• Writer and performer Trav S.D. (www.travsd.com) has written for the NY Times, the Village Voice, American Theatre, Time Out NY, Reason, the Villager and numerous other publications. He has been in the vanguard of New York’s vaudeville and burlesque scenes since 1995 when he launched his company Mountebanks, which has presented hundreds of top variety acts ranging from Todd Robbins to Dirty Martini to Lady Rizo to the Flying Karamazov Brothers. He has directed his own plays, revues and solo pieces in NYC since 1989 at such venues as Joe’s Pub, La Mama, Dixon Place, Theatre for the New City, the Ohio Theatre and the Brick. In 2014 he produced and directed the smash-hit I’ll Say She Is, the first ever revival of the Marx Brothers hit 1924 Broadway show in the NY International Fringe Festival. He is perhaps best known for his 2005 book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, recently cited by Bette Midler in People magazine as one of her favorite books. His recent show Horseplay. or the Fickle Mistress at LaMama starred Everett Quinton, Molly Pope, Jan Leslie Harding, and Tim Cusack. More about All Things Trav S.D. are at: http://travsd.com/


  1. This is a terrific website. Many thanks! I am well into a related field–popular price sensation melodramas of the progressive era (1890-1910). When demographers categorized theaters of that period they often lumped together these 10-20-30 melodrama theaters with vaudeville houses under the rubric of “popular price theaters.” There was a lot of over-lapping: these melos (as you know surely) featured “specialty” numbers between the acts and frequently inserted them into the play itself. The supporting (second banana) comics were not infrequently cast from the ranks of vaudeville and sometimes played by recognized vaudeville teams–e.g. Genero and Bailey played in Owen Davis’s, TONY, THE BOOTBLACK, and later took a twenty-minute version of the play back into vaudeville as one of those “playlets” that became features of polite or refined vaudeville. Theodore Kremer (a prolific author of sensational melos) wrote several original playlets on commission for well known actresses who then took them onto the vaude circuit. I’m looking forward to further posts! m.burke walker


    • I often see the term ’10-20-30′ as applied to old vaudeville acts, but I’m coming up dry with what the term means. Could you please explain what the term means? 10-20-30 what?



      • Thank goodness, an easy one! It refers to ticket price: ten cents, twenty cents, thirty cents — relatively low priced entertainment for the time. (Recall that movies were a nickel).


  2. I knew David Manners as a friend the last ten or so years of his life. Thanks for the write up about David, I learned more about him than I knew, the movie years, etc. A couple notes: My understanding from David was that he was a minority partner in the ranch where he spent 30 years, “The best years of my life.” He regretted that the ranch was sold off to investors. On a drive one afternoon, he pointed to his home in Pacific Palisades, and said, “If remembering that place is ego–so be it!” I laughed my head off. I met David at his next home in Santa Barbara, a small ranch-style. From there he lived in various senior retirement facilities until his passing. I never had the impression that he was rich, to the contrary, I’d say. He was not lucid in his last days as been reported. He was afraid, a very frightened old man, couldn’t remember me at all when I came to visit. I still have the many letters David wrote to me over the years, the last letter, one line, where he wrote that he had fallen down and was in a fog of pain, and wouldn’t be able to write anymore. I didn’t know the movie star David. I knew David the mystic, awakened sage; most of all, the great friend nearly fifty years old than myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really enjoyed your piece on Revolver. One point about Lennon being barely able to memorize and deliver lines in a film at this period – he acted in “How I Won The War”, released in October 1967 so he can’t have been that far gone. Apart from that piece of nitpicking, your posts give me much pleasure. Keep up the good work.


  4. 4/26/19 Been binge watching The X Files from the beginning & The Red Museum came up. (Seen it before) Once again I saw an “old friend” in this epi … Paul Sánchez … professionally known as Paul Sand♡♡. Been a fan of this talented man since … gulp! … the 70s. (Had a big crush on him, too! lol) Your article with some printed mementos of his career was a real treat. Thank you for sharing Mr Sand’s career highlights. Good to know he has been working as recently as 2015. Would love to know more about his recent endeavors & … see a current pic or two of him. Thanks, again, for your article! Made my day. 👍


  5. Interesting post about the Shea brothers. On one or both of their birthdays, you should celebrate the remarkable siblings Melissa Michaelsen (Goldie and the Boxer) and Peter Billingsley (A Christmas Story). I worked as a bookkeeper for their agents, the now-defunct Mary Ellen White agency. Whereas, when you represent children and want to let them know about an audition or a booking, you prefer to communicate directly with the adults in the family, with Melissa and Peter, it was far better to reach the kids. They were responsible and well-organized, which, reportedly, the adults at home were not. (This is strictly hearsay on my part. But I can testify that Melissa and Peter – especially Peter – were complete braniacs from a young age.)


  6. Interesting piece on Peter Luger. My husband grew up in Brooklyn and is a die-hard New Yorker who couldn’t wait to take me to Peter Luger’s. He warned me, though, that the waiters were German and very abrupt and would gruffly ask me “Waddaya want?” and I should decide quickly and not go into my usual “Can you make it with this but leave out that” routine. Well, by that time in its history Peter Luger’s was regularly infested with tourists, the waiters seemed to be mostly Eastern European, and ours was extremely polite—even when I ordered salmon. Oh well . . . it was still fun.


    • Love your blog, Trav, and loved the piece about Tina Louise. You’ll be happy to know that Ms. Louise has finally made her peace with Ginger Grant and “Gilligan’s Island.” About 15 years ago, I was seated next to her at a Dramatists Guild luncheon. She told me that she had just returned from Las Vegas, where she recorded her lines for the “Gilligan’s Island” slot machine. She gleefully recounted that she made more money from that one gig than all her time in the show put together. (Residuals used to run out pretty quickly in those days.). And by the way, she looked sensational. She would have been about 70 at the time.


  7. Love your site, Trav! I was really happy to see that you included Ragtime King of the World Mike Bernard among your vaudeville bios. Would love for you to check out my new book TEMPTATION RAG: A NOVEL, just released Dec. 3, 2018. My original inspiration for writing the book was that Mike Bernard is my husband’s grandfather. In fact, most likely that info you included in Mike’s bio about Dorothy (Dolly) Zuckerman, Ziegfeld Follies girl, came from me. Before I told “Perfessor Bill” about Dolly, she had slipped through the cracks of history! Her photo (colorized) is on the cover of my book. A real beauty—and my husband’s grandmother. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0998440647/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

    Glad I found you, better late than never. Count me as a new follower!


    • Lovely to meet you, Elizabeth! I can’t remember where I found the tidbit about Dorothy…my pathway to Mike I think started with Georgie Jessel, which led to the Courney Sisters, which led to Mike (I think). If you’re the source for the Dorothy info, many thanks for putting it out there! Your novel sounds great! I look forward to checking it out


  8. Hi Trav, Loved your post on Harry Davenport. What a marvelous actor. He was all about the role. So intense. So elegant. Without your posts, theater luminaries like Davenport would be forgotten.


  9. Hi! Thanks for this article! I found out recently that James Harrigan is an ancestor of mine. An Ancestry DNA test, and comparing family stories with a Harrigan whose DNA I matched confirmed it! This is the ONLY information I have on James Harrigan. The family story was that George M. Cohan knew James Harrigan and wrote the story about him. Whenever I’d hear the song on TV or the radio (usually around St. Patrick’s Day), my mother would tell me we were related to the man it was written about. The Harrigan with my shared DNA had the same story. My mother (from Rochester, NY, where I grew up) used to go with her grandmother to NYC via train when she was a child and visit the Harrigans.


  10. Thanks so much for your site, Trav! I follow you on FB. IM Will Jordan’s girlfriend and i have learned SO much about entertainment from him and his friends. Glad to join your posts! Take care now and be well


  11. Jerry Van Dyke, Huntsville Alabama…..
    You mentioned in one of your posts about the possibility of a great aunt of yours spurning the proposal of Jerry. My father was the club manager of a local American Legion post in and around 1962-63. I know for a fact that he played there. I was three- four years old at the time. Story goes that Jerry spotted me and my younger brother…Jerry told my mom,” Esther, your boys are having a pee fight”. My father stayed involved with the American Legion until his death in 1992. My dad had an unusual nickname that followed him his whole life. It was Tut. If you get a chance to talk to Jerry, ask him if he remembered Tut and Esther. They eventually named a veterans nursing home after him in Huntsville Alabama. The Floyd “Tut” Fann SR. State Veterans Home.



    • That is amazing! Thank you, sir! I never dreamt that actual proof would ever turn up about this family story. Ha, so great that it pans out to be true! As for Mr. Van Dyke I dont know him personally but if I ever do get to meet him, you can be certain I’ll tell him this story. Thanks again!


  12. Hi, I’m working on a play about Vaudeville in NYC in 1920 right after the Palmer Raids. Was there any political humor in Vaudeville and if so which vaudevillians would be most likely to include this material.
    I’m also wondering if you could help me locate any of the following primary sources:
    Mae West routines from 1918 to 1922
    Savoy and Brennan routines

    Is the Library of Congress the best source and if so is any of it available on the web or do I need to plan a research trip to DC. Thanks very much for any pointers you can give me. I enjoyed your book a great deal.


  13. Trav,

    I wanted to send you an email but couldn’t find your address on your blog…..my sister and I would like to invite you to participate in our celebration of Universal Pictures 100th anniversary. We’re hosting a blogathon from Oct. 29-Oct. 31st, 2015. Any Universal Pictures related post is welcome! If you could write a new article or just send us a link from a past article, that would be swell. Here are the details :


    We’d love to have you join the roster!

    Diana & Constance Metzinger


  14. Hi there,
    So I thought maybe leaving a comment here would help as well. Not sure if you can see my email address, but notice that you have responded to others here. Would love to pick your brain over lunch with regard to my new play set in the vaudeville era. Will be in NY the first week of December. Any chance? -mbshannon


  15. You have gathered an amazing collection of circus history! I am the great-neice of Lew Sunlin (Louis F. Sunlin). My brother and I with our genealogical research found out last year that we had a family member in the circus. Can you tell us how we can find more information about him? What a fascinating character he is!


  16. I note your deep and abiding affection for Kalmar and Ruby. I have spent may years researching these two and am in the process of writing the biography of the team and families. Would appreciate your thoughts.


  17. Hello, hello, hello!

    I’ve been following your
    I’m production assistant for the theatre company Strangemen & Co., and right now we’re in rehearsals for this magical play called The Woodsman. It’s a retelling of Frank L. Baum’s The Tinman. In the performance, the actors make Bunraku puppets come to life through seamless choreography, and harmonize in bewitching melodies kept in rhythm by the beat of an axe.

    We’re going Off Broadway to 59E59 Theaters!!!, and I was hoping you might like to come to one of our performances and share this experience!

    The Woodsman begins performances on Thursday, January 30 and runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 16th. Press opening is Wednesday, February 5th at 7:15pm.

    Enjoy the article below on the production, and please let me know if you’d like a ticket, and I’ll accommodate you!




  18. I’m writing a history of the accordion in American popular culture. Recently I came across reference to a Suzette Carsell (or Susie Carsello) who started in Vaudeville in 1900. She may have been the first pro female accordionist in the States. I don’t actually know of many earlier male accordionists in vaudeville, but there must have been some. I’m pretty sure John Kimmel was one, and probably some of the minstrel players came over.

    There was a swell bio of Madam Carsell “Mother of the Accordion” in the Prescott Az. Courier in 1981. It is up on Google Books.

    I’m very interested in finding any photos or info on her early career. She gets only minor billing in Variety and such but there must have been photos, no?

    I’m going to check out your book – sounds great. If you have any advice for other possible sources, I’d be very thankful.


    • Thanks! about the history of accordions I know very little though. You might try the folks at the Main Squeeze Orchestra though. They’re the main go0to accordion experts here in New York


    • I’m not sure if you’ll see this a year later, but if you are interested in Suzette Carsell as member of the Peerless Trio, I can share it with you.


      • I would love to learn more about Suzette! Any help is welcome. Contact me (phonetically) at accordion dot noir at g mail dot com Thank you in advance, I’m very excited!


      • I really don’t have a lot of information to provide. The following is a link to information I’ve gathered for my great grandmother:


        Bertha and my great grandfather Thomas Francis Savage were vaudevillians. What I’ve pieced together:
        – The toured as Savage & DeCroteau around 1900 to 1910.
        – They met up with Suzette Carsell after 1910.
        – My great grandmother took the name Mazie Berto
        – My great grandfather took the name Tom Rossi
        – Neither are Italian
        – They toured as the Peerless Trio or the Peerless Italian Trio up until about 1921.
        – My great grandfather became ill and the band broke up.
        – By 1930 my grandmother was an unemployed actress living in NYC.

        I’ve found one unflattering review of their performance.

        I have a picture on the link provided of the trio (Suzette is in the middle). I also have a publicity post card of Suzette which she sent to either my Grandmother or mother, signed Aunt Suzie.


  19. Hello,
    A quick introduction from my end-Iam Chinmaya from Bangalore,India. The reason for my mail is that I understand that the “sons of the desert” are having their next convention at Hollywood and would want to know if you are attending it. You may check this for more details- http://www.laurelandhardywood.com/ .
    Incase you or anyone whom you know are,please let me know as there are somethings that i want to discuss regarding the same.My id is-chimayaprakash@gmail.com Else,you may ignore this.

    Regards and best wishes,


  20. Am reading “No Applause–Just Throw Money” and loving it. Am researching material for a seminar I’m doing on Eddie Morton, one of my favorite ragtime-era vaudeville singers and recordings artists. Will be liberally quoting from your book (and will give a plug for your book in my seminar).


  21. Dear Trav,

    I just finished “No Applause”… what an incredible work! Thank you so much for creating something that is not only informative, but also wildly entertaining and at times very touching. I’m currently working in showbiz at the moment, and would love to stop by to see the American Vaudeville Theatre the next time I’m in NYC. Best of luck to you in all your endeavors.



  22. I don’t know if we’ve ever met, but I used to intern for Eric Davis, so we might have some mutual friends in common, (Eric, Audrey Crabtree, Deborah Kaufman, Deanna Fleysher, Jeff Seal, Johnathan Kaplan…?)

    Anyway, I read your book, “No Applause” and I thought it was BRILLIANT. While I didn’t agree with all of your opinions, but it was exceedingly well researched, and smartly written with a lot of wit, charm, and feeling. Incredibly informative, and really quite an essential read. I really felt i could enter into and have some scope of the American narrative of performing arts after reading it. I borrowed it from the Performing Arts Library, but i loved it so much I know I’ll end up buying it to read it again.

    Anyway, I’m planning a street Shakespeare bike tour that was inspired by a lot of the ideas you introduced to me via your book. I thought I might share it with you. Hope you are doing well, and hope to hear from you.


    • Thanks for your kind words! (and yes we have a million friends in common, it seems). Good luck with the bike tour, I hope it goes well!


  23. Travsd,

    I’m a freelance journalist assigned to write a feature article about the famous (or infamous), Poli Mansion in Woodmont, CT. I know that your book covers info on Poli the man. Would you like to be quoted in my piece? It is for a quarterly called Milford Living Magazine. (Summer issue). My deadline is the first week of May.
    If so, please contact me.

    Thank you,
    Cindy P.G.



  24. Trav – Hi, I’m not sure if we’ve met before, but I just wanted to see if you’re interested in writing about the upcoming film adaptation of the Off-Broadway play “Between Us” by Joe Hortua. The play was originally commissioned by South Coast Rep, and then premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2004 where it did very well. I got together with Joe and we adapted the play into a screenplay, which I’ll be directing in March. (Interestingly, I turned down “Farragut North” to adapt “Between Us” – not that I feel bad that George Clooney will be directing my cast-offs – I’m sure he’ll do just fine.) Of course, we’re hoping to follow in the footsteps of MTC’s “Rabbit Hole” which is already a top awards contender for its film adaptation.

    Unlike most high-profile play adaptations, we’re doing this without the benefit of a studio or a big producer like Scott Rudin behind us. My own roots are in the indie film world (I co-founded the Slamdance Film Festival), and my last film was the real estate musical “Open House”, which starred Anthony Rapp and Sally Kellerman, and was distributed by The Weinstein Co. It was this film that led me to New York when there was chatter from the Weinsteins of turning it into a stage play. We never did, but while I was there I found stacks of hit plays that would make great films, and I thought “Between Us” was the best of them.

    I saw Jason Zinoman’s story in the Times last week on playwrights who move to TV writing (as indeed Joe Hortua has done, writing for “Life” and “Cane”). But what Jason forgot to mention is that this one-way train skips over film adaptations because there just isn’t as much money in it for the agents or playwrights. Too bad – there’s a lot of great material out there.

    In any case, there was a nice story in FilmThreat.com yesterday about our production of “Between Us” – here’s the link: http://www.filmthreat.com/features/28294/ There’s also a nice embeddable video describing the project on our Kickstarter page here: http://kck.st/btXxyU

    If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 323-304-3593.

    Dan Mirvish
    Director, “Between Us”


  25. After hearing about your book I decided to ‘buy’ a copy. Even though I have read almost all the books on vaudeville and variety out there I figured I would give your book a spot on my shelf. After reading ‘The Overture’ I realized you are a very knowledgeable man and you wrote a line which sums up the current resurgence.
    “The vaudeville form suited a nation where nothing could be taken for granted”. Timely and topical for now as well even though you wrote it 5 years ago.
    Thanks and hope we can trade stories p2p sometime soon.


  26. Hi —

    I’m at the beginnings of an extended project re: Rhode Island LGBT history. I’ve run across your blog via a google search including ‘vaudeville’ & ‘Rhode Island’ casting a very wide net looking for any leads. I know that various LGBT performers from RI — Francis Renault for instance — began their careers in vaudeville in Providence. Can you point me toward some good basic materials on B.F. Keith and RI vaudeville history especially any LGBT folks you know of.

    Kate Monteiro


    • Hi. I dont know much about local RI sources (despite having come from there), or LGBT resources. As for Keith-Albee, for some reason the best collection seems to be at the University of Iowa. Sorry cant be of more help


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