It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

how many vaudeville performances in a day's work?

It's two a day for Keith
And three a day for Loew
And four a day for Pantages
Wherever you may go.

It's five for Fally Markus
At only half the dough,
But it's two a day for Keith
And three a day for Loew.

"Vaudeville Song" as quoted in the May 20, 1938 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What we have here, children, is a dissertation in doggerel on the performance schedule of various vaudeville circuits back in The Day. If your act was signed to B.F. Keith's circuit, you lucky dog, you only had to do your thing twice daily. On Loews time, you only had to perform three times a day, and the "three-a-day" was indeed the vaudeville standard. If you worked three a day, you were doing all right. But if you were so low on the ladder that you worked for Fally Markus, a long-forgotten manager notorious in his time for being the last refuge of has-beens, brother, you were truly in the soup.

The Post-Gazette article linked above is a 1938 article describing a curious vaudeville revival. Vaudeville was already a has-been by the late 30s, already a nostalgia piece in the newfangled age of movies and radio. The old vaudevillians would still come out every now and then to do their thing, as the article mentions. Even Fred Allen, a vaudevillian himself, would occasionally welcome old pal Jack Haley on his radio show for a song-and-dance number. Or any other pal from back then, for that matter. He was always ready to relive the good parts of the old days.

Allen was so generous to his old friends and acquaintances to the point where he lived parsimoniously not out of stinginess but because he was giving away so much of his income to old friends on hard times. He earned a reputation as being the easiest touch in show business, ready to help out anyone with a sob story. He was often taken advantage of, but he never made a big to-do of it. It was just something he did, and the only people who really needed to know were Fred and whomever he was helping.

His most notorious story involved giving money to a panhandler every week outside St. Malachy's on 49th Street (the church of choice for many Broadway types.) The panhandler even made arrangements with a nearby theater for the times when he couldn't make it up to the church: The theater would display a sign in their box office, and Allen would leave the money with the ticket seller instead.

Yes, I'm doing a bit of research tonight. Oh, yes. Something good is on its way.

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