The Top Ten Vaudevillians on Travalanche


Sunday tends to be a sleepy day readership-wise on Travalanche so I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a little navel-gazing for the faithful few. Within a few months the Stars of Vaudeville series will organically terminate (as I run out of prominent vaudevillians), although I’ll continue doing vaudeville related posts along with all the other content streams here. The main trunk line of content will be shifting over to silent and slapstick comedy film as we start hitting all of the great centennial anniversaries connected with that, beginning with Chaplin’s first films, in February 2014.

Meantime, as I periodically do, I’ve been assessing which of the 3,500 posts have been most popular, in order to gauge how to better serve our readers. As the results are interesting to me, I imagine they might be to you, so we share them today. Herewith, then, the top ten vaudevillians from our Stars of Vaudeville series, with some detours and other factoids. Some of these results may surprise you. The top vaudevillians are:

#1: Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys. This is our top biographical post about a vaudevillian by a wide margin. It may seem surprising, but it makes perfect sense upon reflection. Its success has to with two factors:  1) Turner Classic Movies periodically shows the popular bio-pic about the Foys on television. (Whenever they show it, we get an impressive bump), and 2) there isn’t much much about the Foys available elsewhere online. This is therefore Travalanche’s sweet spot.

#2: Charlie Chaplin. No surprise there, right? And, as we mentioned, there’s going to be a ton more Chaplin content here starting in a few months, this one may well move to the top.

#3: Eva Tanguay. This one is a true surprise. I’ve only been able to surmise the cause of her success here. I think she periodically gets mentioned in the media as a seminal, pivotal performer, and periodically gets assigned in college classes. This combined with the fact that, as with Foy, Travalanche is one of the best online sources for info on her, accounts for the popularity.

#4: Laurel and Hardy. Again, not a surprise. And again, look for more much more content on them as we move ahead. (BTW, Laurel was the only one who was in vaudeville. The two didn’t become a movie team until years after).

#5: Smith and Dale. A delightful fact to me. Again, Travalanche is one of of the best sources, and I think the traffic gets driven here because of The Sunshine Boys. I’ll take it! Just thinking about Smith and Dale, and the fact that people are learning about them here, makes me grin from ear to ear.

DETOUR: My posts about Flo Ziegfeld rank here. Not a vaudevillian per se but he’s relevant enough that I feel I should mention it here. And I think we get the traffic because of the many movies about him.

DETOUR: George Jessel. This isn’t a detour per se. Jessel was of course an important vaudevillian, but I think his high ranking (sixth) is probably undeserved because his post was the first very one in the Stars of Vaudeville series. Not only has it been up the longest, but a larger number people checked it out because the post doubled as an announcement. I would be glad to know otherwise, and I guess it’s theoretically possible, but it’s too much for me to believe he ranks that much higher than Jolson or Cantor. But again, it is possible because they are more famous and are thus represented elsewhere online (which would steal some of the traffic).

#6: George M. Cohan (and the Four Cohans). You know why — we get a huge bump when Yankee Doodle Dandy is shown on television. Fourth of July is generally a good day at Travalanche.

#7: Weber and Fields. This, too, makes me grin from ear to ear. They are so important, and so deserving of a higher profile. They are legendary, they were often mentioned in pop culture many decades ago, and they are taught in schools, I’m guessing this is why we get lots of hits.

#8: Willie and Eugene Howard. Mysterious but wonderful! Again, we may benefit from the fact that they are not well represented online elsewhere.

#9: Judy Garland (and the Gumm Sisters). I’m sure it’s Garland fans who want to find our more about her early years and origins.

#10. A three way tie but only because it is a single post containing Belle Baker, Fay Templeton and Evelyn Nesbit, all of whom have a birthday on Christmas. I haven’t gone into the search terms recently to see what what’s driven it. If I had to guess I would venture to say that it was Nesbit, whom people tend to learn about from showings of the movie Ragtime.

At any rate, this top ten makes me very happy indeed — it looks very much like a list of my own top ten favorite vaudevillians.

And here’s another heartening fact: two LIVING, contemporary variety artists encroached substantially on this list, so much so that I thought I would break them out on their own:

#1: Living variety artist is Nick Wallenda, who ranks in popularity between the Cohans and Weber and Fields on the above list. This of course due to his recent stunt walking over the Grand Canyon. And:

#2 Living variety artist is The Amazing Kreskin, I imagine because of the film The Great Buck Howard. He placed between Weber and Fields and Willie and Eugene Howard.

I’m afraid that all of the other living variety performers we’ve written about rank well, well below these in the standings, however.

Something else that should be noted is that some of other content streams rank among our top posts, as well. In fact the #1 post on Travalanche of all time is only tangentially connected to vaudeville; it is my review of the motion picture The Muppets, and it is my most popular post by a huge margin. But I am afraid that it is a bit of a cheat, I think most people were seeking the photo I used.

Likewise, our #3 post, about Henri Magritte; people just wanted the picture.

The #4 all-time post on Travalanche is the one on Johnny Carson — not a vaudevillian, but close.

# 7 is Screaming Jay Hawkins.

#10 is a piece about my Oscar picks

Other extremely high ranking pieces include:

* My review of a book about George C. Scott (people usually find it by Googling “George C. Scott” + “drunk” or “wife beater”)

* My article about Medicine Shows

* My review of the indie horror film Grave Encounters (people want to know “Is it real?”)

* My review of Rev Jen’s book Live Nude Elf (I’m afraid it’s because it contains the keyword “nude”)

* My review of the premier episode of the TV show Hell on Wheels

The bad news for most of my inner circle is that the content on Travalanche about indie theatre scarcely even registers statistics-wise. Only three posts about indie-theatre rank anywhere near the top, and they’re all cheats. One (the top one) is about American Vaudeville Theatre, hence, me. The other two, ranking a bit lower, were obituaries, a special circumstance.

These are the top two legit indie theatre posts:

#89: Theatre Ten Ten’s production of The Cradle Will Rock. Even here, I think the thing is assisted in its standing by the fact that the original production is of historical interest, and there is a Hollywood movie about it. That would make the highest ranking “pure” indie theatre production…

#102: Pinchbottom’s Pretencion.

Any other indie theatre related pieces rank very far below this. In short they mostly cluster around the bottom of these 3,500 posts.

Thus it saddens me to have to report that, despite the dearth of coverage of indie theatre in the media, going forward we will be doing even less of it than we have been. Unless of course, the hundreds of people who claim to want and need it so badly, actually change their minds and decide to actually READ such coverage. There’s been no evidence of that on this website heretofore I’m afraid, so we naturally, having finite time, will expend our resources where they are most appreciated.


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