The Short, Eventful Life and Career of Lotta Faust

Broadway and vaudeville stage performer Lotta Faust (1880-1910) was born on this day. I am surprised to learn that Lotta Faust appears to have been her real name — it’s a perfect stage name, is it not? What with so many other stage Lottas and Lotties in the theatre (Lotta Crabtree, Lottie Gilson, Lottie Collins) and a surname implying a deal with Mephistopheles? But it seems to be her name for real.

Born and bred in Brooklyn, Faust made her stage debut at age 16 in Denman Thompson’s The Sunshine of Paradise Alley at Haverly’s 14th Street. By the turn of the century she was working both in vaudeville and on Broadway. That she was both extremely talented and extremely popular can be gleaned from the number of musicals she was cast in: ten shows over a decade. She appeared in two shows at the Casino Theatre: The Casino Girl (1900) which also featured Sam Bernard; as well as The Belle of Bohemia (1900) also with Bernard, as well as Trixie Friganza. That same year she partnered with Frank Bernard in vaudeville, performing a cakewalk, at the time still a novelty. Next came My Lady (1901), i.e. “Milady”, a parody of The Three Musketeers. She was one of the titular belles in The Liberty Belles (1901-02).

She was one of the stars of the original production of The Wizard of Oz (1904-05), a smash hit. Her rendition of the song “Sammy” was said to be one of the highlights of the show. Wonderland (1905) was a similar fairy tale fantasy, based on a Brothers Grimm tale, with music by Victor Herbert, and starring Bessie Wynn. Next came the Shubert show The White Hen (1907) with Louis Mann (who also staged it). The Girl Behind the Counter (1907-1908) starred Lew Fields and was co-produced by him, with Vernon Castle, Louise Dresser, and George Beban. The came The Mimic World of 1908, another Fields show.

It was during 1908, too, that Faust began to do her notorious Salome dance in vaudeville, one of several performers who competed for supremacy with such an act. She confessed not to know anything about the Biblical story on which the act was based — she was just jumping on the bandwagon. Faust’s last show The Midnight Sons (1909), also a Lew Fields production, closed on New Year’s Day, 1910.

Less than a month after The Midnight Sons closed, Faust was dead of pneumonia following an unspecified operation. She was not yet 30 years old. At the time, she was in the process of divorcing her second husband, vaudeville performer Richard Ling, so that she could marry her third, illustrator Malcolm A. Strauss.