Archive for the Folk (Ethnic) Category

Charo: Emissary of “Cuchi-Cuchi”

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Comedy, Folk (Ethnic), Music, Television, TV variety, Women with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the birthday (according to one source) of that peculiar late 20th century phenomenon known as Charo (Maria del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza — I can hear her saying that even as I type it). IMDB says she was born January 15, 1945, although there are doubts. And, truthfully, does Charo seem like the kind of lady who would lie about her age? I put it to you.

When you were my age in the mid 1970s, Charo was merely one of a hundred mysterious question marks bouncing around the television landscape with no explanation or context. Who was she, we wondered? She showed up on all the talk shows and variety programs, and even comedy/dramas like The Love Boat (eight times!), and her routine was that she spoke broken English, and said “Cuchi-Cuchi!”. But nobody knew who she was or how she got there. I mean, can anyone just show up and be on television?

The explanation is a lesson in the pitfalls of American show business. Charo was (is!) one of the best flamenco guitar players in the world. She studied under Andres Segovia in her native Spain since childhood, and performed with her husband Xavier Cugat’s band in her early twenties (she married Cugat in 1966; divorced him in 1977). Now, I guess we knew she could sing, dance and play the guitar back then, because she would occasionally do so on her television appearances. But it was CLEAR that she was primarily booked as a comedy burlesque routine (and a funny one). Classical guitar??? She got booked because she shook her money-maker, did a sort of Spanish minstrel routine and said “Cuchi-Cuchi!” . I’m not saying I don’t think it’s funny. I’m actually smirking even as I type this. But the whole thing got out of hand. Her talents deserved respect and they got pushed to the absolute bottom. If you took a poll: “Does Charo have any talent?” I swear an almost universal percentage would say “no”. If you’re talking about acting talent, maybe so. But musical talent? It’s just not fair.

Here, then, the two sides of Charo:

To find out more about  the variety arts (including television variety)consult 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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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Dave Apollon Makes His Mandolin to Cry

Posted in Comedy, Folk (Ethnic), Music, Russian, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on February 23, 2013 by travsd

Dave Apollon

Today is the birthday of Star of Vaudeville #120, Dave Apollon, the Mandolin King (for the full skinny on this fascinating person go here). Submitted for your Saturday delectation, some of his virtuoso strumulating:

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

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Dave Apollon

Posted in Asian, Folk (Ethnic), Music, Russian, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on February 23, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of Dave Apollon, the Yakov Smirnoff of the mandolin community (see my full bio here). Here he is with his swinging Fillipinos, performing “Sweet Sue”

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult 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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Stars of Vaudeville #386: Bernardo de Pace

Posted in Folk (Ethnic), Italian, Music, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on November 10, 2011 by travsd

Billed as “The Wizard of the Mandolin”, Italian-born Bernardo de Pace (1886-1966) divided his time equally among vaudeville, radio and the Metropolitan Opera. He won an international contest at age 11, and toured Europe for several years before making his home in the States. He was also one the stars of the 1926 edition of George White’s Scandals. Now here he is in his very own 1927 Vitaphone short:

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult 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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Stars of Vaudeville #120: Dave Apollon, “The World’s Greatest Mandolin Viruoso”

Posted in Folk (Ethnic), Music, Russian, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , on February 23, 2010 by travsd

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Vaudeville was about nothing if it was not about excess. Here was a man who ate, drank, slept and probably shat the mandolin. Well, somebody had to.

He was born in Kiev in 1897. He started out playing the violin as a child until the day his instructor drank too much vodka and sat on his fiddle. Apollon got himself a mandolin, taught himself to play, and more importantly, not to lay his instrument down on chairs anymore. By his teens he’d already formed his own orchestra, which played movie theatres, and had himself a little solo career.

The Revolution chased him out of Russia. In 1919, he moved to New York, and auditioned for the Palace. His “Gypsy Airs” were a big hit and he was signed by the Keith organization to a three year contract. His climb to the top was abetted by an unexpected asset—his accent. Whenever circumstances compelled him to talk onstage, his mangled English got big laughs. It served the same function as a comedian’s double-talk. Apollon was encouraged by influential people to develop this part of the act and before long he was a headliner at the Palace, and even—incredibly—Master of Ceremonies. Yakoff Smirnoff, eat your heart out.

In 1926 he hooked up with an out-of-work Fillipino string band. Apollon fobbed them off as “Russians” and they were his back-up band through the late 30s. After vaudeville faded, Apollon continued to work nightclubs and television, and to cut record albums with names like Mandolins, Mandolins, Mandolins and The Magic of the Mandolin. In 1972, he was cremated along with his very first mandolin, the one he had played as a boy back in Kiev.

Submitted for your delectation, some of his virtuoso strumulating:

To learn about the roots of variety entertainmentconsult 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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And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

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