My Life in Vaudeville
The Autobiography of Ed Lowry
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
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An Old-Timer’s Lament
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Like most of the performers in our business, I used to feel sorry for the old-timers, the has-beens. But now that I’ve reached the dreaded milestone where the teenagers refer to me as an “old-timer,” I don’t know why I dreaded retirement. It’s fun! I have so much time to sit around and think about where I’ve been, instead of worrying...
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I got my start in show business when I was fourteen years old, the day after I graduated from public school. My brother Hank had already been at it for three years. He was a hoofer in The Jolly Bachelors, a Broadway musical, the first show I ever saw. Jack Norworth sang with the inimitable Nora Bayes. Stella Mayhew and Louise Dresser were...
All in One Pocket
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Any oddsmaker would have willingly laid 10-to-1 that this holy bond would come undone in six months. If our first five minutes at the Imperial Hotel had been filmed, the odds would have jumped to 100-to-1. I was in the lead, carrying a suitcase and a grip up a wide staircase. Teddy was at my heels carrying her luggage. As I swung around...
Home Again—and Broke Again
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The pinch was really on. Hank had had a bad spell but was now rehearsing what promised to be a good act, “The Six Military Dancers.” It was in this act that he met Kitty DeLacy, whom he later happily married. Suddenly, Poppa got terribly...
No Excuses in Show Biz
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Toward the end of World War I, we played a week’s engagement at Proctor’s Theatre in Newark, New Jersey. During the morning rehearsal, on opening day, Harry Fitzgerald phoned to say he would be at the matinee with Flo Ziegfeld. “Let’s have a good show, Kid. You’re practically in.” Breathlessly, I broke the news to Teddy. Immediately, our dressing room became alive with excitement...
Have a Cigar!
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Our bookings kept us around New York for many weeks, giving me an opportunity to help Pop get the cigar business going. I enjoyed selling. Mornings from ten until noon, I made the rounds and created a lot of customers for the Muriel cigar. I’d keep going until the last minute and then rush madly to Proctor’s Twenty-third Street, the Greenpoint in Brooklyn, or even Yonkers or Mt. Vernon, to do our matinee...
Good-Bye, Meal Ticket
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Upon Teddy’s departure for New York, a few minutes before I left for Chicago, we clung to one another, saddened by the prospect of being separated. Still very much in love and unabashed at our own sentimentality, we were not ashamed of our tears as we said good-bye. We weren’t used to parting...
The Palace—at Last!
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One man’s drink is another man’s opportunity. An Irish tenor, just call him Joe Nipps, was imported from England to play New York’s Palace Theatre at a fabulous salary. When it came time for his opening matinee, he was so deep in his cups there was no alternative but to pour him back in the bottle and get a replacement but fast. Eddie Darling, the booker, was over a barrel. What could he do...
Next to Closing
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The Palace in Chicago marked my first visit back to the Windy City. McIntyre and Heath, famous minstrels, were the headliners, celebrating their golden anniversary as partners. Hal Halperin’s sister, Nan, was the extra added attraction. The theater management had built the McIntyre and Heath appearance into a civic event. Following their lengthy act, a celebration took place. The stage was...
This Is Broadway
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Returning to Broadway and excited over the thought of invading a new field, I felt like a pioneer. None of my friends had yet strayed from vaudeville. They were such diehards and so steeped in tradition that you couldn’t convince them that their entertainment days were numbered. The vaudeville profession was loaded with pride and sentiment. Its people lived in their world. Their lives were dedicated...
The King and I and P�t� de Foie Gras
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On arrival in London, as we walked into the Piccadilly Hotel, we found Con Conrad, the songwriter, waiting for us. Con had a nice-looking, mild-mannered guy working for him and simply insisted that I hire this chap to work for me. “I’ll have no valet or chauffeur doing maid service for me,” I spouted. “Not if I make ten thousand...
Cheerio, London—Hello, St. Louis
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After the White Birds’ closing, I booked a return at the Alhambra, where my loyal ladies of the pavement again hailed me. The theater billed this as my “Farewell Appearance.” At every show, the audience shouted for “Hello, Bluebird.” At the last performance, when I reached the second chorus, as usual I waved my handkerchief...
Two Strikes—Walked Again
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Warner Brothers bought out Skouras brothers, but the Skourases ran the theaters, and I wasn’t affected at all until our second musicians’ strike. My contract called for pay under any conditions, so I was shipped off to the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. John H. Harris, later owner of the Ice Capades, had just taken over the post of zone manager of all the Warner theaters in the Pittsburgh area...
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When our car reached the Missouri state line on the Free Bridge, which joined St. Louis to East St. Louis [Illinois], we saw a tremendous crowd. Drawing closer, we heard music. Through the din, above the cheers, and in spite of the bedlam, we recognized “Muddy Waters.” Practically every member of Musicians’ Local Number 2 was on hand. We were joined by six motorcycle cops, who acted as escorts...
The St. Louis Boos
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Before we knew it, Labor Day rolled around again and with it another musicians’ strike. The previous season, someone had come up with a solution that resulted in Skouras hiring three standby musicians in a number of outlying theaters. These trios never got to play a note of music but got a weekly salary. We used to call them...
Farewell to Mr. St. Louis
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A big farewell party, arranged in my honor at the Chase Hotel, was more like a wake than a funfest. It seemed like everyone who got high began to cry, and laughter was at a premium. Among those present was a wellknown undertaker who succeeded in getting himself a sentimental snootful. He couldn’t have been stiffer if he had drunk his own embalming fluid. He singled out my wife and, slobbering...
Permanent Address—Beverly Hills
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Our family was reunited at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Charlie Skouras seemed very happy to see me, and I was a sucker for Charlie. He convinced me that the telegram that upset me was bungled by someone in the office and for me to forget all about Loew’s State Theatre. He helped us rent a house in Beverly Hills, which...
Back East for Another Try
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About six months later, I was back appearing in New York, and Spyros sent for me. Our greeting was short and strained. Although there was no wind, I felt the chill as I appraised his sumptuous office. “Eddie,” he said, “I want to pay you what I owe you.” “Thank you, Spyros.” He paid me in full, plus 6 percent interest. I picked up the check from the desk, folded it, and put it into my pocket. He then stood up. When an executive stands up behind...
Vaudeville Returns via the GI Circuit
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It’s a sad commentary, but it took a second world war to bring back vaudeville. One day, Margaret Young, former headliner, approached me with the suggestion that we organize a volunteer troupe to play the army camps and naval bases. Two days later, we were entertaining twelve hundred uniformed kids who for an hour and a half acted as if they were happy to be in the service...
New Horse—Same Jockey
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In 1951, Lastfogel phoned to ask if I would care to get in and pitch again. This time the action was in Korea. The Hollywood Victory Committee had become the Hollywood Coordinating Committee. Capable George Murphy held the post of president. Irving Lande, a holdover from HVC, was still there, and Stanley Richardson had replaced Frances Ingles as manager...
A Glossary of Names
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A Glossary of Slang
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010