Archive for December, 2015

A New Year’s Message from Trav S.D.

Posted in ME, My Shows with tags , , on December 31, 2015 by travsd

Happy New Year! (in a few hours).

Below is my little pictorial recap of some high points from 2015, in the way of Thanksgiving to the Universe and to You. And below that some hints at our plans for 2016:


January 2015, at the Algonquin Hotel with Kevin Fitzpatrick for his new book launch



In January, I appeared on the Halli-Casser Jayne Show to talk about the great Sophie Tucker. Hear that broadcast here. 



Mark St. Cyr, Everett Quinton and Molly Pope in “Horse Play”

In February and March: the all star production of my play Horse Play, or The Fickle Mistress, produced by Theatre Askew at La Mama. The New York Times covered it here and here.



In March I played P.T.Barnum in my adaptation of his The Art of Money Gettingdesigned and directed by Carolyn Raship, in UTC #61’s Money Lab at HERE Arts Center. 



In April, Opera on Tap presented sections of The Curse of the Rat King, the opera I’ve written with composer David Malamud, at Barbes. Also in the program was work by David Cote, Robert Paterson, Edward Einhorn, Henry Akona and Avner Finberg



“A House Divided” illustration by Carolyn Raship

In April, I and an all-star downtown cast observed the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War by presenting sections of my play A House Divided at Dixon Place. Read all about it here. 


with Penny Arcade, after her performance of "Longing Lasts Longer" at Joe's Pub

May: with Penny Arcade, after her performance of “Longing Lasts Longer” at Joe’s Pub


The Fields Fest Committee, including two of W.C. Fields grand kids, Harriet and Ronald

With the Fields Fest Committee, including two of W.C. Fields‘ grand kids, Harriet and Ronald

June: 100th anniversary of W.C. Fields debut in the Ziegfeld Follies.



In July: My blog Travalanche passed one million page views



Late July-early August: shot my scenes in the horror movie The Moose Head Over the Mantel, soon to be released by Inappropriate Films!



September: A short film I appeared in entitled Off-Road: The Continuing Adventures of Dorothy & Toto, was screened at the Coney Island Film Festival. The film was the brainchild of Michele Carlo and Laurence Desgaines.



In September, I shot my scenes in Derek Davidson’s short film Moving Pictures. Coming soon!



September: consulted on The Striptease, Jonny Porkpie’s burlesque silent movie tribute at The Slipper Room



October: I appeared on Jim Melloan’s Truth and Freedom Show on Brooklyn Free Radio. Listen to it here. 



November: Holding Court at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans


December: with Molly Crabapple, at the launch for her new book "Drawing Blood"

December: with Molly Crabapple, at the launch for her new book “Drawing Blood”


And while we’re on books: my own magnum opus No Applause, Just Throw Money, seems to be doing better than ever. Here are some pictorial fan tributes from far flung regions which we received this year:







So many things! And much still being planned. But here are some things I can report:

  • I’m beginning my artists’ residency at Coney Island USA. I’m still hammering out what my projects will be but know that vaudeville and ballyhoo are certain to be part of the recipe
  • It is the 20th anniversary of the launching of my theatre company Mountebanks and the American Vaudeville Theatre. Look for a series of new vaudeville shows, time and place TBA!
  • New books and other projects in the works! Stay tuned for announcements!

And these items on the calendar: 

January: The launch of my new web site; and my appearance on Jennifer Harder’s radio show on Brooklyn Free Radio

February 29: “Night of a Thousand Vaudevillians”: The second birthday of Travalanche (actually it’s the 8th birthday–Travalanche is a Leap Year Baby! That’s why the birthday is so special). Time and place TBA.

March 4-6: Trav  appears at the Southern Sideshow Hootenanny, New Orleans

April: Trav S.D. in the UK?! (stay tuned!)

May 14: Trav S.D. weds the Mad Marchioness — at Coney Island


May 28 through July 3: our hit NYC Fringe revival of the Marx Brothers’ I’ll Say She Is returns for a new full length run at at the Connelly Theatre! Get all the details here. 

And more! more! more! Thanks for making 2015 possible! And thanks for making 2016 possible too! Have a great New Year!

I remain, yours,


Trav S.D.

Mike “King” Kelly (Slide, Kelly, Slide!)

Posted in Comedy, Irish, Sport & Recreation, Stand Up, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , on December 31, 2015 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Mike “King” Kelly (1857-1894).

Irish-American Kelly was one of the first sports stars to go on the vaudeville stage. Baseball right fielder, catcher and manager Kelly played for the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Stockings, the Boston Beaneaters, the Boston Reds, the New York Giants, and Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers. Kelly first went on the vaudeville stage with the encouragement of Nat Goodwin when he was playing for various Boston teams in the late 1880s. Billed as “King Kelly, the Monarch of the Baseball Field”, he would make his appearance in ill-fitting, mismatched clothes. Critics and audiences praised him as a natural comedian. One of his acts was to recite a butchered version of “Casey at the Bat”.

In fact, vaudeville may be said to have been responsible for Kelly’s early death at age 36. He caught pneumonia while traveling by ferry to an engagement at the Imperial Theatre in Boston with the Gaiety Girls in November, 1894. But he lives on in the 1889 tin pan alley song about him “Slide, Kelly, Slide”. And there was a 1927 silent comedy film based on the song, directed by Eddie Sedgwick. 

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


One Reason (Among Dozens) I’ll Always Love “Medium Cool”

Posted in Hollywood (History), Movies, OBITS with tags , , , , on December 28, 2015 by travsd


The great cinematographer Haskell Wexler died yesterday at age 93. There will be a million appreciations of him today; I just thought I’d tip my hat to him about something quite small and personal.

Wexler shot dozens of classic and award-winning films, of course, but he may be best admired for the fictional film he directed in 1968, Medium Cool. Like most other film students, I was introduced to this sui generis  artifact as part of my school curriculum at NYU. There are many ways to slice it up, many ways to admire it — aesthetically, politically, philosophically, culturally, technologically, historically. The latter aspect is one I especially love to sink my teeth into. Most people probably remember the film’s most obvious story element: the Chicago news reporter (Robert Forster) and the actual riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. But then there’s a sub-plot…a young lady from West Virginia, played by Verna Bloom (today best remembered as Dean Wormer’s sexy wife in Animal House) and her little boy. The sophisticated big city reporter meets and romances this hillbilly lady and her semi-feral son, who later get entangled in all the chaos in the streets. It’s eloquent: the old America drowning in the new reality. But what I’ve always cherished about it is that the experience is very close to my family’s, and various scenes in the film ring familiar to me. My dad’s family were from the hills of Tennessee and came north with the post-war Great Migration. That huge movement of humans is normally written about in terms of the black experience — so many of our great musicians, for example, were part of the northern migration. But poor whites went north looking for work as well, and this might be the only time I’ve seen that aspect represented in a major film. The boy and her son are fish out of water in the north (much as my dad’s family were), and Medium Cool shows the awkwardness of the transplantation in many subtle little ways. It’s an odd thing to have chosen to have put in his film — I’d like to know what inspired it. But it’s always caused me to form a strong personal bond with a film that would have dazzled me anyway.

The Harlem Globetrotters Cartoon

Posted in Forgotten Shows of My Nonage, OBITS, Sport & Recreation, Television with tags , , , , , , on December 28, 2015 by travsd


The sad passing of Meadowlark Lemon prompts this post, of course.


Meadowlark has easily got to be my first black hero, as I’m sure he was for millions of others of kids, and it was largely by virtue of the Hanna-Barbara Saturday morning cartoon show based on the legendary comedy basketball team The Harlem Globetrotters, of whom he was the star at the time. The show ran two years, from September 1970 through September 1972. It followed the trend of making Saturday morning cartoons out of EVERYBODY (The Three Stooges and the Beatles are other examples) and ran at the same time as some of my other favorite cartoons, such as Scooby Doo and Josie and the Pussycats, and other favorite live actions shows such as Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, Hot Dog, H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville. Those were heady times. We also loved to watch the ACTUAL Harlem Globetrotters on TV, accompanied of course by their theme song, a whistled version of my grandmother’s favorite song “Sweet Georgia Brown”.

The stars of the cartoon were Meadowlark and Curly Neal, their bus driver Granny and their dog Dribbles. Little did I know at the time that Meadowlark was voiced not by the actual Meadowlark, but legendary character actor Scatman Crothers. Another famous voice on the show was none other than the great Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, who played Bobby Joe Mason. At any rate, the show was groundbreaking for having an all-black cast, even if they were cartoons. And it was definitely my first introduction to the neighborhood Harlem, strange as that may be. (In time I learned that that historic neighborhood has much more going for it than comedy basketball).

I also had a coloring book based on this show — I must have liked it a lot. And I distinctly remember trying to do all the tricks the guys did on the show, such as this one:


To this day, I’m bored by any and all sports that don’t put comedy front and center, which is, like, all of them.

Rest in Peace, Meadowlark. That sure is a good name for an angel.

Lew Grade

Posted in British Music Hall, Dance, Impresarios, Jews/ Show Biz, Stars of Vaudeville, Television, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2015 by travsd


There is something not entirely inappropriate about Christmas also being the birthday of Baron Lew Grade (Lev Winogradsky, 1906-1998). After all, the British TV mogul headed up the Independent Television Company (ITC) which brought us The Muppets (not to mention The Prisoner, Thunderbirds, and Space 1999). Before he was a producer, Grade was a show biz agent (see the big cigar?) and before that? Before that, my friends, Grade was a hoofer in music hall and vaudeville.

Ukrainian by birth, Grade grew up in London’s working class East End. At the age of 20, he won a nationwide dance contest (judged by Fred Astaire) and went professional. Billed as “The Man With the Musical Feet” he danced on British stages for eight years, before he developed water on the knee and sought work behind the scenes. His first partner was Joe Collins, father of Joan and Jackie Collins.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


Eugene “Pineapple” Jackson

Posted in African American Interest, Child Stars, Dance, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2015 by travsd


Today is the birthday of the pathbreaking Eugene “Pineapple” Jackson (1916-2001)

Jackson got his start as a child actor in silent films. He was all of five when he appeared as Verman in the screen adaptation of Penrod and Sam in 1923. In 1925, he appeared in a half dozen Our Gang shorts for Hal Roach. He is also in the 1926 Mack Sennett comedy short Flirty Four Flushers with Madeline Hurlock, Billy Bevan and Vernon Dent, and in Mary Pickford’s Little Annie Rooney (1925.)

Throughout the 20s and 30s, Jackson also appeared in vaudeville, billed as “Hollywood’s Most Famous Colored Kid Star”. His skills as a dancer served him well when talkies came in. He was cast in the ensembles of early musicals like Hearts in Dixie (1929) and Wheeler and Woolsey’s Dixiana (1929). In the late 30s and 40s he was cast as a member of the African American equivalent of the Dead End Kids, called the Harlem Tuff Kids.

Also, according to friend and film scholar Steve Massa:  “As a side note – Eugene and his brother Freddie were rotoscoped by the Disney Studio and their dancing was used for the crows in Dumbo. There are frame grabs of the their live-action footage in Mindy Aloff’s book Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation. “

He continued to work as a bit player in film and television for decades. He also had a recurring role as “Uncle Lou” on the groundbreaking show Julia (1968). His last credited part was “One Armed Bass Player” in The Addams Family (1991).

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


Happy Birthday, Dick Miller

Posted in Hollywood (History), Movies, Movies (Contemporary) with tags , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2015 by travsd


Well, someone else has a birthday today — prolific character actor Dick Miller (b. 1928).

I first knew Miller from his role as the man who eats flowers in Roger Corman’s original The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), which, for a time, was my favorite movie. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered A Bucket of Blood (1959), also by Corman and Charles B. Griffith, in which Miller starred. But most of Miller’s role were of the walk-on variety.

Bronx born Miller had started out playing bit parts for Corman’s low budget horror, sci-fi and delinquent pictures around 1956. He worked for Corman and American International Pictures in scores of films, including The Terror (1963), The Wild Angels (1966), The Trip (1967) and Big Bad Mama (1974). He also got story credit on two pictures in these years: the low budget western Four Rode Out and Jerry Lewis’s WWII comedy Which Way to the Front? (both 1970). As Corman and his alumni grew more famous and mainstream, Miller continued to play bit parts in their films. Thus he is in almost every film ever made by Joe Dante, including The Howling (1980), the Gremlins films, Innerspace (1987) and The ‘Burbs (1989), and Martin Scorsese’New York, New York (1987) and After Hours (1985). Quentin Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction (1994) but most of his scenes wound up on the cutting room floor.

He was recently the subject of a documentary called That Guy Dick Miller (2014). I highly recommend it! Dick Miller is 87 years old at the moment and still working! See his long list of credits here. 


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