Today is the birthday of Maurice P. Kitchen (1896-1962), better known to audiences as Rajah Raboid. A New Orleans native he first performed magic under the far more quotidian name of Ray Boyd until he decided to switch a top hat for a turban, making his focus mentalism, second sight, fortune telling and hypnotism. In 1931 he appeared on Broadway with The Great Lafolette in Knights of the Orient. In 1936 he was planning a show with Thurston, in which he would drive a car while blindfolded, but the elder magician died before the show made it to the boards. The following year, however Kitchen presented his most notorious feat ever, in fact the only one he remains widely known for. Teaming up with half-man Johnny Eck (from Freaks) and his fully formed twin brother Robert, he presented an act wherein he sawed Robert in half….and half-man Johnny emerged. By all accounts, this startling act produced screams and fainting.
To find out more about vaudeville, including great magicians like Rajah Raboid, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.