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A seriously funny look at the roots of American EntertainmentWhen Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin were born variety entertainment had been going on for decades in America and like Harry Houdini Milton Berle Mae West and countless others these performers got their start on the vaudeville stage From 1881 to 1932 vaudeville was at the heart of show business in the States Its stars were America's first stars in the modern sense and it utterly dominated American popular culture Writer and modern day vaudevillian Trav SD chronicles vaudeville's far reaching impact in No Applause Just Throw Money He explores the many ways in which vaudeville's story is the story of show business in America and documents the rich history and cultural legacy of our country's only purely indigenous theatrical form including its influence on everything from USO shows to Ed Sullivan to The Muppet Show and The Gong Show More than a uaint historical curiosity vaudeville is thriving today and Trav SD pulls back the curtain on the vibrant subculture that exists across the United States a vast grassroots network of fire eaters human blockheads burlesue performers and bad comics intent on taking vaudeville into its second century

10 thoughts on “No Applause Just Throw Money The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous

  1. says:

    Have you ever read a book that was just so damn good you hugged it with joy when you were done ? Well that was this one for me What a wonderful well researched witty informative look at the great uniue fascinating entertainment medium of Vaudeville which had been America's first major popular entertainment form during the late 19th and early 20th century This book traces Vaudeville's history from the entertainment forms that preceded and eventually influenced it such as Concert Saloons Dime Museums Medicine Shows and Circuses to it's beginnings glorious heyday demise and the ways in which the medium lives on today from it's influence on television to modern day forms of variety entertainment Along the way there are rich detailed descriptions stories and anecdotes on the great legends of Vaudeville who went on to conuer films TV and are still remembered today Mae West The Marx Brothers Fred Astaire Milton Berle WC Fields Sophie Tucker Houdini Fanny Brice and many many others You also meet performers who were top stars at their time but are not as well remembered such as Eva Tanguay Fields Weber Harry Lauder Bert Williams There's also fun stories on bizarre oddities such as the tiny music hall dancer Little Tich the cacophonically untalented Cherry Sisters the conjoined entertainers the Hilton Sisters This book inspired me to look many of the performers I didn't know up and YouTube which has many fine uploads of old Phonograph cylinders and early silent films featuring these great entertainers Author Travis SD is himself involved in current variety theatre and writes with wit intelligence and a true passion for his subject I couldn't put this down and am sad it's finished Truly truly great

  2. says:

    In comparison to most of the entertainment histories I've read this one is a very casual entertaining and occasionally hilarious read At times it does get a bit repetitive and can often resort to just listing names of performers associated with different trends or styles But it's a great introduction to a time and subject I'm interested to learn about It's given me a number of new names or ones I've heard of but not been familiar with to now research in depth I can't wait to buy some old timey music

  3. says:

    It's sometimes hard to get your head around just how big Vaudeville was for a period of 30 years or so around the turn of the century and after Where today we might gather to tut tut about the last episode of Lost or the new Simpsons Movie the ordinary folk of that age were mesmerized literally I guess in the cases of the hypnotists by the singers dancers jugglers acrobats and dog acts not to mention sports stars like Babe Ruth wandering on stage and making a uick buck appearing three times a day at their local Majestic Olympic or Orpheum This book delightfully captures the magic of what was in truth a relatively short lived passion before radio and cinema made the average comedy patter available to everyone instead of something that could be recycled for 10 years for each successive audience at each successive stopover on the way from Kansas to California The book tells its tale as real stories an ideal representation of the medium and not just about the acts themselves and their hard grinding lifestyles but also about the ruthless owners and the ever gaudier constructions designed to make the last theater look tawdry in comparison Photos in the paperback are a little scarce but cover a nice mix of characters In the end it creates such a clear and friendly view of the medium that we almost wish it was still 1911 and we could stop off to see Eddie Cantor dancing and clapping before dinner I went straight to the internet to find as many films and recordings of the period as I could but they just don't do the period justice This book however does It sounded like fun

  4. says:

    One of the most unexpected books I've ever read and one of the funnest tooThis is the history of vaudeville told from the perspective of a current vaudevillian It's a loving look at the development of American entertainment in the hundreds of theaters across the country Vaudeville is one of two ways American entertainment developed at the turn of the 19th century the other being burlesue Vaudeville is the barely acceptable version From these roots come hundreds of comedians we know today WC Fields the Marx Brothers and even Bob Hope started his career in vaudevilleVariety shows also are born from those times from the juggler to the Irish singer to the sketch comedian In other words everyone from Johnny Carson to Ed Sullivan to Saturday Night Live owes something to vaudevilleCircuses? Also a bit of vaudeville involved PT Barnum operated a theater that was linked to the entertainment ideal of vaudeville tooThere are unfortunate episodes the unthinking blackface and Dutch characterizations the anti Semitic jokes told by primarily Jewish comics etc But this is of another time and worth knowing about if only to be sure not to do this againBy and large this is a loving tribute full of fun stories and enlightening historyMore reviews at my WordPress site Ralphsbooks

  5. says:

    Starting from the appalling pun name for Travis Stewart this book descends transcends and ascends the history of vaudeville The author real name Travis Stewart traces the brief period of vaudeville's ascendancy from its roots in variety shows saloon shows and burlesue as a cleaned up two audience women and children as well as male showThe business of vaudeville is interestingly told as well as a small handful of promoters and managers controlled hundreds of theaters and bookings for every artist to keep pay and costs down and increase the variety of acts at the expense of the lives and lifestyles of the acts Interestingly he shows how four of the five early major movie studios grew out of this cabal of vaudevillian managersVaudeville enjoyed barely a decade of unchallenged transcendence before radio silent and then talking films and finally economic Depression challenged and then killed it but Stewart has something to say about that as well showing how it lived on in early TV think Ed Sullivan and Bob Hope the street artistry of the 60s and a current resurgence of New but don't call it that Vaudeville

  6. says:

    Indispensable book for anyone that wants to know how live entertainment started in the USA It is a guide to the lost world of vaudeville its names places and dates I had no idea the influence of vaudeville is so deep in popular entertainment today Trav SD is a master presenter of fine research and stories A must for anyone that loves theater and performing

  7. says:

    A fun non fiction read about the history of Vaudeville Best mental image is little Buster Keaton with a luggage handle sewn onto his coat in the middle of his back so his dad could pick him up and throw him into the orchestra pit or audience Or a coma

  8. says:

    Lovely and just what I needed A lot of things I knew being a geek for this stuff but a new perspective changes the way one looks at things Which is I guess what a perspective is

  9. says:

    No Applause—Just Throw Money blends the best of compelling storytelling with thorough rigorous research Author Trav SD Donald Travis Stewart traces the ancestry of Vaudeville style entertainment from Antiuity touching on the Middle Ages the 17th and 18th centuries; and uickly into 19th century America leading up to the official beginning of Vaudeville around 1880 lasting from roughly the early 1880s to late 1920s But it’s not a dry history text by any means uite the opposite this story is a blaze of glory in American history that too few people know aboutThe book nicely balances two fascinating areas of Vaudeville’s originality 1 the massive escalation of talent that came from performers perfecting their act and then after perfecting it performing it for 10000 or 20000 times in hundreds of theaters across the country; 2 the unprecedented Business side coining the term “Show Business” the first time “Show Folk” were commoditized into a business and worked a circuit like a modern day Chain store for acts These two features were new and uniue to Vaudeville which differentiates it from the centuries of precursors as well as from the types of show business since thenThe millionaire owners of the “Chain Stores” or circuits as they were called themselves were a colorful cast of characters Several of them ran away with the circus as boys and seized opportunities to advance into the business side Those circus runaways invented the cash cow that became Vaudeville A salient feature of Vaudevillians which Trav SD highlights very well is that successful performers rarely banked on one ability no matter how proficient and impressive One trick entertainers generally failed A comedian would need top notch material to keep the live audience in stitches but also to be proficient in juggling tap dancing and piano for example It is hard to imagine this extreme of human development happening today or ever again for that matter There is simply no need for it any TV and film do not reuire anything remotely close from its actors and performers And for this level of relentless discipline and excruciating pain no one is going to put themselves through it for no reasonThere has never been a time with diverse and colorful characters erupting so rapidly onto one huge nationwide entertainment scene Trav SD brilliantly portrays that veritable zoo of misfits and geniuses they seem to have exerted energy and demonstrated greater skill than in any great past movement or any other era of human achievement Nothing before or since approximates the upheavals of talent and drama that this brief generation witnessed The business side and the performance side eually climbed to the heights of madness and method like a self contained universe where anything can happen and the laws of physics were optional The unbelievable diversity of crazy personalities all working together in this national factory of creativity make this labyrinthine spectacle pure original and unrepeatable Trav SD generously shares the whole chaotic mess in crystalline organic structure that perfectly mirrors the subject Having thoroughly fleshed out the historical antecedents and having traveled the actual heydays of Vaudeville the author nicely tracks Vaudeville’s influences on what followed The list of the famous mid and late 20th century stars who started in Vaudeville was often very surprising For example Burt Lancaster Cary Grant Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck all started in Vaudeville Not so surprisingly Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers Bob Hope Milton Berle Jack Benny Jimmy Durante and George Burns started in Vaud Then there’s Oscar Hammerstein the Marx Brothers Judy Garland Buster Keaton Charlie Chaplin WC Fields Mae West James Cagney the Three Stooges Abbot and Costello and the list goes onThis is a true scholarly work drawing from about 200 sources deeply informed by those who knew the performers and experienced Vaudeville first hand or in many cases by the performers themselves; and by extensive research into related channels that flow into Vaudeville The result is a very full and clear picture of the 45 year phenomenon Trav SD’s amazing accomplishment is how coherently he weaves together all the disparate threads into a beautifully unified expression of the era Reading experiences just don’t get any better than this and I have a Master of Arts in literature and have read thousands of books including the classics While reading the book I felt like I was living in the time Having read the book I feel like I literally went back in time not just figuratively and now I’m remembering actual experiences at the Palace Theater

  10. says:

    Al Jolson Mae West Eddie Cantor Bessie Smith WC Fields Eva Tanguay Variety is the spice of life a staple of late night television and apparently historically the dregs of the theater Travis Stewart here serves up a heaping helping of the steaming goulash that drove American cultural life at the turn of the 20th century tracing vaudeville style variety from its theatrical antecedents in the ancient Greek and Roman empires through the various carnivals and festivals that pockmarked medieval Europe His survey encompasses the traveling medicine shows minstrel shows sideshows dime store museums concert saloons and circuses built up and billed up by PT Barnum to Broadway and beyond to vaudeville’s ultimate death by celluloid and the ultimate dispersal of its ashes across the cablescape of the internetIn documenting the rise and fall of Vaudeville as a business model Stewart focuses on the managers than the performers repeatedly name checking the most influential star acts and glossing than analyzing the material or its place in the zeitgeist To be fair the author makes clear that Vaudeville catered to no particular style or content but rather encompassed all manner of “high” and “low” entertainment ranging beyond jugglers clowns acrobats and animal acts to lectures musical performances demonstrations and one act plays He thus moves rapidly away from consideration of variety show development so he can primarily focus on the operational logistics that emerged to establish vaudeville as the primary source of live entertainment in the US between the Civil War and the Great Depression with time out to psychologically profile and synopsize the day to day reality of a typical trouper in that time periodVaudeville was ultimately a brief stepping stone in the overall evolution of show business Because people are inherently social animals live entertainment has and will always exist wherever people gather Cultivating and harvesting enough revenue from audiences to sustain a living let alone garner celebrity and social prestige is another matter however Where society might look askance at the hat passing vulgarity of vagabond level acts and their inebriate audience the promulgation of so called “polite” vaudeville and the theaters that were built to support it rendered these same acts universally accessible in the process granting them credibility longevity and financial securityAccording to Stewart vaudeville consolidated and repackaged the various variety vehicles in a single entertainment innovation one made possible by revolutions in transportation railroads and steamships and communication telegraph and telephone technologies Specifically and at its height “continuous vaudeville” allowed proprietors to amortize the cost of theatrical real estate over a full work day and evening by recycling as few as three and as many as fifteen acts over multiple regular shifts with entire bills extending from 45 minutes to as much as three and a half hours For their part performers were interchangeable cogs that would run a week or so before moving on to the next theater or town Theatergoers could buy their tickets and drop into this context whenever they pleased and depart when they grew tired or acts got tiresome with the full knowledge that the next day might offer a completely different entertainment experience Whether small time “continuous” or big time prime time showpieces with managers and theatrical companies who owned extensive circuits of theaters and theater complexes around the country talent could be placed on a regular payroll and shipped ‘round like so much merchandise Vaudeville was therefore a popularizer of songs before radio an engine for mass consumption of scripted stories and schtick before television and film an arena for athletic spectacle that anticipated the spirit and structure of professional sporting leagues in all cases imposing nationwide standards for performance and audience expectations Vaudeville gave us the hook the star the Bronx cheer and the slow clap see at p 127 one which could at a moment celebrate or drive the actor from the stage“Was it possible to have a normal life under such conditions?” the author asks at p 225 a passage representatively authoritative and glib Since performers were on the road most of the year any kind of family life was unlikely unless the spouse and kids came along The list of show biz widows is long the wives of Jimmy Durante Groucho Marx and Bob Hope spent their entire marriages waiting for their husbands to come home The show biz widower was not unheard of either Sophie Tucker bought her husband Frank Westphal a garage to occupy himself while she was away However much you love cars such an accommodation doesn’t take the place of the charms of the opposite sex The fact that Sophie made him call it the “Sophie Tucker Garage” couldn’t have done much for his manhood either Before long old Frank was checking the headlights on some fairly nubile young sports models and Sophie was minus one trophy husband At page 293 the author describes vaudeville as “a transitional moment in the technological history of the performing arts representing a midpoint between the era of the single hometown playhouse with a stock company and that of the global electronic entertainment Web” a revolution that “we are still in the midst of” Of course inanimate objects reuire less upkeep than people are reliable during their respective lifespans and far portable So it is not surprising that when technology made it possible to inexpensively mass produce distribute and showcase the content independent of the talent the old distribution and booking system uickly became obsolete Time marches on and while touring acts have by no means disappeared they no longer rely on a single self organized structure for support Today the networks of broadcast networks record stores and movie theaters that emerged to supplant itinerant live entertainment are themselves now supplanted by webcasts downloads and streams each format ostensibly built over the skeleton of its predecessor The content not the container is kingEndings are always hard While lapsing into incoherence in his last couple of pages the author throws in an oddball coda lamenting the apparent lack of professionalism instilled by what he calls the rock and roll ethos showing up late in street clothes with ill rehearsed material unready to go on when the curtain rolls up However the overall diversity of popular entertainment doesn’t really support such an overgeneralization nor does it reflect upon the contemporary subject matter that is central to his book Like it or leave it the evolution of variety entertainment distribution continues steadily on clean and dirty Vaudeville may be dead but anyone who lives within range of a public school auditorium knows that live performance is eternal flourishing in as many gradations of uality style and taste as befits the polyglot With respect to the FF Proctors the BF Keiths the Edward Albees the Oscar Hammersteins and their rapacious ilk there’s mo’ business like show business On with the show