(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘vaudeville

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit”*…

 

bon-mots

Both published in 1897, Bon-Mots of the Eighteenth Century and Bon-Mots of the Nineteenth Century, pretty much deliver what they promise — that is, a compilation of some of the best conversational witticisms of the two centuries. Examples from many famous and expected names adorn its pages — including Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde, and Lord Byron — but we are also introduced to more obscure though no less prolific sources, such as the actor Charles Bannister and the Irish politician John Philpot Curran. Although many of the bon-mots might not stand the test of time — so often firmly rooted in the language or the culture of the time as they are — some don’t fair too badly today. Also don’t miss the two introductions which each include entertaining examples of how various writers have defined “wit” (in Bon-Mots of the Eighteenth Century) and “humour” (in Bon-Mots of the Nineteenth Century). Look out also for the fun little “grotesques” that litter the pages of both volumes, by English artist Alice B. Woodward.

Voltaire

Bon-Mots of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century (1897)“; page through them at The Internet Archive.

* Oscar Wilde (featured in the second volume treated above)

###

As we celebrate celerity, we might spare a thought for Judy Canova; she died on this date in 1983.  A veteran of a sister act in vaudeville (“the Three Georgia Crackers”), she got her break as a teenager when bandleader Rudy Vallée offered her a guest spot on his radio show in 1931.  Her career spanned five decades, during which she performed as a comedian, actress, singer, and radio personality, appearing on Broadway and in films.  She hosted her own self-titled network radio program, a popular series broadcast from 1943 to 1955, first on CBS, then NBC.

Judy Canova source (and repository of audio examples of her work)

 

Written by LW

August 5, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Magic is an art form where you lie and tell people you are lying”…

 

42897335782_44cd98a9e4_z

Left: “Pheon Waltz Song” with Herrmann dancing on the cover, 1896. (Photo courtesy of New York Public Library). Right: Poster of Herrmann and Company, around 1905. (Photo courtesy of McCord Museum)

In Baltimore, 1878, an eerie silence settled over the crowd in Ford’s Grand Opera House. The boisterous applause for Herrmann the Great’s wondrous illusions, in which the nattily dressed magician in a black velvet suit pulled a rabbit from his hat and levitated a sleeping woman, had abruptly stopped. A net was stretched across the full width of the theater, and the audience knew that the culmination of the evening — the cannon act — had arrived.

A young woman dressed in spangled red tights stepped into an upper stage box where the cannon waited, and was helped into the barrel. When she had vanished from view, Herrmann the Great yelled out: “Are you ready!”

“Yes,” came her muffled response. “Go!”

There was an explosion.

A flash of gunpowder.

And she flew 50 feet through the air.

Only when she landed safely in the net and the smoke cleared did the audience break into a thunder of cheers that lasted on and on as the curtain rose and fell over the bowing Herrmann the Great and the intrepid young woman.

Although the 19th-century audience might not have noticed, she’d also been the evening’s levitating sleeper, the bicycle rider who carried a girl on her shoulders, and the dancer who spectrally swirled in red silk like a pillar of fire. Her name was Adelaide Herrmann, Herrmann the Great’s wife and daring assistant. She was not supposed to be a human cannonball.

She’d taken over that role in Caracas, Venezuela, when their trapeze artists quit halfway through a South American tour, and she described her anxiety the first night “as a condemned man must feel as the fatal hour approaches.” But as she was loaded into the cannon, she showed no fear.

In 1896, Herrmann the Great — a.k.a. Alexander Herrmann — died, leaving his wife responsible for a traveling company, a herd of performing animals, and a lot of debt. If she was frightened, if she was weary, she hid it just as well as she did that night when she was first shot out of a cannon. Adelaide had no choice but to promote herself from assistant to headliner and take center stage.

“Hearts may be torn, bitter tears may be shed, but we of the stage have a jealous mistress in the public, which demands that we be gnawing at the soul,” she wrote.

She would become the Queen of Magic — one of the most celebrated magicians in the world…

When her husband died and left her penniless, audacious Adelaide Hermann transformed from lowly assistant to “the Queen of Magic”– the extraordinary story: “She Caught Bullets with Her Bare Hands — and Made Magic’s Glass Ceiling Disappear.”

* Teller

###

As we believe in magic, we might spare a thought for Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz (née Cary), the naturalist and educator who was the co-founder and first president of Radcliffe College; she died this date in 1907.  After the death of her husband, Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz, with whom she traveled on scientific expeditions, she settled on the idea of college for women in the “Harvard Annex” in Cambridge; in 1894 the Annex became Radcliffe College.  She served as its first president until 1899, then honorary president until 1903.  Her books include A First Lesson in Natural History (1859), and A Journey in Brazil (1867).

 source

 

Written by LW

June 27, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The greatest escape I ever made was when I left Appleton, Wisconsin”*…

 

 

Hopefully you’ll never experience being held somewhere against your will, but if you find yourself in a tricky situation, you’ll be glad to know a few effective escape strategies. Standard-issue police handcuffs, and more recently, zip ties, can both be rendered useless in a matter of seconds if you know what you’re doing…

Learn to slip both cuffs and zip ties at “How to Escape from Handcuffs.”

* Harry Houdini

###

As we amaze our friends, we might spare a thought for Otis Harlan, he died on this date in 1940.  A vaudevillian (Hell in the first show at New York City’s Folies Bergère; Irving Berlin’s “ragtime” productions, et al.), Harlan moved to Hollywood and became a film staple.  He played the role of Cap’n Andy in the first, part-talkie film version of Show Boat (1929), and was the Master of Ceremonies in the sound prologue that accompanied the film.  In 1935, he played Starveling in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 magical film version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  And in 1937, he voiced “Happy” the dwarf in the Disney animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and appeared in the Our Gang short Roamin’ Holiday. Five years later, he voiced Mr. Mole in Bambi.

 source

 

Written by LW

January 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

Adventures in Naming…

One can’t choose one’s parents– nor the name with which those parents endow one. So one is stuck with the initials that come in the bargain.  (Your not-too-foresightful correspondent’s daughter, for instance, has the monogram “EWW”)

The founders of corporations and not-for-profits, however, can– and in this age of Twitter- and SMS-inspired compression, surely should– try to avoid the sorts of unfortunate double entendre created by the examples in Mental Floss’ “Initials That Meant More Than They Realized.”

As we apply ourselves anew to appellation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1939 that New York City’s 5,200-seat Hippodrome Theater closed its doors for the last time. Built in 1905, the Hippodrome was for a time the largest and most successful theater in New York, featuring lavish spectacles replete with elephants and other circus animals, diving horses, opulent sets, 500-strong choruses, and the most popular vaudeville artists of the day.

Harry Houdini and friend, performing at the Hippodrome (source: Library of Congress)

%d bloggers like this: