Today is the birthday of Heywood Broun (1888-1939).
Like so many unfortunates, he is today chiefly remembered today for who he sat and ate lunch with, rather than the things he actually did. Broun was a sportswriter, a columnist, and a drama critic, whose career lasted throughout the teens, twenties and thirties. He wrote for the New York Telegraph, the New York Tribune, the New York World, and Vanity Fair. He also founded the Newspaper Guild. He also was a member of the informal group of professional friends and competitive wags known as “the Algonquin Round Table“
In the early thirties, Broun tried his hand at vaudeville. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. He was funny. It was common for famous people from all walks of life to develop acts as monologists. And, Lord knows, Broun had reviewed enough vaudeville in the preceding decades to get a feel for it. And lastly — these were the waning days of vaudeville, I’m sure the bookers were trying every last ditch method to try to attract audiences at that stage. Brown was famous enough then to command big time vaudeville dates and salaries. ($1,000 a week — not bad for an amateur, eh?) All of the references to Broun’s vaudeville performances I have found so far date from 1930 and 1931 and are from engagements at the Palace.
From 1917 through 1933, Broun was married to the noted feminist Ruth Hale, co-founder of the Lucy Stone League (and a distant relative of mine).
For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
I remember reading and enjoying a collection of his columns (my father had probably liberated the book from the Army Air Corps library).
That’s simultaneously un-American…and highly American!