Archive for night clubs

Eddie White: “I Thank You”

Posted in Comedy, Jews/ Show Biz, Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2017 by travsd

Eddie White (Michael Weintraub, 1898-1983) was born on May 18.

White comes to the attention of modern buffs almost entirely from his 1928 Vitaphone short called I Thank You, after his oft-repeated (by him) catchphrase. When you’ve seen a whole mess of Vitaphones, you easily lump them into categories. Some, like Burns and Allen, and Rose Marie, are folks we already know. Some, maybe most, are folks we don’t know and leave little impression. And a discrete handful are folks we don’t know and make a huge impression: a great act, big talent, a vivid or eccentric personality, sheer weirdness, or whatever. Those are everybody’s favorite Vitaphones and I think those end up being the ones we see for a reason; the screenings are almost always curated by the savvy Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project, who has the ears, eyes, nose, bones, brains, and guts of an old time vaudeville producer, which also means knowing what contemporary audiences will respond to.

At any rate, I Thank You is just such a short. Eddie White is one of the memorable ones. Tall, thin, and lanky, with a scrawny neck, enormous ears, and a high-pitched voice, you’d swear in watching the film that he was an adolescent, no more than about 15 years old. That was the impression I took away the first time I saw the film several years ago: that he was a precocious, talented teenager, probably from New York’s Lower East Side. The ethnic jokes and the crowd pleasing song set, featuring, “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella (on a Rainy Day)”, “Get Out and Get Under the Moon” and the show-stopping “Mammy”, probably planted that idea. But I was off.

As we see from his birthday year, the young man was actually 30 when this Vitaphone came out. Its national release was probably the high point of his long career, which was mostly East Coast based, concentrated in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and New York. Born in South Philly, he debuted as a young man at the Old Norris Theatre in Norris, Pennsylvania and was using the stage handle “Eddie White” by 1920.

In the 20s he seemed an up-and-comer. He was a big time Keith’s act by mid-decade, one sees references to him playing important big time houses like New York’s Hippodrome.

He became associated with the famous 1932 song “Sam, You Made The Pants Too Long”, though Milton Berle had written the parody lyrics and Joe E. Lewis had the 1933 hit record. Vaudeville was dying around this time and the path of White’s career is hugely instructive about what the hustling performer did to fill the time with bookings. A small announcement in a 1936 issue of Billboard seems pivotal. The item describes White as a vaud vet who would now be officially turning his attention to night cubs. And thereafter he seemed to work pretty steadily as an m.c. and entertainer at night clubs and resorts, most especially the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, although one continues to find references to him playing dates farther afield in places like Pittsburgh and Ohio. Part of White’s legend is that he became a figure in the career of the Jersey-based burlesque comedians Abbott and Costello, when he saw them performing and put them on at the Steel Pier, where they first began to attract more widespread notice.

White produced and hosted a variety revue called The Zanities of 1943 in Philadelphia that got good notices. He headlined in the Palace Theatre revival in 1955. He retied from show biz in 1959.

I had the thrill of talking to White’s only child Jay Weintraub (b. 1933) the other day, and he helped add texture for White’s later years. He said the family moved to Chicago for three years, where White had a steady gig at a night club. He said his famous friends included Berle (who’d given him “Sam” to sing), Judy Garland, Red Buttons, Henny Youngman, and of course Abbott and Costello (Weintraub recounted an anecdote where Costello flew the family out to spend a few days with him in Hollywood). And he said the William Morris Agency tried unsuccessfully to book Eddie for the Ed Sullivan Show, but he was rejected for being too “ethnic” — he did a lot of Jewish dialect humor, which might not come across to wider audiences (and might have offended some others).

But mostly, says Weintraub, “He was a family man. His main interests were his brothers and my mother and me. He would go off and do his dates for a few days but then he would always come home.”

Most intriguingly, Mr. Weintraub mentions an enormous scrapbook of clippings in his possession and THIS would be the great resource of information on Eddie White. Hopefully some day an intrepid researcher will gain access to it and convey its contents to the wider public.

Special thanks to the one and only Mr. Chuck Prentiss for connecting me with Jay Weintraub!

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.


Posted in Dance, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2015 by travsd


Doraldina (Dora Saunders, 1888-1936) began her working life as manicurist in a San Francisco Hotel, then went to New York and Spain to study dance. She became known for popularizing the hula, and Hawaiian culture in general, and has been described as “the first performer to be billed as an exotic dancer”.

Sometimes billed as “Madame Doraldina” or “Mlle. Doraldina”, she was working big time vaudeville and prominent nightclubs, cabarets and cafes by the nineteen-teens. In 1916 she played the Palace, billed as “Doraldina, the World’s Most Versatile Dancer”; she returned in late 1917. In 1917, she had her own venue, “The Montmartre Club”, which was backed by the Shuberts. She appeared in four Broadway shows: The Road to Mandalay (1916), Step This Way (1916) The Red Dawn (1919), and Frivolities of 1920. In 1920 a pamphlet was published called “Doraldina, As She Is to Those Who Know Her,” and in the early flapper days her likeness was to be found in  many fashion magazines. 

She is known to have appeared in three silent films: The Nauhlaka (1918) co-starring Warner Oland; The Woman Untamed (1920), in which she played a beautiful castaway worshipped as a Goddess by native cannibals; and Passion Fruit (1921), in which she portrayed the sultry daughter of a South Sea plantation owner. The second of these films apparently still survives, I saw a reference to it having been screened at a film festival about 20 years ago.

After this she seems to have concentrated on her cosmetics company (Doraldina Inc), which she’d founded in 1915. They produced a line called Allura, among others, and one of their specialties was leg make-up, especially useful for dancers and other stage-folk.

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.


Grace Hayes

Posted in Broadway, Hollywood (History), Movies, Radio (Old Time Radio), Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2013 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Grace Hayes (1895-1989). A singer in vaudeville and nightclubs, she began to find success in the 1920s, with Broadway shows like The Bunch and Judy (1922), The Merry World (1926), A Night in Spain (1927), Ballyhoo of 1930, and A Little Racketeer (1932). She began her recording career for Victor in 1927. Her first appearance at the Palace was in 1929 as the singer for songwriter and piano player Neville Fleeson. In the act she did her impression of Mae West, which brought the house down. (She also reprised this act in a film short that year). She got her own radio program on NBC, and then returned to the Palace for another star turn in 1932.

By then she was making her transition to Hollywood, which was to be her base through the 30s.  In addition to her frequent radio appearances, she owned and performed at her own Hollywood nightclub the Grace Hayes Lodge and appeared in a few films including Paul Whiteman’s The King of Jazz (1932); Al Boasberg’s Myrt and Marge (1933), starring Myrtle Vail and Donna Damarel and also featuring Ted Healy and Eddie Foy Jr,; the musical Rainbow Over Broadway (1933); the short Maid for a Day (1936) in which she co-starred with her son Peter Lind Hayes whom had also frequently featured in her vaudeville act; and the biggest film she was associated with, Babes in Arms (1939) with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In the 40, she moved to Las Vegas, acquiring one of the first joins on the strip The Red Rooster, and making that the Grace Hayes Lodge as well (later renamed the Patio), which she ran until she died. Her last film credit is in Milton Berle’s Always Leave Them Laughing (1949). She was also the subject of an episode of This is Your Life in 1953. The second of her three husbands was Charley Foy.


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.


And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc


What Was The Chop Suey Circuit?

Posted in Asian, Variety Arts (Defined), Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2012 by travsd

The Chop Suey Circuit is the not-very-respectful nickname for the loose network of night clubs and supper clubs that flourished in the various Chinatowns of American metropolitan areas from the 193os through the 1950s. Generally owned by Asian Americans, they presented revues of Asian and Asian American entertainers, mostly for audiences of thrill seeking Caucasians. It was never a bona fide, organized circuit in the sense of the great burlesque and vaudeville wheels.

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.


Dashing Dancer: Tony de Marco

Posted in Broadway, Dance, Italian, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2012 by travsd

Tony de Marco (born today in 1898) was one of the premiere 20th century ballroom dancers. Starting in his native Buffalo he began in small time vaudeville and burlesque, working with eight partners before striking it big in the 1924 edition of George White’s Scandals. Over the next two decades, the dashing De Marco would appear in and choreograph a dozen Broadway shows. In the 40s, he was a star of the night club scene, and when that waned he took to acting in television in the late 50s and 60s. He died in 1965.

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.


Adelaide Hall: Vaud Expat in the U.K. Halls

Posted in African American Interest, British Music Hall, Broadway, Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by travsd

Classy, elegant African American chanteuse Adelaide Hall (born this day in 1901) did play sporadic dates in American vaudeville (like when she played the Palace in 1930), but she is best known in the U.K., where the Brooklyn native moved on the eve of the Second World War.

A trained singer and college graduate, she first made her name in all-Black Broadway shows of the 1920s like Sissle and Blake’s Shuffle Along (1921) and Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928. Like Josephine Baker she made Paris her home base for awhile, performing at the Moulin Rouge and her own club La Grosse Pomme. She moved to London in 1938, and made that her home (with occasional trips back to the states) until her death in 1993.

Here she is singing in London’s Nightingale Club in 1948:

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.


Ming and Toy (as Transmitted by Jillian Tully)

Posted in Asian, Contemporary Variety, Rock and Pop, Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by travsd


Born on this day, a minor vaudevillian who had two great shots of national exposure. The first, when the act she performed with her father “Ming and Toy” was captured for a 1936 Vitaphone short; the second when that short was amply sampled in the 1999 PBS documentary Vaudeville.

If you’ve seen the clip (unfortunately I can’t link to it, the PBS folks keep taking it off Youtube) you’ll witness a pretty clear-cut “Yellow-Face” act, a cute, amazingly talented Chinese couple in silk outfits doing stereotypical ching-chong schtick in between musical numbers. The bombshell is that this father-daughter team were – wait for it – Filipino.

While in terms of international fame “Grandma Toy” might have been a minor figure, in the 30 year old life of Toy’s performing grandchild Jillian Tully there has been no one more major. I sat down with Jillian in a Greek diner in Astoria last night and she told me the whole story.

“The legend is that my great grandfather (real name Jose Paguio) came to the U.S. from the Philippines in about 1915 with dreams of becoming a concert pianist. He settled in Jersey City and did manage to find work as a musician,” says Tully. “One day my grandmother came home from school crying about how the kids at school were teasing her and making racist remarks. And Jose’s response was to form a vaudeville act.”

Whether or not the stereotypical act that Ming (a.k.a Jose) cooked up was meant as a subversive commentary on the prevailing attitudes of the times, or if he was just simply “giving the people what they want” will have to remain an open question. Both partners in the team have been dead for decades. All we have now are some facts. The team toured the world, enjoying particular success in Australia, where vaudeville didn’t die for many years after American vaudeville had passed. They toured in various editions of George White’s Scandals and the Ziegfeld Follies. Later, Toy (whose real name was Margie) changed her name to Hoo Shee, and her brother joined the act. They became “Ming, Ling and Hoo Shee, Three Hillbillies from the Burma Road.” Ming played accordion and ukulele and also juggled; Ling played guitar (and apparently sang like one of the guys from the Ink Spots); Hoo Shee sang and danced (some called her the Chinese Betty Hutton).

The trio played the so-called Chop Suey Circuit for a number of years until they disbanded, at which point Hoo Shee went solo for a time before retiring to raise a family in the late 1940s.

But how could that possibly be the end of the story? When I say “as transmitted by” in the header to this blog entry, I don’t just mean Jillian’s around to convey some oral history, as valuable as that is. Apart from a few old clips and yellowing mementos, she happens to be the family legacy. The oldest in her generation of grandchildren, Jillian spent the first ten years of her life growing up in Grandma Toy’s house.

“She still had a beautiful voice even then,” says the actress-singer-songwriter-costume designer, “She’d be scrambling eggs and singing ‘Mares Eat Oats’, or the Ella Fitzgerald version of “A Tisket, A Tasket.’ She’d play me those Time-Life cassettes of old radio shows like Baby Snooks with Fanny Brice. We’d watch old MGM musicals on tv, and she’d tell me everything about the shows and about the stars. At bedtime, she’d tell me about her adventures during her touring days until I went to sleep.”

Margie passed away when Jillian was 11, but her dad and her step-dad (both musicians) were mentors to her too. She attended a performing arts high school in West Hollywood, where she received further training as a musical theatre geek, (but hated the competition), before bumming around for a few years. She recorded an album of her songs with her group Rainy Day Assembly, which she dedicated to Hoo Shee. (The cover shows a photo of Margie as Jillian knew her – the former glamorous beauty in a California backyard, hanging the wash on the line). The CD is called “Someone Else’s Story”.

In 2005 Jillian started singing in the New York City subways (usually the West 4th Street stop), though she’s also played venues like the Bitter End and Matchless. She’s appeared in shows like Hair (not the Public’s production) and my own Kitsch at Theatre for the New City, which is how I first got to know her.

She says she’s the only one in her extant family even remotely bitten by the show business bug. Whether it’s a matter of nature or nurture (or both) must remain an enigma as mysterious and beautiful as a Filipino father and his school age daughter one day deciding to form a Chinese vaudeville act.

But wait! There just might be another performing family member. Jillian says there’s a rumor that her great uncle Bobby Paguio (a.k.a “Ling”) is alive and living in Northern California. None of her branch of the family is in touch with him. If anyone has any leads, please get in touch via this blog and I’ll pass the news on to Jillian. There are so many questions to ask.

To learn about the roots of variety entertainmentconsultNo Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available 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 etc etc etc


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