Today is the birthday of Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944). Jenkins is notorious in show business annals as the worst professional opera singer in history. A 1909 inheritance allowed her to pursue her singing in a serious way, although she restricted herself to a few annual recitals at concert halls and salons. Her relationship with the successful actor St. Clair Bayfield (who also became her manager), and her personal fortune allowed her to come to the attention of New York’s cultural and critical elite, among whom — much like the fabled Cherry Sisters — she was an impervious laughing stock. (Unlike the Cherries, Jenkins was never in vaudeville, however). Every aspect of her performance was said to be horrendous: pitch, rhythm, pronunciation, etc. She also made a number of recordings, allowing us to enjoy her today:
To find out more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.