Friday, February 7, 2014

The Girl who made Vaudeville Famous

You all know by now how much I love the wacky and diverse nature of history, especially the stuff that makes up American History. So much of it is not really known or taught and damn is it interesting. At least to me but we've established over the years of this blog that I'm a little nutty when it comes to my history. You like it that way. You know you do.

Vaudeville, the precursor to the movies and the birthplace of stand of comedy. The form of enteraintment tha gave us people like Gypsy Rose Lee, Abbot and Costello (Who's on First is arguabley the greatest peice of sketch comedy in the history of comedy) and our blog topic Eva Tanguay.

Who is Eva Taguay you ask? (Well not really ask more like sit and ponder about it at your desks or ipads or whatever thingie-mahjigs you use to read my blog) Well, little Ms. Eva is know as the 'girl who made vaudeville famous'...at least she is because she said so.

Eva was born in 1878 in Quebec (those wacky Canucks!) Before she was 6 her family had moved from Canada to Massachusetts..like ya' do. While still a little girl, she developed a passion for performing. By the age of ten she was actually performing professionally  in a stage adaptation of Little Lord Fauntleroy. In 1901 she landed a spot in a Broadway show.  By 1905 she as a solo vaudeville act and a huge hit.

She actually had a passable voice, nothing to write home about, but she was an amazingly engaging performing as well as a whiz at marketing. Plus she had a tendecny to sing bawdy and suggestive songs. What can I say, sex sells, dirty birdies! Eva went on to have a long lasting career sometimes earning as much as 3,500 a week at the height of her fame. Adjusted for inflation that's roughly 85,000 now-a-days.

Aleister Crowley (Yeah, that Aleister Crowly, the one who founded the Golden Dawn and was a big old occultist ad sexual revolutionary) compared her to such music hall queens as Marie Lloyd and Yvette Guilbert. Mainly he liked her because she was a saucy minx who didn't really give a damn what people thought of her. She caused a row where ever she went with stories of kidnapping, stolen jewels, and throwing a stagehand down a flight of stairs (I myself had felt the need to toss a stagehand so she gets some sympathy from me on this one)

Her costumes were just as extravagant as her persona. In 1910 she appeared in a costume made entirely out of the newly minted Lincoln penny. She also wore a dress made of coral that weighed 45 pounds and one made of dollar bills. (Sound like anyone who know...Lady Gaga I'm looking at you girl) 

Eva retired from the stage in the 1930s, having lost millions in the crash of '29. She lost her sight to cataracts, which was reverseed thanks to surgery paid for by Sophie Tucker - her friend from the vaudeville days.

Eva died in 1947 at the age of 68 and is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. She was portrayed by Mitzi Gaynor in the 1953 Biopic "The I Don't Care Girl" which means it's pretty white-washed like Hollywood did of it's racy stuff in the 40s-60s.

Anywho...Eva was really a precursor to Madonna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, as well as others who go against the grain. These stars aren't really doing anything that wasn't done in Vaudeville in the 1900s. Everything old is new again. 


This is a recording, it's grainy and hard to understand as it would have been a Victrola recording, of her most famous song 'I Don't Care' which was recorded in 1922. She performed it in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1909 after getting Old Ziggy to take it away from Sophie Tucker. 

Eva spent a lot of her own money on promotions like billboards and such (She was doing what Angelyne does before Angelyne was even a speck of pink on the California landscape) She also married several times and divorced just as many. Plus she had affairs, highly publicized affairs. Many believe this was all a ploy to keep her name in the papers and in the public's eyes (Hey Kim Kardashian...your tricks are old hat.)


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