Vaudeville Becomes Less Vulgar

By | Oct 24, 2017

Vaudeville was a style of entertainment popular in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries that took the form of a series of separate, unrelated acts. The performance could include all or some of the following; musicians, dancers, comedians, animal acts, magicians, impersonators, acrobats, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, or later short films.

Prior to 1880 Vaudeville was thought to be vulgar. Tony Pastor cleaned it of its obscenity to make it more wholesome to the general public. On October 24, 1881 he staged the self-proclaimed “clean” vaudeville in New York City. It was an effort to lure more women into the male dominated saloon and variety halls.

Vaudeville popularity increased when B.F. Keith built a chain of Vaudeville stages in various east coast cities. This was the beginning of the Vaudeville Circuit, a single booking system contracting acts for regional and national engagement that could grow from a few weeks to two years.

It was common for the performers to term a theatre by how much they were paid to perform at them. The three most common were the “small time”, the “medium time,” and the “Big Time”. When a performer reached the “Big Time” they were considered the best and most famous. The Big Time found its home in 1913 at New York City’s Palace. The Palace featured the best and brightest on its bill and many would consider playing there to be the apotheosis of their careers.

While Vaudeville never really died it just seemed to fade away as cinemas and radio gain popularity. In fact many of the early radio and cinemas stars, such as Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen and Abbott and Costello began on the Vaudeville circuits

Even though vaudeville as entertainment is dead, it lives on in popular culture and entertainment. Many of the ‘entertainment slang’ came from vaudeville, such as “a flop” (an act that does badly) and “the limelight” (from the lime-green color of phosphorus lights). It’s not unusual to see common techniques and gags of vaudeville on television and in films today.

An American Playwright – Eugene O’ Neill

By | Oct 16, 2017

I was talking with a old friend over the weekend. We had gone to college together in the late ’70s and had taken a number of Theater classes together. We were discussing historical people who we would like to possibly do for performance history. The subject came up because he was thinking of doing Abraham Lincoln. I mentioned that I had always thought about working on a play with the Playwright Eugene O’Neill narrating the story of his life.

In the ’70s many people knew of Eugene O’ Neill. He was an American Playwright, who many felt was the Shakespeare of the American Theater of the first part of the 20th Century. O’Neill was born into show business. His father James O’Neill was considered a matinee idol as a stage actor in the later half of the 19th Century, his most famous role was that of The Count of Monte Cristo. Eugene O’neill was born in a hotel room on October 16, 1888, the third of three children that James O’Neil had with his wife Mary Ellen Quinlan.

It wasn’t until after he spent much of 1912 and 1913 in sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis that he decided to write plays. Prior to this he had spent time at sea. Quite a few of his early plays cold be classified as Sea Plays.

His career as a playwright can be seen as divided in 2 parts. The first from 1914-1936. His plays were a standard on Broadway during this period winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1920, 1922, 1928,) and in 1936 the Nobel Prize for Literature, the second American to win. The second part begin in 1946 after a 10 year period where no new plays of his were produced. Then Ice Man Cometh an autobiographical play was produced. It was the first of a number of autobiographical plays he wrote during this second phase of his career. Long Day’s Journey into Night is thought by many to be his best.

He was married 3 times; Kathleen Jenkins (1909–12), Agnes Boulton (1918–29) and Carlotta Monterey (1929–53). He had three children, Eugene Jr with Jenkins and with Boulton Shane and Oona. Oona married Charlie Chaplain at the age of 18. Chaplain was 54. O’Neill disapproved of the wedding and he never saw her again.

After a long illness which for many years made it difficult to write O’Neill died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road in Boston, on November 27, 1953. It is said that while he was dying he whispered “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room.”

He Changed What We Read

By | Oct 14, 2017

Harold Robbins with more than 20 published books in 32 different languages and selling over 750 million copies can easily be considered one of the World’s Bestselling Author.

He was born on May 21, 1916 and although he often claimed to be a Jewish orphan (just like the character in his first novel Never Love a Stranger) he was the son of well-educated Russian and Polish immigrants.

One version of his biography has it that he made a million dollars selling sugar, but lost it all during the second World War. What is known is that after the War he moved to Hollywood where he worked for Universal Pictures.

In 1948 he published Never Love a Stranger, a book that broke away from the norm with graphic real life scenes of love, sex and violence. The book was banned in many places. Perhaps his best known work is The Carpetbaggers a book loosely based on the life of Howard Hughes. The book was the basis of two popular movies of the 1960s, The Carpetbaggers and Nevada Smith.

His books were full of sex and violence at a time when it was not generally accepted. In many ways he could be called a trend-setter. In the future world of Star Trek Jim Kirk calls him one the great authors of the generation. The quote was made in Star Trek IV:The Voyage Home as he and Spock was walking the streets of 1986 San Francisco.

After a long career, one that found him spending the last few years of his life confined to a wheelchair due to hip problems, he died on fifteen years ago on October 14, 1997 from respiratory heart failure at the age of 81 in Palm Springs, California.

Cristoforo Colombo

By | Oct 12, 2017

Christopher Columbus is thought to have been born between August and October 1451 in Genoa, Italy. Little is known about his youth, although it is thought that he had a brother, Bartolomeo who may have worked in a cartography workshop in Lisbon. He did claim that he began his life at sea at the age of 10.

Columbus never sat for an authentic portrait. Writings have described him as having reddish hair, which turned to white early in his life. He was a lighter skinned person and with too much sun exposure his face had turned red.

At the time of his 1492 voyage it was a common belief, especially of seagoing men, that the earth was a sphere. Europe had begun trade with China, but the overland route was rough and the sea route around the southern tip of Africa was long. Columbus held a theory, that the earth’s circumference was 25,255 kilometers. The accepted theory at the time was that the earth’s circumference was greater, which in actuality is correct.

In 1485, Columbus presented to the King John of Portugal a proposal that the king should equip three sturdy ships to Columbus and in one year’s time he would sail out into the Atlantic, search for a western route to Orient, and then return home. Columbus also requested he be made “Great Admiral of the Ocean”, be granted governor of any and all lands he discovered, and given one-tenth of all revenue from those lands discovered. The king submitted the proposal to his experts. They who rejected it with an opinion that Columbus’ proposed route of 2,400 miles was far too short.

After being rejected by Portugal he presented the same plan to the newly married Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, who ruled the combined lands of Spain. Even though they had similar reports as Portugal about Columbus’s estimates being too short, they didn’t want him to take his plan elsewhere. They gave him a gave him an annual annuity of 12,000 maravedis ($840) and in 1489 furnished him with a letter ordering all Spanish cities and towns to provide him food and lodging at no cost. Finally in 1492 the cash starved Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to fund 1/2 of his expedition. He had already lined up the the other half from private investors.

On the evening of August 3, 1492, Columbus departed from Palos with three ships; the larger of the ships was the Santa María, nicknamed Gallega and two smaller caravels, Pinta and Santa Clara, nicknamed Niña . Columbus first sailed to the Canary Islands, , where he restocked the provisions and made repairs, and on September 6, started what turned out to be a five-week voyage across the ocean. Land was sighted at 2 a.m. on October 12, 1492, Columbus called the island (in what is now The Bahamas) San Salvador.

The End of The Summer of Love

By | Oct 7, 2017

The summer of 1967 is commonly known as the Summer of Love. In the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, thousands of young people from all over the world united for a new social experience. The result, the hippie counterculture movement came into public awareness.

Scott McKenzie in May 1967 released the John Phillip’s penned song San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair). The song, written in 20 minutes, was originally designed to promote the June Monterey Pop Festival.

The Monterey Pop Festival took place on the weekend of June 16 to 18, 1967. Over 200,000 people attended. The artists played for free and the proceeds from the $1 entry fee were donated to charity. Many of the performers were unknown or little known acts and this was a big first step in their career. Performers at the festival included The Big Brother Holding Company with their new singer Janis Joplin, The Who, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

The Beatles released their Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band album on June 1st. With its musical innovations, Indian instrumentals, and vivid album cover it encapsulated the very essence of the Summer of Love.

The Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people: teenagers and college students drawn by their peers, middle-class vacationers to gawk, and even partying military personnel from bases within an easy drive. The Haight-Ashbury scene did deteriorated rapidly with overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicting the neighborhood. When the fall arrived many left to resume their college studies. They took with them new ideas, behaviors, and styles of fashion to most major cities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

On October 7, 1967, those remaining in the area staged a mock funeral, “The Death of the Hippie” ceremony, to signal the end of the played-out scene.

The Great Stone Face

By | Oct 4, 2017

During the 1920’s Buster Keaton was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, comic actor-directors of the end of the Silent Film Era. Roger Ebert has even called him the “greatest actor-director in the history of the movies”. Keaton’s films during this decade, such as The General or The Navigator, Steamboat Bill, Jr. or Our Hospitality are still considered great comic films. His films were full of comic elements and dangerous stunts. Stunts that Keaton himself would perform.

Buster Keaton was born on October 4, 1895. His father was Joseph Hallie “Joe” Keaton a vaudeville showman and traveling show owner. Joe Keaton was the fifth man in his linage to be named Joseph and his son was the sixth. Joseph Frank Keaton probably earned his nick-name because of his talent of being able to fall without injury. The word buster often referred to a spill or a fall that had the potential to produce injury.

Buster learned early how to fall without injury and before he had turned five he was part of an act created by his father that had him tossed around the stage, against the scenery, into the orchestra pit, or even into the audience. It was also during this period that he created his deadpan, stone face expression that would become his trademark. After being thrown and brushing himself off he would look to the audience with the expression that brought laughs.

While still working in the Vaudeville Theatre in February of 1917 he meet the comic film clown Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Even though he had had some doubts about the medium, after studying the inter workings of a movie camera he decided to join Arbuckle. The two became close friends with the two working together for a number of years.

From their friendship and work for Joseph M. Schenck, Buster Keaton was given his own production unit. It was from this unit that he worked throughout most of the 1920s. But at the end of the decade he made what he considered the worst decision he made during his life and his career. He signed a contract with MGM. The company restricted his creativity to a point where he simply did as told.

The 1930s saw problems in his personal life as well. His first wife and he divorced and he began a bout with alcoholism. By the 1940s he became more stable, but his fame was behind him. He did work continuously until his death from Lung Cancer on February 1, 1966. He worked in television during its early days creating a film series Life with Buster. He also appeared in numerous Television commercials and in a couple of the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello Beach movies in the mid-1960s.

1903 World Series – Boston Wins over the Pirates

By | Oct 1, 2017

In 1903 Baseball’s American League was just two years old, but they were popular enough that it was decided that the champion of each league would play a series of nine games for the national championship. The series began on October 1st with the last game held on October 13th.

The Pittsburgh Pirates led by shortstop Honus Wagner won their 3rd straight National League pennant. They ended the year with a .650 winning percentage and a 6.5 game lead over the New York Giants.

The American League team was the team from Boston, they wouldn’t adopt the official nickname Red Sox until 1908. They ended the year 14.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia Athletics with 91 wins, the same number of wins as the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The series was planned for 9 games, but only 8 were played since Boston won 5 of the 8. Pittsburgh won 3 of the first 4, 7-3 in game 1, 4-2 in game 3 and 5-4 in game 4. Before Boston won the next 4, 11-2, 6-3, 7-3 and 3-0. Boston also won the 2nd game of the series on a 3 hit shut out.

Wagner would only bat .222 in the series. The entire Pittsburgh team batted .237 for the series. They had batted .286 for the season.

Cy Young pitching for the Boston home team lost the first game to Pittsburgh’s Deacon Phillippe. In the first inning he gave up 4 of the 7 runs that the pirates scored, although there was also three Boston errors leading to 3 of the 4 runs being unearned. Young would go on to win two of the five games won by Boston. He pitched in 4 games to an ERA of 1.85 Phillippe would win all three games won by Pittsburgh, but he also lost 2 with a 3.07 ERA.

September 30, 1955

By | Sep 30, 2017

Had he lived, James Dean would be an 82 year old man and who knows what would have happened with his career. He could have been one of those stars that would shine for a couple of years and then fade away never to be seen again.

It’s possible he may even had changed careers. Dennis Hooper, who was a friend of Dean, said that Dean told him that he was considering leaving acting to become a director.

But James Dean will forever be remember as the 24 year old Rebel Without a Cause who died as a result of an auto accident that occurred on September 30, 1955.

When he died he only one of his three movies had been released. That being East of Eden which was released in March 1955. Nearly a month after his death on October 27, 1955 Rebel Without a Cause was released. His last film Giant was released over a year later on November 24, 1956.

After his death he was nominated for the Academy Award for best Actor in both 1955 and 1956. His nomination in 1955 for his role of Cal Trask in East of Eden was the first ever posthumous nomination. He is the only person to have two posthumous nominations.

Along with Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and now Carrie Fisher he is one of the most popular dead celebrity. Sometimes it may pay to die young, but all of that pay goes to the estate.

The First 12 Proposed Amendments to the US Constitution

By | Sep 25, 2017

It didn’t take long for Congress to start debate on Amendments to the United States Constitution. Congress first convened on March 4, 1789 and on June 8th of the same year James Madison read his thoughts regarding a Bill of Rights. During the course of debates through the ratification process of the Constitution many states express concerns that certain rights weren’t part of the Constitution.

Between June 8th and September 25, 1789, when the 12 proposed Amendments, the Bill of Rights, were submitted to the states, Congress compiled and debated the articles. First it was the house which used many of Madison’s proposals. The Senate modified them. On September 21, 1789 the House and the Senate together worked to resolved the differences, which was settled when the Senate passed them.

George Washington signed the resolution on October 2, 1789 and the proposed 12 amendments were sent to the 11 states that had already ratified the United States Constitution.

Each of the 12 articles would be voted on separately by states with an article being ratified when it received approval of three quarters of the states. Six weeks after receiving the Bill of Rights North Carolina ratified the Constitution. They had been holding out because it didn’t have individual state rights guarantee. Also during the ratification process, Vermont was admitted to the United States and Rhode Island, the last of the original thirteen states, ratified the Constitution.

Virginia became the 11th and deciding state to ratified the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution on December 15, 1791. They approved all 12 of the articles, but only Articles 3-14 were ratified. Article 1 had been rejected by Delaware while New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island had rejected Article 2.

Article 1 of the 12 original Amendment Articles will probably never be passed, it established a formula for the number of House representatives. Article 2, which simply stated, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” became the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution on May 5, 1992, over 202 years after original Congressional approval, when Missouri and Alabama became the 37th and 38th state to ratify it. Seven states ratified it after that date bringing the total to 45. New York, who rejected it in 1790, Nebraska with a 1987 rejection along with Massachusetts, Mississippi and Pennsylvania are the states who have not approved the Article.

King George III

By | Sep 22, 2017

United States history shows King George III as the tyrant ruler of the American Colonies that first taxed them without representation, then forced them to house the military that was sent to the colonies to bring order and the King that they fought to win their independence. History does show him as a king who ruled long, but not without problems.

George III was born George William Frederick on June 4, 1738. He was born two months premature and was thought unlikely to survive. Survive he did becoming a shy but healthy child.

George III coronation as King was on September 22, 1761. He became king when his Grandfather King George II died on October 25, 1760. George II father Frederick had died in 1751 leaving him as first in line since all of George’s other children were girls. His reign ended with his death on January 29, 1820 passing the crown to his son George IV.

As with any ruling person his popularity rode a roller coaster of ups and downs. He was very popular at the beginning of his reign and then again during the first decade of the 19th century. Between them he had periods, that as the Americans stated in 1776, as being a tyrant.

His life was filled of periods that can be considered mental illness. When his life ended the leadership of the kingdom had been under regent rule for nine years and he was blind with cataracts and living in isolation in Windsor Palace permanently insane.

George III lived for 81 years and 239 days and reigned for 59 years and 96 days. Both of which were longer than any of his predecessors. His granddaughter Queen Victoria exceeded his reign on the anniversary of his coronation in 1896 and Elizabeth II has lived longer.

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