Bill Tilden

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Today is the birthday of tennis great “Big Bill” Tilden (1893-1953). Long a symbol of the Roaring Twenties, Tilden was the World #1 tennis player from 1920 through 1925, won seven U.S. championships, and a long list of other impressive sounding accolades I am too tennis illiterate to properly understand or appreciate. But what I do know is vaudeville, and Tilden like so many of his era, was bit by the bug. In 1928, he toured with a sketch a sketch called “A Night at the Tennis and Racquet Club.” The following year he was said to have visited London and U.S. theatres with a monologue “in one” wherein he recounted his tennis experiences. Tilden was said to have a star personality, and he hobknobbed on the courts with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. Later, scandal tarnished his image (he had a weakness for underage boys) and it damaged his career.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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