Sharkey: When Sea Lions Were Stars of Show Business

Happy International Day of the Seal!

And yes I know that seals and sea lions are different species, but it does seem like just the right time to plug Gary Bohan’s new book Sharkey: When Sea Lions Were Stars of Show Business (1907-1958). Indeed, I thought I already had! And was nonplussed to discover that it was nowhere on my blog as yet. But then I realized that what I had done was written an approving blurb for the dust jacket! Which I now regurgitate to you forthwith:

“Nothing says ‘vaudeville’ so much as a trained seal act. If the reason why is not self-evident to you, Gary Bohan’s incisive new book will put you right, for it’s not just a biography of show biz’s most famous sea lion, but a porttait of an entire family of successful animal trainers, the Hulings, and their delightful doings over the decades, from the days of tented circuses and vaudeville, to the time of The Ed Sullivan Show. While everyone from Milton Berle to Kitty Carlisle cherished memories of appearing on bills with Sharkey, Bohan’s portrait of the old school business universe overall and the place of animal acts within it, is the real attraction here. A valuable look at a neglected lane in entertainment history.”

The other reason, I just realized, for my not yet plugging the book is that technically it has not been released yet. BUT the post is still timely, for the official pub date is April 1 (an auspicious date, yeah?) and if you order now through the publisher SUNY Press through April 12, 2022 and give the code NYSS22, you’ll get 30% off the cover price. Get it here.

Let me reiterate — you don’t have to be some kind of a sea lion freak to warm up to this book. (I mean, after all — their breath!) But Bohan has painted the whole show biz pool wherein Sharkey and his keepers swam. If you love vaudeville, you’ll love this book.