Today is the birthday of The Incomparable Hildegard (1906-2005). I’m not saying she was incomparable, she may well have been, but that was how she billed herself. The adjective she took from a review by Walter Winchell.
Hildegard was a singer and pianist known for her elegance, or at least her projected image of (quote-unquote) “elegance”, which was much studied and even emulated by Liberace. (Note that, like her, he too has only a single name, at least professionally. She is the one who launched this trend).
Born Hildegarde Loretta Sell of German stock in Wisconsin, she studied music at college in the 1920s, and then went into vaudeville. One of her first gigs was as one of the piano playing girls in Jerry and Her Baby Grands, which is probably where she got her penchant for wearing stylish gowns and long gloves. Her heyday was the 30s and 40 when she was the queen of night clubs, cabarets and supper clubs, and she had her own line of cosmetics. From the 50s through the 70s she appeared on television frequently, and continued to perform and make records. She lived to be almost 100.
Here she is 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 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