Thanks to Jim Moore I now know that I am only two degrees of separation from Sarah Bernhardt.
Everyone in New York’s variety artsscene and its many subsets knows who Jim Moore is. He showed up one day, like the shoe-maker’s elf, to make all of our lives a lot easier. A photographer and videographer, through his web site Vaudevisuals he has been meticulously chronicling all the vaudeville, burlesque, circus, sideshow etc activity in New York now for many months. This is already a hugely valuable record.
While this is wonderful, he is not actually an elf, unfortunately. And it turns out he has been making Herculean efforts to keep the performing arts traditions alive and before the public for a very long time. Recently, he told me about an attempt he and some partners made about thirty years ago to create an organization called “The New York Variety Arts Theatre”.
Here’s the poop, people. Jim studied film production at NYU. In an effort to be a better director, he studied mime with some fairly distinguished teachers. In the late 70s, he was performing a lot, based out of a space called the Hudson Street Studio. (He also had a public access variety tv variety show, which featured people like Paul Zaloom and my old buddy David Jenness. How I’d love to see that!) At any rate, at certain point Jim and his cohorts began to organize a not-for-profit, whose mission was to be training, preservation and the production of variety shows. A big benefit was held at Theatre of the Open Eye, featuring Joe Smith of Smith and Dale, who was 92 at the time. Jim had gotten to know Joe following his presentation at a big popular entertainment conference held at Lincoln Center. He actually did his Dr. Kronkite sketch!
And Joe Smith is what links me (uh, and a thousand other people as the Countess points out), through Jim Moore, to Bernhardt. Smith and Dale had performed together on the same bill with Bernhardt at the Palace). Believe it…or not.
The sad news is, Jim’s long-dreamed of variety arts preservation organization never came to pass. There was dissension in the ranks, and the parties went their separate ways. Jim was ahead of his time in that enterprise. But guess what? He is in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time, right now. Hats off, and three cheers to him.
To learn about variety entertainment, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.