Archive for March, 2013

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Mlles. Serpolette, Folette, Risette and Clair de Lune

March 31, 2013

‘Quadrille Fin de Siecle,’ a cabinet photograph of Mlles. Serpolette, Folette, Risette and Clair de Lune, the Parisian can can dancers who made their sensational American debut at Koster & Bial’s, New York, in November 1892
(photo: Sarony, New York, 1892)

‘KOSTER & BIAL’S.
‘At Koster & Bial’s last night the second half of the programme was made up of imported Parisian ”specialties,” which were loudly applauded by the motley crowd. A novelty announced with a ”quadrille fin de siècle” by four dancers from the neighbourhood of the Batignolles.
‘They were supposed to hail from the Moulin Rouge, the home of high kicking and acrobatic performances, but from their comparatively slight knowledge of the figures of the dance, it is probably that, if they did come from Paris at all, it was from one of the smaller cafés. They have the South Fifth Avenue manner. Mlles. Serpolette, Folette, Risette, and Claire de Lune are four very large and rather vulgar-looking women of mature years. They do not dance ven as well as the four women in The Black Crook, nor do they attempt the same gymnastics, but the ”quadrille” is identical with that dances at the Fourteenth Street house.
‘Their performance seemed to please the crowd at Koster & Bial’s. M. and Mme. Berat, Marie Vanoni, with ”Georgie” and ”La Cantinière”, the grotesque Eduardos, and the Americans, Wood and Shepard, were all more interesting to decent folk. The Rendezvous and Barbe Bleu (condensed) operettas were well given.’
(The New York Times, New York, Wednesday, 22 November 1892, p. 5)

‘New York has a new attraction at one of her music halls. The four French dancers, Mlles. Serpolette, Clair de Lune, Folette and Risette, who made their first appearance in this country last week on Koster & Bial’s concert hall stage gave what may be safely called the most sensational terpsichorean exhibition that has ever been witnesses on the American stage. Their exhibition was anything but artistic, or even fetching. It consisted in a more than liberal display of lingerie, some very high kicking, squatting on the floor with legs stretched out at right angles, making somersaults and other feats of similar nature.’
(Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Monday, 28 November 1892, p. 4a)

‘Dancing before the footlights in New York city just now are a number of young women from Paris’ Maulin Range [sic] and Jardin de Paris, who are creating a sensation, the like of which has not been experienced in many a day, says a writer in the World of that city. According to the writer a new dance has been introduced by the French called le grand ecart. The English name for it is not very dignified. Perhaps the feat is less so, but we must accept it as an artistic excellence. Imagine the dignity of a young woman sinking down to the floor her limbs at right angles to the body. The undignified phase is lost in the rapturous applause which comes from all parts of the house, even from the box tiers of the Four Hundred… .’
(Hamilton Daily Democrat, Hamilton, Ohio, 17 December 1892, p. 3d)

‘COLUMBIA THEATER [Brooklyn].
Babes in the Wood may be seen for another week at this spacious and handsome theater, before making way for The Isle of Champagne. It is a showy, spectacular piece, with a dash of burlesque, a dash of vaudeville, a bit of pantomime, some singing, incessant music, brilliant effects of costume, scenery and lights, and more than a dash of dancing. The performance of the four French dancers, who wrap their legs around their necks and perform the bone racking feat called ”the split,” makes a genuine sensation. Arthur Dunn and Timothy Cronin in the comic parts are really funny.’
(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, Sunday, 12 February 1893, p. 5a)

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March 31, 2013

an extra large cabinet photograph, 12 ¾ x 7 inches, of Emma Carson (fl. 1880s), American actress and singer, as she appeared in a revival of H.B. Farnie’s burlesque version of Offenbach’s Bluebeard, produced at the Bijou Opera House, New York, Tuesday, 6 May 1884
(photo: Moreno, New York, 1884)

‘BIJOU OPERA-HOUSE.
‘A crude burlesque of that bright, spirited trifle, Barbe-Bleue, was given last night at the Bijou Opera-house. The French piece, done here several years ago by Irma, Aujac, and a clever company, is perhaps almost forgotten now. Lydia Thompson, without doubt the only woman who could charm away the stupidity of broad and vulgar burlesque, originally presented Farnie’s version of the Offenbach farce in this city. This version was used last night, though hardly in its right form. The performance, like most things of its kind, was composed chiefly of extravaganza, absurdity, and womanhood with a small amount of clothes. A “variety ball” dance, at the end of the first act, seemed to enliven the audience. Much of Offenbach’s music written for Barbe-Bleue was not sung. That part of it which was sung fared badly. Mr. Jacques Kruger as Bluebeard, and Mr. Arthur W. Tams as Corporal Zong Zong were the most efficient members of the company. Miss Emma Carson and Miss Irene Perry were not especially entertaining, and Miss Pauline Hall appeared to be a rather lame Venus. There was little talent shown by these mediocre exponents of the ancient leg drama. Luckily, Mr. Kruger was amusing.’
(The New York Times, New York, Wednesday, 7 May 1884, p. 4f)

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Emma Carson

March 31, 2013

an extra large cabinet photograph, 12 ¾ x 7 inches, of Emma Carson (fl. 1880s), American actress and singer, as she appeared in a revival of H.B. Farnie’s burlesque version of Offenbach’s Bluebeard, produced at the Bijou Opera House, New York, Tuesday, 6 May 1884
(photo: Moreno, New York, 1884)

‘BIJOU OPERA-HOUSE.
‘A crude burlesque of that bright, spirited trifle, Barbe-Bleue, was given last night at the Bijou Opera-house. The French piece, done here several years ago by Irma, Aujac, and a clever company, is perhaps almost forgotten now. Lydia Thompson, without doubt the only woman who could charm away the stupidity of broad and vulgar burlesque, originally presented Farnie’s version of the Offenbach farce in this city. This version was used last night, though hardly in its right form. The performance, like most things of its kind, was composed chiefly of extravaganza, absurdity, and womanhood with a small amount of clothes. A ”variety ball” dance, at the end of the first act, seemed to enliven the audience. Much of Offenbach’s music written for Barbe-Bleue was not sung. That part of it which was sung fared badly. Mr. Jacques Kruger as Bluebeard, and Mr. Arthur W. Tams as Corporal Zong Zong were the most efficient members of the company. Miss Emma Carson and Miss Irene Perry were not especially entertaining, and Miss Pauline Hall appeared to be a rather lame Venus. There was little talent shown by these mediocre exponents of the ancient leg drama. Luckily, Mr. Kruger was amusing.’
(The New York Times, New York, Wednesday, 7 May 1884, p. 4f)

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March 31, 2013

Barbette (né Van der Clyde Broodway, 1898-1973), American born international wire walker, aerialist and female impersonator
(photo: unknown, probably Paris, circa 1924)

Van de Clyde Broodway, known to the world in the 1920s and 1930s as Barbette, was born in Round Rock, Texas, on 19 December 1899. He began his career as a wire-walker with the Ringling Brothers’ circus but drifted into female impersonation after he replaced at short notice an ailing member of the Alfaretta Sisters trapeze act. In 1923 he was engaged for vaudeville by Thomas Barrasford at the Alhambra Music Hall, Paris, before moving on later that year to feature in the Casino de Paris revue, Y a qu’a Paris. Billed in this as ‘Barbette the Enigma,’ he caused a sensation at what proved to be the beginning of a highly successful international career. Broodway returned to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War, but in 1942 he fell during a performance and sustained a serious injury. He subsequently became a circus producer and died on 5 August 1972.

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‘On stage, against black velvet curtains appeared a young woman in a silvery-gold wig topped with plumes and feathers, with a train of rich lamé and silver lace, undressing on a couch of rich oriental carpets. The woman then rose, naked except for the gems on her breast and belly, and began walking a [low] steel tight-rope. Her eyes shaded green, like some mysterious Asiatic jewel, she walked backwards and forwards along the tight-rope, dispensed with her balancing-pole, and contorted her thin, nervous body as the entire audience held its breath… Then Barbette leapt down on to the stage, gave a bow, tore off her wig and revealed a bony Anglo-Saxon acrobat’s head: gasps from the astonished audience, shattered by the sudden brutality of the action.
‘The Music-Hall has always had its female impersonators. But no one went further in the cult of sexual mystification than this young man who transformed himself into a jazz-age Botticelli…’ (Jacques Damase, Les Folies du Music-Hall; A History of the Paris Music-Hall from 1914 to the Present Day, English translation of the original 1960 French edition, Anthony Blond Ltd, London, 1962, p.30)

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March 31, 2013

Barbette (né Van der Clyde Broodway, 1898-1973), American born international wire walker, aerialist and female impersonator
(photo: unknown, probably Paris, circa 1924)

Van de Clyde Broodway, known to the world in the 1920s and 1930s as Barbette, was born in Round Rock, Texas, on 19 December 1899. He began his career as a wire-walker with the Ringling Brothers’ circus but drifted into female impersonation after he replaced at short notice an ailing member of the Alfaretta Sisters trapeze act. In 1923 he was engaged for vaudeville by Thomas Barrasford at the Alhambra Music Hall, Paris, before moving on later that year to feature in the Casino de Paris revue, Y a qu’a Paris. Billed in this as ‘Barbette the Enigma,’ he caused a sensation at what proved to be the beginning of a highly successful international career. Broodway returned to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War, but in 1942 he fell during a performance and sustained a serious injury. He subsequently became a circus producer and died on 5 August 1972.

* * * * * * * *

‘On stage, against black velvet curtains appeared a young woman in a silvery-gold wig topped with plumes and feathers, with a train of rich lamé and silver lace, undressing on a couch of rich oriental carpets. The woman then rose, naked except for the gems on her breast and belly, and began walking a [low] steel tight-rope. Her eyes shaded green, like some mysterious Asiatic jewel, she walked backwards and forwards along the tight-rope, dispensed with her balancing-pole, and contorted her thin, nervous body as the entire audience held its breath… Then Barbette leapt down on to the stage, gave a bow, tore off her wig and revealed a bony Anglo-Saxon acrobat’s head: gasps from the astonished audience, shattered by the sudden brutality of the action.
‘The Music-Hall has always had its female impersonators. But no one went further in the cult of sexual mystification than this young man who transformed himself into a jazz-age Botticelli…’ (Jacques Damase, Les Folies du Music-Hall; A History of the Paris Music-Hall from 1914 to the Present Day, English translation of the original 1960 French edition, Anthony Blond Ltd, London, 1962, p.30)

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Barbette

March 31, 2013

Barbette (né Van der Clyde Broodway, 1898-1973), American born international wire walker, aerialist and female impersonator
(photo: unknown, probably Paris, circa 1924)

Van de Clyde Broodway, known to the world in the 1920s and 1930s as Barbette, was born in Round Rock, Texas, on 19 December 1899. He began his career as a wire-walker with the Ringling Brothers’ circus but drifted into female impersonation after he replaced at short notice an ailing member of the Alfaretta Sisters trapeze act. In 1923 he was engaged for vaudeville by Thomas Barrasford at the Alhambra Music Hall, Paris, before moving on later that year to feature in the Casino de Paris revue, Y a qu’a Paris. Billed in this as ‘Barbette the Enigma,’ he caused a sensation at what proved to be the beginning of a highly successful international career. Broodway returned to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War, but in 1942 he fell during a performance and sustained a serious injury. He subsequently became a circus producer and died on 5 August 1972.

* * * * * * * *

‘On stage, against black velvet curtains appeared a young woman in a silvery-gold wig topped with plumes and feathers, with a train of rich lamé and silver lace, undressing on a couch of rich oriental carpets. The woman then rose, naked except for the gems on her breast and belly, and began walking a [low] steel tight-rope. Her eyes shaded green, like some mysterious Asiatic jewel, she walked backwards and forwards along the tight-rope, dispensed with her balancing-pole, and contorted her thin, nervous body as the entire audience held its breath… Then Barbette leapt down on to the stage, gave a bow, tore off her wig and revealed a bony Anglo-Saxon acrobat’s head: gasps from the astonished audience, shattered by the sudden brutality of the action.
‘The Music-Hall has always had its female impersonators. But no one went further in the cult of sexual mystification than this young man who transformed himself into a jazz-age Botticelli…’ (Jacques Damase, Les Folies du Music-Hall; A History of the Paris Music-Hall from 1914 to the Present Day, English translation of the original 1960 French edition, Anthony Blond Ltd, London, 1962, p.30)

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Adelaide Bassett

March 29, 2013

a cabinet photograph of Adelaide Bassett (1859-1895), English balloonist and parachutist
(photo: Laroche & Co, Poplar, London, early 1890s)

‘MDLLE. ADELAIDE BASSETT, Double or Single Descents, the Great and Marvellous Parachutist, and Captain ORTON, who has eclipsed all others, will be pleased to Arrange with Gentlemen of Fêtes, Galas, &c. For terms and dates, apply to the Experienced Aeronaut, Captain ORTON, 7, Venue-street, Bronley, E.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 2 August 1890, p. 22c, advertisement)

‘WEAVERS’ FETE AT KIDDERMINSTER.
‘The usual fête and sports of the Kidderminster and Stourport carpet weavers took place yesterday, at the Copse and Aggborough Ground, Kidderminster. The caprice of the weather somewhat interfered with the fête, and at one period of the afternoon a hailstorm interrupted the sports for a time. This, however, did not seem to have much untoward effect on the attendance, which was very large. The several attractions of the fête included a parachute descent from a balloon by Captain Alfred Orton and Mdlle. Adelaide Bassett, and there were gymnastic performances, comicalities, and music by several bands.’
(The Birmingham Daily Post, Birmingham, Tuesday, 4 August 1891, p. 7g)

‘FEMALE PARACHUTIST KILLED.
‘Miss Adelaide Bassett, a London parachutist, was killed in Peterborough yesterday evening. In connection with a fete there had been arranged a balloon ascent and a double parachute descent by Captain Orton and Miss Bassett. The latter’s parachute was broken by a telephone wire on the balloon being released, and as she had consequently no means by which to descend, she jumped from the balloon to the ground and was killed.’
(The Aberdeen Weekly Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland, Tuesday, 6 August 1895, p. 6c)

See ballooninghistory.com for further information about Adelaide Bassett and Alfred Orton.