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Coney Island USA ~ Ask the Experts: Trav S.D. ~ “More than Munchkins: A History of Performing Little People”

Ask The Experts: Trav S.D. – Live on Zoom

For centuries Little People have been a mainstay of popular entertainment. In this illustrated talk, author and performer Trav S.D. traces the historical ups and downs of very short-statured entertainers from medieval times through the era of P.T. Barnum and dime museums, to side shows and circuses, to vaudeville, to movies and television. Along the way, we trace the evolution of the Little Person’s image in popular culture, from one of cruel derision in the age of the court jester…to one of glamour, as personified by sex symbol and Emmy-winning actor Peter Dinklage…to a virtual return to carny days on reality tv.

Bio: Writer/performer Trav S.D.’s books include No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Made Vaudeville Famous (2005), Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies (2013) and Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville (2020). He has spoken at such venues as the Modern of Modern Art, Columbia University, NYU, Brooklyn College, the New York Public Library, and of course the Coney Island Museum, His blog Travalanche contains the world’s largest repository of vaudeville biographies, and much more. Read him daily at travsd.wordpress.com

FOR TICKETS TO ASK THE EXPERT

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 – 7:00pm

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Comedy Midgets Music Performing Arts Rose's Royal Midgets Television Vaudeville Video

Billy Barty on Spike Jones Show ~ NBC Jan. 1954

Talented Little People were quite a draw for audiences from the early 1920s through the 1950s. Billy Barty was no exception! His talent was musical and comedic. Here he is appearing on the Spike Jones show impersonating the extravagant musical media star Liberace. Along with Sir Frederic Gas (Earl Bennett) performing as Lee’s brother, George. Liberace and George, who played the violin, performed together when they started out. NBC ~ January 30th, 1954.

For more great stories about talented little people grab a copy of the new book from Vaudevisuals Press.

Text by Trav SD and Foreword by James Taylor. Illustrated with over 100 vintage postcards and personal photographs.

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Book Shelf History Recommended Reading List Variety Arts Vaudeville

Abide by the Little People ~ A Book Review by Frank Jogler Jr.

 

Nowadays it is with frequency that we encounter much in the way about multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion. Yet, paradoxically perhaps, it is in the realm of the theatrical firmament that what is offered for exhibition before our collective eyes is circumscribed, in scope delimited. 

In yesteryear – but, in fact, actually not too long ago – theatergoers avid for both excellence and novelty had an array of choices for their entertainment pleasure that we today, simply do not have, alas. 

For those studying the actual timeline of vaudeville, variety, and ancillary cultural attractions presented in various public venues, we may comprehend, from our distance, the nostalgic, pining away for now once regnant theatrical forms once upon a time loved by the masses, minstrelsy, ‘coon-shouter’ acts, fairground exhibitions of ‘human oddities’, and other novelty acts and performers, all of which audience and spectators valued immeasurably and with enduring sincere thankfulness: this period in our cultural life was a beholder’s paradise, and now superannuated by sensibilities our forebears might not find to be, in fact, of a truly progressive arc.

 Comes now, a further, evocative and contextual addition to our imaginative resources by which to re- examine this cultural time of the past, and theatrical glory of a unique sub-set of talented people: the new book, Roses Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville, published by Vaudevisuals Press with essays by Trav SD..

 In the book’s well written pages, we encounter theatrical heroes and heroines, small in stature by the measuring-stick of biological normies yet obvious cultural giants, whose very existence and talents were recognized as true testament of the transcendency of our in-common human condition.

If PT Barnum’s featured attraction, the diminutive General Tom Thumb ever needed similar dimensioned phalanxes to lead, then these small Vaudevillian troops of midgets might well have become his troops and legatees.

And the new book allows readers to luxuriate in fascinating mini-histories and profiles of the little people and of producers who showcased their marvelous ways and artistry of all sorts, for the pages are replete with extracts from published souvenir-programs, lavish poster lithographic studies, photo ethnographic documentation of this Lilliputian subculture; Bravo to all: Trav SD

essays, Jim Moore, publisher and James Taylor Foreword author and freak-loris

On stage in their specialty-numbers, and their dancing, song, skits, comedy routines, instrumental playing and acrobatics, etc., they regaled spectators with phenomenal virtuosity, similar to that in normal Vaudeville time and in variety circuits across the land.

It’s illuminating to behold, this unique slice of humanity and, as well, since these people are, in photos adorable, one wishes one could pluck them from out of the pages, and cradle them in the crook of one’s elbows!

As the French author La Fountain, compiler of fables, wrote, centuries past, that when you throw the goose out the front door of the house, it waddles back in from the back of your house; so filmmaker Spike Lee in ‘Bamboozle’ felt that minstrelsy had come back this time repurposed as gangsta-rap 

Apropos of this, perhaps other past theatrical forms – including those we are reminded of in this book under review here – may. too, be resurrected, but, unlike Mr. Lee’s example, with more salubrious, and of transcendent purpose..

Just as a character on TV, Archie Bunker, said “Those were the days,” and, most probably, those were quite better days culturally, and the currently vogueish shibboleths of the “cultural studies” mavens cannot gainsay the actual cultural excellence displayed by our brassy show-biz inheritance including midgets and all; minstrelsy and all; freaks and all…

Available here in both softcover and Limited Edition Hardcover/Color

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American Circus Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show Book Shelf Cinema Circus History Performing Arts Sideshow Variety Arts Vaudeville Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Vaudevisuals Press Video Women

“Ask Hovey” ~ A talk about midgets featuring Rose’s Royal Midgets book.

On Monday night I watched the wonderful Bindlestiff Open Stage Quarantine edition and was pleased to see the “Ask Hovey” segment (featuring circus historian/teacher/performer Hovey Burgess) where he talked about ‘Midgets’ and mentioned the Vaudevisuals Press book “Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville“. Here is the video excerpt from the show.

And if you want to read more about the book visit the great review from Circopedia‘s founder/director Dominique Jando here.

You can get Rose’s Royal book here!

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“Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville”. A Review by Dominique Jando.

In the first half of the twentieth century, performing troupes of Little People ⏤ then popularly known as Midgets ⏤ were undeniably, in Europe or in the United States, the main drawing cards of any variety or circus production that featured them. After their appearance in M-G-M’s “The Wizard of Oz,” the Munchkins’ everlasting fame has been a testimony to their timeless appeal. “Midgets” were not to be confused with Little People victim of achondroplasia: unlike the latter, they were perfectly proportioned, looking like amazingly gifted children who had just fled Neverland. Endearing to their audiences, they were also genuinely talented performers, and if only for that reason, their place in show business history is indeed worthy of attention.

“Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville,” published by Vaudevisuals Press, justly gives them the long-overdue attention they deserve as performing artists: the very short bibliography appearing at the end of the book sadly shows how little has been written about them, unless they appeared under the generic denomination of “freaks” in a few books related to carnival and circus sideshows — an even more derogatory term than “Midgets,” especially for the true performers they often were.

Trav S.D., American vaudeville’s foremost historian and keeper of the flame (whose book “No Applause, Just Throw the Money” is a must for anyone curious about vaudeville), tells us in a well-researched essay the history of Ike Rose and his Royal Midgets company, which forms the backbone of the book and benefits from precious documents in the personal collection of Karen McCarty — whose grandmother, Gladys Farkas, was a member of Rose’s company. Besides rare photographs, reproductions of contracts, advertising booklets, and programs give us a wonderful insight into the life of the troupes of that era.

In another well-illustrated essay, Trav introduces us to other famous Little People, from P.T. Barnum’s Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) to the Doll Family (born Schneider) and many lesser-known individuals and troupes, with biographical notices that finally take them out of the shadows. The book opens with an essay by James Taylor (author of “Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway”) on performing Little People’s reaction to the much too frequent use of the derogatory terminology that usually describes them, whether or not in a professional context. It ends with a gallery of Charles Eisenmann’s photographic portraits of Little People (from the Syracuse University Library’s Ronald G. Becker Collection) dating back to the 1880s.

Edited and published by Jim Moore, photographer to the circus stars, “Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville” is a wonderful tribute to bona-fide artists who, notwithstanding the special appeal of their physical peculiarity, were by and large talented actors, singers, dancers, comedians, and circus performers who certainly deserved more than a quick footnote in the history of show business.

Dominique Jando ~ Circopedia

Ike Rose and his troupe visiting the White House in 1926.
A review of Rose's Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville by Circopedia's founder/director Dominique Jando.
Dudley Foster photographed by Charles Eisenmann.
From the Charles Eisenmann section of Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville.
Courtesy of the Ronald G. Becker Collection of Charles Eisenmann Photographs

To purchase the book click here!

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“Rose’s Royal Midgets And Other Little People of Vaudeville” Video

Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville ~ A new book from Vaudevisuals Press ~

Available now at: http://vaudevisualspress.shop

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