Vaudeville in Portland

I’ve always wondered about vaudeville–what it was really like, and if it could ever be revived. During the TBA festival, there will be a screening of some vaudeville from Portland theaters. And now, I shall regurgitate a press release:

Event: Vaudeville Deluxe
Description: A free outdoor screening of vaudeville acts on film, both
the great and the not-so-great. This screening commemorates the
vaudeville theaters of Portland, several of which are active today as
movie theaters.
Date: Tuesday, September 12
Time: Dusk (about 8:00 PM)
Location: Under the Steel Bridge, north end of Tom McCall Waterfront
Cost: Free

Long before television, radio, or movies, there was vaudeville: live stage entertainment presented in a variety show format. Many twentieth century stars of motion pictures and television got their start on the live vaudeville stage,

The power of live entertainment has been rediscovered, and performers today are returning to the artform. The following TBA:06 artists have vaudeville influences and connections:

Brad Adkins
Theo Angell
Johanna Billing
Sutupa Biswas
Katherine Bovee + Philippe Blanc
Beth Campbell
Harrell Fletcher
Matthew Day Jackson
Red 76
Edie Tsong

The Program

Ma, She’s Making At Me, 1927. Gus Visser sings a straightfaced duet with a duck. This act was used to open Greg Palmer’s 1997 vaudeveille documentary.

Vitaphone Gambols, 1936 Chaz Chase. Chase’s stage act included eating lit cigarettes. He appeared on Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1925 and in Sugar Babies in the 1980’s.

Hellzapoppin’, 1941. Slim Gaillard, Slam Stewart and the fabulous Lindy hoppers, The Harlem Congaroos. This has to be seen to be believed.

Two College Boys, 1928 Atteberry & Gillium. Not everyone in Vaudeville was a headliner. Not everyone was talented. Here is an example.

The Ranger Song, 1928 J. Harold Murray. Mr. Murray was a huge star both in vaudeville and on Broadway. This is a pre-Vitaphone sound test film.

Smash Your Baggage, 1933 You think you work hard for a living. Here’s a man who skips rope on his knees. Entertainers from Smalls Paradise.

W.C. Field, 1934 W. C. Fields was the most famous juggler in show business before he became a comedian. See for yourself his athletic grace & coordination.

Broadway Nights and Hollywood Days, 1930’s Ed Sullivan, Eddie Cantor, The Rockettes, Buster Keaton, many others. Ed Sullivan was a newspaper gossip columnist before becoming a TV icon.

That Goes Double, 1933 Russ Columbo, Bernice & Emily, Roy Smeck, The Three Cossacks. Russ Columbo was a rival of Bing Crosby. He died tragically at the age of 26 a year after this short was made. Bernice & Emily perform upside down on stairs.

Vitaphone Frolics, 1937 Jack and Loretta Clemens, Zeb Carver and Cousins, Stanley Brothers, The Golliwog. Tom Emerson plays bass with Zeb Carver. I’d like to find out more about him.

The All Colored Vaudeville Show, 1935 Eunice Wilson, Adelaide Hall, Three Whippets, and the Nicholas Brothers. A cut down version of this was released in 1946 as Dixieland Jamboree.

Eddie Peabody and His College Chums, 1928. Eddie Peabody was the Jimi Hendrix of the banjo. Here he is backed by the Hal Kemp Orchestra.

For more information, call Dennis Nyback (646) 283 -2624 or email him

1 Responses to Vaudeville in Portland

  1. lee chase frank says:

    i am delighted to see that you are reviving vaudeville
    my dad, chaz chase would love that you are doing this
    he would be happy to know that television really did not kill vaudeville