermath at Coney Island, go here.

Bud Duncan: Partner to a Ham

Posted in Comedy, Silent Film, Stars of Slapstick, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by travsd

This is one in a series of posts we are producing in connection with our new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, available from Bear Manor Media 

Today is the birthday of Albert “Bud” Duncan (1883-1960). The Brooklyn-born son of pioneering vaudeville ventriloquist A.O. Duncan, Bud made his vaudeville debut at age 15. By 1911 he was playing “Jeff” in a series of Mutt and Jeff comedies for Nestor Film Company. Standing 4′ 11″, Duncan was a natural for the cartoonish part. This experience would translate easily to his best known screen persona, Bud of the successful “Ham and Bud” series for Kalem (1914-1917) in which he co-starred with the much larger Lloyd Hamilton (who was later to become a solo comedy star in his own right).

After Kalem folded and the team split in 1917, Bud Duncan had the tougher time adjusting. In most of their films he had been a sort of puppet or Mini-Me to Hamilton. He managed to soldier on in a solo career for over a decade without much distinction before clicking again in a minor way with the Toots and Caspar series, based on the comic strip. His career seemed to wink out in 1931, but he came out of retirement in the early ‘40s to star as the title character in a couple of Snuffy Smith pictures for Monogram.

And now here are Ham and Bud in “Whirlwind of Whiskers” (1917):

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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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.

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Dick Henderson, Pere et Fils

Posted in British Music Hall, Child Stars, Stars of Vaudeville, Television, TV variety, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , on October 30, 2012 by travsd

The elder Dick Henderson (1891-1958) was a British music hall comedian who first came over to play American vaudeville in 1924 and also made several Vitaphone shorts. He is remembered as the first of the music hall comics to finish the act with a sentimental song.

His son, usually known as Dickie, was born on this day in 1922. He began as a child actor in west end plays, music hall, and films, and later television where he was major mainstay in the UK, notably on The Dickie Henderson Show (1968), on which he was much beloved for old school stuff like this:

The younger Henderson passed away in 1985.

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.

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Baby Peggy: Longest-Lived Child Star

Posted in Child Stars, Silent Film, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2012 by travsd

Baby Peggy (Peggy-Jean Montgomery, born this day in 1918) began her career as a child star in silent movies at the age of three (her father had been a stunt man and stand-in for Tom Mix). She was one of the top stars of the silent era, earning huge sums of money, and was one of the major fads of the 1920s. In 1925, due to a salary dispute, her father broke her contract with Universal, and she was out of pictures. For the next four years she was a big time vaudeville star in a turn that featured a comedy sketch and a dramatic monologue. When vaudeville died, she and her family struggled along as Hollywood extras until Peggy reached adulthood, married and quit the business in 1938. She later changed her name to Diana Serra Cary — the name she uses to this day.

Now, here she is with her co-star Brownie the Wonder Dog in A Star for Baby Peggy (1921):

To learn more about silent film please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To find out more about vaudeville 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. 

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The Great Reynard

Posted in Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, Vaudeville etc., Ventriloquism & Puppetry with tags , , , , on October 29, 2012 by travsd

Edward Franklin Sharpless (1872-1937), a native of Marion OH, changed his named to Ed Reynard, a.k.a. The Great Reynard, and became in the words of Joe Laurie Jr. a “pioneer” vaudeville vent and magician, perhaps as early as the 1880s. Nonetheless, I have only been able to gather a few fragments about Reynard. In the 1890s he appears to have partnered in an act called Herbert and Reynard, and there appears to have been a “Herbert and Reynard Musical Comedy Company”. Legendary Hollywood press agent Harry Reichenbach claimed to have gotten his start working for Reynard, traveling around the world with him circa 1904, and describing him as “vain and tempestuous”. Reynard was also the first vaudevillian to buy a long term regular ad in Variety, circa 1906. Towards the end of that decade and the beginning of the next one we encounter reviews of his act. Billed as “the Ventriloquist with a Production”, Reynard apparently had a series of sketches that he produced featuring a stage full of automatons and effects. He supplied all the voices for the automatons himself. The repertoire included “Morning in Hicksville”, “On the Farm”, and “In Court”. These few fragments tantalize but they do not satisfy. We’d be grateful to learn more if anyone can supply additional information!

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.

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Admiral Dot

Posted in BUNKUM, Circus, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Little People with tags , , , on October 29, 2012 by travsd

After the last iteration of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum burned to the ground in 1868, the showman did the unthinkable; he retired.  In actuality he was just temporarily down. While there was breath in his his body, Barnum could no more retire than levitate (although claiming to do either would result in excellent publicity). The following year while he was sightseeing in San Francisco, he got word of a little person named Leopold S. Kahn, who was, in Barnum’s words “even more diminutive than Tom Thumb“. Barnum engaged him at once, assigned him an honorary new military rank, and exhibited him in the lobby of his hotel for three weeks. He then booked him for his very first circus enterprise “P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus” a few months later. (He would also book Kahn’s nephew, another pituitary dwarf, who was renamed “Major Atom”.) In the late 70s, Admiral Dot went to work for the American Liliputian Company, and in the 1890s, for Adam Forepaugh, Barnum’s chief competitor and nemesis.

In 1892, he married fellow little person Lottie Swartwood and settled down in White Plains, New York where he opened the Admiral Dot Hotel, locally known as the Hotel Peewee. Kahn and his daughter were both to perish in the influenza pandemic of 1918.

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.

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