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Category Archives: Showbiz

Idaho Avalanche, June 20, 1885. Does news get more general than this? I think it does not. Concerning that last item: Harassing the Salvation Army was once something of a national pastime, as the outfit was well-known in its early years to be an obnoxious and fanatical cult. Local law enforcement didn’t exactly knock themselves out to protect them. In fact, the Sally Anns also got into trouble with the law a lot, owing to their obnoxious and fanatical insistence that they didn’t need a municipal license or permit to preach and demonstrate in public. The case law that grew out of their legal troubles significantly helped broaden and strengthen the 1st Amendment. Also, their street bands were a significant influence on Tom Waits.
Placer mining is a hydraulic technique for separating gold from silt and soil—works sort of like mechanized panning. Often it was what you did with a claim once the big chunks had been removed with pick and shovel, and the yield was typically much lower. The Chinese specialized in these placer-mining clean-up operations, taking over claims that had been exhausted from the perspective of white miners. But then if a given claim turned out to be not so exhausted after all, they were prone to being displaced—it even happened in kinder, gentler Canada! They were well known to be an inferior and heathen race, so local law enforcement didn’t exactly knock themselves out to protect them.

The item about Senator Ransom signifies that he’s a bon vivant or a dandified sleazebag depending on the values you bring to the story.

Beats me what the English are doing with those $25 squirrels. In pairs.

Avon Paperback Original, 1956. Liberace, for the benefit of you young ‘uns, was a superstar pop pianist. And boy, was he ever heterosexual! Lana Turner, Sonja Henie, Shelly Winters, Mamie Van Doren, Judy Garland, and countless starlets whose names are long forgotten . . . It sez right here, he just knocked ‘em down like bowling pins.

I just posted this profound think piece at the Chicago Reader.

Daily Telluride Journal, August 3, 1901. This item puts me in mind of Yosemite Sam’s deathless line from the classic 1949 Friz Freleng cartoon High Diving Hare: “I paid my four bits to see the high divin’ act, and I’m gonna see the high divin’ act!” more

Columbus Inquirer, July 28, 1908. We confront one of two probabilities here: Either Leppo was an early method man and very dedicated to staying in character, or else this carnival was exploiting a bona fide crazy person as its geek. more

Los Angeles Herald, November 19, 1905. As we’ve seen, Americans in the 19th and early 20th century were nuts about “wild men.” That’s is why circus geeks were a popular attraction: It was like a chance to see Bigfoot in captivity.
Your typical showbiz wild man was probably just a hobo in a fright wig with just enough teeth left to bite the head off a live chicken. But as this story shows, some enterprising carnies were willing to go that extra mile to impress the marks. more

The Daily Inter Ocean, January 18, 1878. “Never follow animals or children” was an old adage among wised-up vaudevillians. (They meant “follow” in the sense of “go onstage directly after”). But does the same principle apply to children in relation to animals? And how might race affect the equation? Read more

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 18, 1898. Gosh, isn’t mental illness is just so adorable, so “picturesque”? The awesomeness here is sent stratospheric by the inclusion of a crazy guy dressed as Napoleon. Read more.

Daily Picayune, February 18, 1881. Also known as a barrel organ, the hand organ was like a cross between a calliope and a music box. It opened up the busking trade to those without musical skills, but was not readily programmable, so some dudes just ground out a single melody throughout their careers as street entertainers.
“Star Spangled Banner” didn’t become the national anthem until 1931, and their was considerable controversy over the choice owing to the melody’s origins as a bawdy 18th-century British drinking song. It’d be interesting to know whether our patriotic sailor was serving in the U.S. Navy, as the latter, hard-drinking crew were early adopters of the song when the rest of the country still regarded “Hail, Columbia” as the patriotic default.

Charlotte Observer, June 1, 1891. Read more.

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