Categories
Cabaret History Music Photography Vaudeville Video Women

~ Forgotten NYC Restaurants ~ Sammy’s Bowery Follies

Sammy’s Bowery Follies

Bought this Vintage ‘Sammy’s Bowery Follies’ souvenir postcard. Looks like a fun place to get drunk!
‘Run Rabbit Run’ by Flanagan & Allen at Sammy’s Bowery Follies.

In 1934, Sammy Fuchs opened a saloon at 267 Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Surrounded by flophouses and missions, Sammy’s Bowery Follies catered mainly to the homeless, the penniless, and the generally down and out.

That changed somewhat in the early ‘40s after a surprising customer passed through: a monocle-wearing gentleman who turned out to be a British lord tired of the fussy formality of the uptown clubs.

Sensing a new market, Sammy acquired a cabaret license, built a stage, hired some aging vaudevillians, and began advertising his bar as the “Stork Club of the Bowery,” a nod to the famed nightclub uptown.  

The plan worked. Fancy folks, tourists and celebrities began seeking out Sammy’s, looking for a chance to loosen their ties and slum it a little bit in the Gay Nineties-themed dive. It was not uncommon to find a socialite in an opera gown wedged between a sailor on shore leave and a passed-out drunk.

Sammy recognized the importance of atmosphere, and served free food and drinks to some of his more colorful regulars (characters with names such as Prune Juice Jenny, Box Car Gussie and Tugboat Ethel, the “Queen of the Bowery”) to preserve the ambience.

The notable photographer Weegee made Sammy’s one of his regular shooting grounds and even held his book launch parties there.

By the end of World War II, Sammy’s was serving some 100,000 customers a year, as literal busloads of tourists were dropped off outside, eager to drink and sing along with hobos, dwarves and assorted misfits.

Sammy Fuchs died in 1969. A year later, the bar finally closed. The closing ceremony was attended by over 700 loyal patrons.

While I was there absorbing the atmosphere and drinks, a midget walked in… he was about three and a half feet. I invited him for a drink. He told me that he just arrived from Los Angeles, where he had been working for a Browns & Williams Tobacco Co’, walking the streets dressed as a penguin.

Click here for another great article about Sammy’s Bowery Follies on “The Chiseler”


Categories
Video

Look Out Someone Else’s Window!

If you ever find yourself looking out your window and wondering what it would be like to look out SOMEONE ELSE’S window…well now you can!

This is the window I was looking out of today! Click on the photograph to experience your own NEW window viewing experience. From All over the World!

“We’re all still strangers, but we’re strangers who have granted one another access to our daily window view.”

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Categories
Book Shelf Circus Comedy History Performing Arts Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Grand Gypsy” A Memoir by Ottavio Canestrelli

 ~ The Grand Gypsy ~

A Memoir by Ottavio Canestrelli with Ottavio Gesmundo

The Grand Gypsy is a memoir of life in the circus, filled with daring feats and tragic mishaps. It is the true story of a man who experienced historical events as he toured with his family through five continents and countless nations. Among these events are his harrowing experience fighting in World War I against the German Army in Italy, and the excavation of the Sphinx in Egypt.

Replete with over 150 rare, historic photographs, The Grand Gypsy is a chronicle of a circus dynasty from the late nineteenth century in Europe to the new millennium in the United States of America. Included are significant images that document an extensive tour through such exotic locations as Burma, Sumatra, New Guinea, Syria, and Mesopotamia during the early twentieth century, and numerous portraits and captured performances in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Sarasota, Florida.



“The Grand Gypsy is indeed fascinating and highly enjoyable reading, not only for anyone interested in circus history but also for any curious or adventurous mind.”

Dominique Jando – Editor, Circopedia.org

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“The story of Ottavio Canestrelli is unique and this book, rich with history and filled with humor, is fresh and memorable.” – “readers will definitely be interested in his remarkable story.” 

The Booklife Prize by Publisher’s Weekly

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“The story of his travels, his acts and those of his talented family will enthrall any reader, and this is a most well-written and structured book”  

Circus Report

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“The roster of names dropped along the way, along with an expansive collection of photographs from every period covered in the book, should provide a good deal of pleasure”.

Spectacle Magazine

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“​The pictures in the book are astonishing. With its pictures and rich anecdotes, this is a treasure of a book.”

Judge, 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards


BUY IT HERE!


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Categories
Photography Sideshow Southern Sideshow Hootenanny Women

Reggie at The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny – FLASHBACK!

~ Performing at The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny ~

Reggie is an American entertainer based in Los Angeles, California. She is ½ of Philadelphia’s Olde City Sideshow and has been performing in a sideshow for over a decade. As a solo performer, she travels the country working everything from midway to nightclubs and variety shows. Reggie is one of the few women in the world performing several unique acts such as the anatomical wonder act and riding a motorcycle in a high wire thrill show. She has appeared on The Gong Show, Americas Got Talent, been featured in stories by news outlets from Fox to NPR and in books and magazines on Tattoos and Sideshow. She has opened up for Primus, suspended for Jane’s Addiction, performed for Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and at Tattoo Conventions across the globe.  She is committed to community building in the sideshow arts.

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Categories
Clown Juggling Performing Arts Southern Sideshow Hootenanny

Skabz the Clown – Juggling at The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny

Another great fun performance at The 6th Annual Southern Sideshow Hootenanny!

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Categories
The Slipper Room

The Slipper Room – needs your help!

The Slipper Room is a New York institution. A House of Variety!

The Slipper Room is facing serious financial difficulties.

I did a wonderful interview with producer James Habacker in 2016. I am posting it here for your viewing. In the meantime, I have put a link below the video to the GoFundMe campaign that is currently set up to help them make it back in one piece! Please Help!

HELP THE SLIPPER ROOM!

The Slipper Room – No Place Like it!

In the meantime, you can watch some of the ‘exile’ shows here!

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Categories
Coney Island USA Sideshow Vaudevisuals Interview Women

Vaudevisuals interview with Sarah the Bird Girl At Coney Island USA

Sarah The Bird Girl performing at Coney Island USA 

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With her uncanny resemblance to Minnie, Sarah presents a haunting and visceral account of the beauty of difference and a hidden story of endurance, from the voice of a natural born freak. Koo Koo and the other unlikely stars of Tod Browning’s revolutionary film, Freaks (1932), are also honored in this performance. Significant, because the film was banned for 30 years for being too controversial, yet it is so much part of our history. Minnie went on to work at Coney Island, ensuring she was free from the life of asylums. This is a very special Coney Island show that will give you both answers and leave you wanting more.

As an internationally acclaimed circus and physical theater performer, Sarah has performed for several companies around the world, including Cirque Du Soleil. Most recently she starred as lead female in feature film ‘Reflections in the Dust’ and toured with Extant Theatre UK. She has a TEDx talk and recently spoke at the United Nations. “Koo Koo the Bird Girl” won an Australian Green Room Award 2019 for Contemporary Performance.

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REVIEWS

“This is a terrific show – intelligent, emotional and witty, and a direct challenge to the audience’s expectations about performance, identity and what it means to look and be looked at.”  

“This is a performance that explores, beautifully, the capacities of the body and the self, rather than letting the differently abled body be shaped by restrictive legal, social and medical strictures that mark ‘deviance’ as a negative thing, instead of a marker of the breadth of human experience.”  – New Zealand Theater Review

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“Amazing, moving and revealing… This is an important performance… ”  – Express Magazine, Nov 2015

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“Houbolt’s performance evokes a frisson that every misjudged soul can recognise… Evocative… impressive… Houbolt has a gravitas earned through many years performing around the world… Her demonstration of side show is a rare treat.” – Nothing Ever Happens in Brisbane, Nov 2016

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“A show that smashes boundaries between herself and the audience… truly unique” – The Creative Issue Nov 2016

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Excerpt from Tod Browning’s “Freaks” featuring Koo Koo the Bird Girl.

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ONE NIGHT ONLY!

AUGUST 14th – 9pm

Sideshows by the Seashore

For more information/tickets go here!

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Categories
Clown Comedy Photography Video

Healthy Humor Conference 2019

Last week I was invited to the ‘Healthy Humor Conference 2019′ to photograph the 40+ clowns that reside in their employment.  HH is an arts organization whose professional performers create moments of joy, wonder, laughter and comfort for hospitalized children and all others who are most in need. As it turns out most of these clowns are folks I have photographed outside the hospital environment. They have careers in the arts and make appearances in cabaret, theater, circus, variety shows and other fun venues.

I was hired by Healthy Humor to photograph this amazing conference and shot photographs of all these clowns for their ‘baseball’ card type of handouts. They print up these funny cards as souvenirs to leave with the children after their visits.

Healthy Humor’s Artistic Director Karen McCarty

During this fun packed week, workshops are given by professional movement theater teachers (Dody DiSantoPedro Fabião and Stephen J. Ringold)  and the group spends hours trading skills including magic, juggling, bubble creating, and other related professional expertise.

Stephen J. Ringold conducting his workshop.

Club passing skill exchange with Andy, Liz, Peter and Watson

One of the highlights of the week’s activities was the ‘Variety Show’ where all of the performers could show their peers what they do outside the hospital. Here is a video of Dikki Ellis and Andy Sapora performing the Beatles song “When I’m 64”. Great fun!

For more information on Healthy Humor Inc. you can visit their website or Facebook page!

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Categories
Dance Vaudevisuals Interview Women

Vaudevisuals interview with Kate Ladenheim & Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs

MAGNUM OPUS: A Retrospective – the culminating performance of ‘Oh, Celine’.

In 2018, The People Movers’ choreographer and artistic director Kate Ladenheim and performer–designer Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs devised a collaborative project titled OH, CELINE and its heroine, Celine (née De La Croix). This fictional Brooklyn-based avant-garde dancer was conceived as a hilarious yet sincere caricature of a downtown artist. Through a sequence of events – sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny – the clueless New Age-y diva evolved into a provocative, Borat-like figure through whom her creators set to unmask the power structures in the contemporary art scene and our society at large. Over the last few months, Celine’s experiences unveiled through a long series of disarmingly pretentious social media posts, a mystifying art film, and surprising live appearances — all of which inspired unexpected reactions from the audiences. Now, Landenheim and Lynn-Jacobs present a look at their heroine’s journey in MAGNUM OPUS: A Retrospective, a multidisciplinary evening of solo performance combining theater, dance, and scenic installation, presented by Brooklyn Studios for Dance.

Thursday, April 11, 2019 – 8:00pm daily through April 14, 2019

For Tickets and More Information

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Categories
Coney Island History Magic Performing Arts

Al Flosso – An Antic Force in Magic!

By Montague Chadbourne

Al Flosso – (Oct. 10, 1895 – May 13, 1976)

AL FLOSSO’S NAME is known to readers of the two-volume graphic novel by Jason Lutes who created a character solely upon the basis of a photograph and this magician’s colorful name. Readers of an earlier era of fiction writing recognized aspects of Al Flosso’s true nature in the character, Professor Flotto in the pages of The Great Balsamo, the novel by show-biz author Maurice Zolotow. The true-life Al Flosso (1895- 1976) was as memorable a character as any created in fiction or prose.

A city native, he later spoke of crossing the Roeblings’ Bridge to get to downtown Manhattan and buy a ten cent pulp-paper booklet of magic to learn at home. Next, he ventured into New York City’s midtown tenderloin district where he purchased a ‘barber-pole’ production effect at Martinka’s Magic Emporium of which he would later – like Carter the Great and Harry Houdini before him become the proprietor.

In his early “kid” days he associated himself with the legendary Max Malini (1873 – 1942) who, like Flosso, was a diminutive man with a striking oversize stage persona and an inspired knack to captivate audiences through the sheer force of his personality.

Next came his yeoman stint at Coney Island where he performed his rendition of ‘The Miser’s Dream’ in an uncanny act of sideshow flare; this performance was an unforgettable admixture of high magic technique and sidesplitting comedic bravado.

Of this work on his part showbiz legend Milton Berle dubbed Flosso, “The Coney Island Fakir,” and this salutation became the sobriquet that stuck.

Professionally he also explored the worlds of traveling sideshow circuses and vaudeville circuits. including split weeks in New England towns. Back home in New York, he purchased and presided over Martinka’s Magic Emporium, welcoming visitors with his warm, self-effacing greeting, “So you’ve come to see the Little Man!”

Later on, he performed on television and Catskill resorts with cyclonic vigor. His friends in the worlds of theater and magic were legend, from Houdini to Dunninger to the youngest aspirants of his beloved art of magic. Like his father-in-law, Professor Louis Krieger, Flosso had busked for the sidewalk gamins of the Bowery and for the members of New York Society’s “Four Hundred”.

He was engaged to improve Ambassador Joseph Kennedy’s manual dexterity as part of physical rehabilitation when Mr. Kennedy was at the Rusk Institute in Manhattan.

Unlike the broken character in Mr. Luter’s fictional ‘Jar of Fools‘, the true Al Flosso was a sober, and ever-alert, participant in the human condition until his last days, captivating all comers with his signature styles of magic, mirth, and mystery. Until his death in 1976, Al Flosso regaled audiences with his antic force, a quality very akin to the ‘Rough Theater,” as described in Peter Brook in his seminal text, The Empty Space. This theatrical genre acts as a cultural antidote to those denatured commercial amusements flooding the mass society which Brook designated “The Deadly Theater.” Flosso, the antic force to behold, was, indeed, the quintessence of that liveliest authentic theater which is always integral to the lively arts.

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