Loney Haskell (1870-1933) made his greatest fame as a big time monologist and master of ceremonies at Hammerstein’s Victoria. His given name was Lorne Levy; Loney is a corruption of his first name.
In the mid 1890s he got his start with Hurtig and Seaman’s Burlesque Company; an 1897 film exists called “Facial Expressions”, the entirety of which consists of the comedian showing off his full gamut of puss-muggings. During his tenure at the Victoria, it frequently became Haskell’s lot to have to supply the narration for William Hammerstein’s freak acts, frequently athletes or criminals or other non-performing celebrities who were so horrible at public speaking they were obliged to just stand there while Loney spoke over them. Among these were an Olympic runner named Dorando, a talking dog named “Don” (whose vocabulary was very limited) and Lillian Graham and Ethel Conrad, the girls who shot and wounded real estate magnate W.E.D. Stokes (this was especially ironic given the fact that Graham and Conrad were aspiring actresses). Haskell was also assistant manager of the Victoria, helping Willie, and later his brother Arthur run the enterprise.
In the 20s he became secretary of the Jewish Theatrical Guild; it was in this capacity that he delivered the eulogy at Houdini’s funeral in 1926. Haskell himself died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1933.
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.