Archive for the Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons Category

On the Real Klondike Kate

Posted in AMERICANA, Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2016 by travsd

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Klondike Kate (Kathleen Eloise Rockwell, 1873-1957) was a real person! She was the toast of Dawson, Yukon during the Gold Rush, performing in saloons, the Savoy Theatrical Company, and the Palace Grande Theatre, where her famous “Flame Dance” earned her as much as $750 a night in the boom town economy (the equivalent of over $21,000 in today’s money). She got involved romantically with Alexander Pantages, and helped bankroll his Seattle-based vaudeville circuit. Pantages proceeded to throw her over and marry another woman. Kate continued to perform in west coast vaudeville for a time in the early years of the 20th century, eventually retiring to Oregon.

Born in Junction City, Kansas, Kate grew up in North Dakota; Spokane, Washington; and Valparaiso, Chile. She moved to New York City at age 18, which is where she got her first experience as a chorus girl and dancer in Coney Island, and vaudeville houses throughout the city.

Ann Savage played a fictionalized version of her in the 1943 movie Klondike Kate. Mae West paid her homage in the title of Klondike Annie (1936), although her character’s story is quite different in that picture.

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.

I’m in America’s First Play — Having Its World Premiere This Friday!

Posted in AMERICANA, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Indie Theatre, ME, My Shows, PLUGS with tags , , , , on November 2, 2016 by travsd

I am extremely excited to be taking part in this special theatrical event by Peculiar Works Project. It’s a production of Androboros the first play written and published in America (and ’til now, unproduced). It was written by New York Colonial Governor Robert Hunter in 1714 — it’s a political satire, and it’s quite funny! Furthermore, director Ralph Lewis is staging it in a boxing ring! Just in time for the national box that is the presidential election. I’m told the three night run is very close to selling out already so get your tickets now! See below for more details:

Patriotic Boxing Gloves with Democratic                             and Repubican Mascots on Them
We’ve added more seats for Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Peculiar Works Project presents

ANDROBOROS
VILLAIN OF THE STATE

Adapted by S.M. DALE from the play by GOVERNOR ROBERT HUNTER (1666–1734)
Directed by RALPH LEWIS

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4 at 9pmSATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5 at 7pmSUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6 at 5pm
Running time: 1 hour – Please note unique show times!

Take a break from the current election and vent with us at
OVERTHROW Boxing Club, 9 Bleecker St, NYC

Special Pre-Election FREE Event (Donations accepted) – Reserve Your Place at peculiarworks.org

Featuring
OLIVER BURNS, PATRICK CAUGHILL, ROB GAINES, BIANCA ILICH, DAVID KING, KATHRYN KRULL, CAITI LATTIMER, CHRIS MANLEY, KEVIN PERCIVAL, TRAV S.D., KATHLEEN SCHLEMMER, BENJAMIN STRATE
Original Music SPENCER KATZMAN • Music performed by CLYDE DALEY, ROB MITZNER
Lighting DAVID CASTANEDA • Dramaturg BARBARA YOSHIDA • Additional Text PETER DAVIS
Clowning ADAM AUSLANDER • Hospitality DIANA BYRNE
Producers CATHERINE PORTER & BARRY ROWELL

When they go low, we go lower!

Windows on the Bowery, Part Two

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, ME, My Shows, SOCIAL EVENTS with tags , , , , , , on September 23, 2016 by travsd

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An excellent time was had by all assembled (I decree it) at last night’s celebration for the Windows on the Bowery exhibition at the historic HSBC bank on the lower Bowery in Chinatown. You may recall our coverage of Part One, the Cooper Union opening, from my earlier blog post.  As you may recall, because you are paying strict and close attention to every aspect of my life, I wrote two the panels, included in the show, and these are them:

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But frankly all of the panels are terific and they really made me wish for a way-back machine so I could visit all the theatres, museums, and such like that used to thrive on the Bowery back in the day.  You want a clearer picture? You want to see the rest of them? GO THERE. I told you where it is at the top of the post.

Here are some candids I took at the event:

David Mulkins of the Bowery Residents Committee, principle mover, shaker and chief bottle washer of the project talks to Ralph Lewis of Peculiar Works Project (whom I learned last night lives in one of the historic buildings!)

David Mulkins of the Bowery Residents Committee, principle mover, shaker and chief bottle washer of the project talks to Ralph Lewis of Peculiar Works Project (whom I learned last night lives in one of the historic buildings!)

Mulkins addresses the adoring throngs

Mulkins addresses the adoring throngs

HSBC Bowery Branch staff, who have every reason to be proud of this civic minded project

HSBC Bowery Branch staff, who have every reason to be proud of this civic minded project

The word in the circle is "Success". Ain't it the truth, ain't it the truth?

The word in the circle is “Success”. Ain’t it the truth, ain’t it the truth?

Augustin Daly: First Man to Tie a Damsel to Railroad Tracks

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Broadway, Impresarios, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, Melodrama and Master Thespians, Playwrights with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of pivotal American playwright, producer, and critic Augustin Daly (1838-1899).

The son of a North Carolina sea captain, Daly moved to New York as a young child with his mother and brother when his father died at sea. The family were inveterate theatre goers paving the way for Daly’s lifelong association. He began his professional career as a critic starting in 1859. He began adapting and writing plays at around the same time.

Daly was to become one of the most prolific and influential American theatre artists of all time. Though dismissed by later generations, I believe time will give him his due. Though not a great literary man, he was hugely influential on the craft of the stage itself. His main modus operandi was to gobble up existing properties (foreign hits, Shakespeare, and novels) and adapt them — a method which I believe strongly presages the later working methods of Hollywood. His productions were known for their heightened realism (for the time), for spectacular special effects (also anticipating Hollywood), and for establishing rituals of what we now think of as melodrama.

His adaptation of the German play Leah the Forsaken (1862) was his first success. Under the Gaslight (1867) remains his best known original play — it purported to bring audiences to gritty urban realms and introduced the soon-to-be-overused device of a villain tying a heroine to railroad tracks. (This invention would outlive Daly in earnest by at least a couple of decades in the movies.  But people were still sending it up as comedy as late as Dudley Do-Right cartoons in the 1960s.

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Mack Sennett’s parody of the ritual, 1914, a sure fire sign it was already old hat by then

A Flash of Lightning (1868) was the follow up to Gaslight. In 1870 he produced Bronson Howard’s successful Saratoga. Horizon (1871) was an adaptation of a Bret Harte story set in the wild west. His Dickens adaptations included Pickwick Papers (1868) and Oliver Twist (1874). His numerous Shakespeare adaptations were criticized by Shaw and others for the audacious manner in which Daly cut passages and scenes and switched things around. 

Starting in 1869, he managed his own stock company based at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. He was to build his own Broadway house a decade later and another theatre in London in 1893. At various times his company included Ada Rehan, Maurice Barrymore, John Drew Jr, Tyrone Power Sr (father of the Hollywood actor), Maude Adams, Isadora Duncan, and Fanny Davenport. He continued working until his death in 1899; the shadow he cast (though the public has forgotten him)remains to this day.

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

Francis Leon: Minstrelsy’s Greatest Female Impersonator

Posted in African American Interest, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Drag and/or LGBT, Variety Theatre with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Francis Leon (Francis Patrick Glassey, b. 1844). Eventually billed simply as “Leon” or “The Only Leon”, he was the foremost female impersonator in blackface minstrelsy**.

Let it be known that the category of the “wench” was universally popular in minstrel shows — every comedian did drag, just like every comedian did blackface in the 19th century: if you didn’t, what good were you? But Leon was different from those lowbrow clowns. He was a hardcore female impersonator in the modern, vaudeville sense. He upped the ante, by being as convincing as humanly possible in his portrayals. It was no longer necessarily about comedy, it was about beauty and histrionic ability.

He went into show biz in his early teens. Because of his training as a boy soprano in church choirs he was able to mimic prima donnas, making him a novelty in minstrel shows. Rather than laying on burnt cork, he often portrayed “high yellow” dames, i.e. mulattoes. It’s said that there were as many as 300 dresses in his wardrobe, some of them costing as much as $400 — and astounding sum in those days. He presented refined opera and ballet and was renowned for the sensitivity accuracy of his representation of the fairer sex. In 1864 he formed his own troupe. Within a decade every minstrel company in the country had a Leon impersonator. The last historical reference to him is in San Francisco in 1883. Where and when he died remains unknown.

To learn more about the history of variety theatreconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad. 

Gus Williams: Show Biz Casualty of World War One?

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Comedy, German, Melodrama and Master Thespians, Stars of Vaudeville, The Hall of Hams, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Gus Williams (Gustave Wilhelm Leweck, Jr., 1848, 1915). Born in the vicinity of New York’s Bowery, young Leweck went west as a teenager seeking his fortune and only got as far as Indiana, where he became a farmhand. At age 14 he joined the Union army and wound up stationed with the occupying forces in Hunstville, Alabama, which is where he got his first stage experience as part of J.B. Ashton’s Dramatic Company.

After the war, he returned to his roots, going back to perform at Tony Pastor’s vaudeville house, doing Dutch (or German) comedy routines with an emphasis on original, self-penned songs. Williams was one of the premiere Dutch comics, particularly interesting because he was actually German — a lot of the later ones were Jewish. In addition to comic songs like “Dot Little German Band” and “Kaiser, Do You Want to Buy a Dorg?”, he also wrote popular weepies like “Don’t Forget Mother” and “See That My Grave is Kept Clean”. In addition to his vaudeville act, he also toured in original German farce comedies.

By the nineteen-teens Williams’ career was winding down. In 1915, he shot himself without leaving a note. The theory was that he had concluded that his career was at an end; the suicide had happened directly after a meeting with his agent. I’ll go the speculation one better: World War One had broken out six months before, making all things German increasingly unpopular.

To find out more about  the history of vaudeville and performers like Gus Edwardsconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Niblo of Niblo’s Garden

Posted in AMUSEMENTS, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Impresarios, Irish with tags , , , , on April 25, 2014 by travsd

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Readers of this blog (indeed, any source on 19th century entertainment) will often come upon the name of the famous venue Niblo’s Garden. Some of the folks I’ve written about who performed or presented there included P.T. Barnum, Billy McClain, The Ravel Family, Joe Coyne, La Carmencita, and Sr. Antonia Blitz. But have you ever stopped to wonder, “Who’s this ‘Niblo’ when he’s at home?”

William Niblo (ca. 1798-1878) was an Irish immigrant who moved to New York as a child , apprenticed in taverns, and opened his first establishment the Bank Street Coffee House when still a teenager. By 1822 he had amassed a small empire, including the coffee house, the New-York Marine Bath, and a fancy hotel called the Kensington House.

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The profits from these allowed him the following year to build his famous garden, an enormous pleasure resort on the old circus grounds at Broadway and Prince Street, that eventually contained a public garden, a saloon, a hotel, and one of the city’s biggest and most important theatres. The resort and its entertainments evolved over time. Initally, only music was performed. In 1834 the first of its theatres was built. Minstrel shows** and other variety was presented. Barnum exhibited there in 1835. The theatre burned in 1846 and was rebuilt in 1849.

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This version of the theatre hosted the famous 1866 production of The Black Crook, and many subsequent early American musicals, as well as the 1850 premiere of Verdi’s opera MacBeth. The theatre burned again in 187 2 and was rebuilt with the help of department store tycoon A.T. Stewart. Niblo passed away in 1878 and was interred at Green-wood Cemetery, but his venue soldiered on until 1895.

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By then New York’s theatre district had moved uptown to its 4th or 5th location, and was about to move yet again to Times Square. By that time too vaudeville and burlesque were going strong and movies were in the process of being born. Niblo’s Garden was very old hat indeed. Its last iteration was torn to accommodate an office building.

To find out more about vaudeville 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 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

**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad. 

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