Variety (January 1953)

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Wednesday, January 7, 1953 Forly-sevenlh ttORIJEfY Anniversary ' VAUDEVILLE 247 Niteries In Upper Brackets In day Farce Show Biz Paris, Though one of the landmark Paris cabarets is closing, and many fringe boites open and close in the shadows of the biggies, nitery biz is still in the upper brackets here. Past tourist season, which clocked about 350,000 Ameri- cans who left about $261,000,000 in Europe, was the big- gest yet, but nitery owners stated that the take had been under that of 1951. They feel that this is mainly due to the tourists spending less time in the capital due to high - prices here and moving on to other tourist meccas. How- ever, the French are beginning to spend more and are fill- ing niteries again. . Shuttering is the famed Bal Tabarin, which has been a tourist centre for 50 years and renowned for its plush show. Closing is reportedly due to internal spatting of the owners. The bus-stop nitery tptfrs usually use the girl nudie shows in the Pigalle district, where they are herded in for a drink and a gander at the show for a fixed price. This usually leads to the paradoxical picture of giving the tourist a better price than French clientele. This is made up in the turnover, with clubs handling three to four bus- loads a night. Certain of the plush boites with a long show slap on an entrance fee which serves as a cover charge. The long, costly shows provide them opportunity to do this though it entails a tab tax also. The Lido has only a minimum and depends on trade size for takein. Other clubs with cover are the Eve, Naturists, Nouvelle Eve and Moulin Rouge. j ^ $12 for Champagne . [ Average nitery tabs range from 500 to 900 francs ($1.50 to $2.75) for mixed drinks and 3,800 to 4,300 francs for champagne ($10 to $12). The Lido has a 2,000-franc ($6) minimum per person and the Drap D’Or, which has star headliners, has a 5,200-franc minimum for two ($15). Some of the swank spots like Monseigneurs and Carreres charge carriage-trade prices, with champagne going for 6,000 francs ($20). A lot of off-season tourists and the French themselves, who are spending more dough now, are keep- ing nitery biz up during the winter season. The Existentialist cellar clubs, such as the Rose Rouge, Fontaine Ties Quatres Saisons, The Vieiix Colombier and Club St. Germain Des Pres have a membership service charge which gets them out of the cabaret tax. Cabaret owners tolerate this for they feel the caves are just a pass- ing fad. However, the toppers are doing rafter biz every night and offer the best offbeat shows in town. They charge top prices, with mixed drinks going for $2.50 and champagne rarely in view. The Rose Rouge packs them in every night with their hep takeoff on films and the chanting of Juliette Greco and the Freres Jacques (4). Backing them up are the fine hand mime group of Yves Joly, who fascinate with charades done by four sets of white gloved hands on a black background, to music. The Fontaine Des Quatres Saisons also offers a hep show, with the Grenier-Husscnot Theatre group in fine fettle with the rollickihg satire of a day in the average iniddleaged Gallic couple’s life, backed by the hep singing of Les Gar- cons De La Rue (3) and the fine puppetry of Georges Lafaye (4i. The other clubs get them in on their jazz music lure, with Claude Luter and Mezz Mezzrow at the Yieux Colombier, and Bill Coleman at Club St. Germain Des Pres. . • Another fad is the sprinkling of boites opened here by Americans. The Cabaret Syndicat considers this a pass- ing fancy but .‘Spiyy’s East Side looks like ft is here to stay with a steady clientele of show biz people and the young American and Gallic set giving it a big after-the- atre play. Chez Inez gets those who want an earful of hep jazz from Art Simmons, Aaron Bridgers, Fats Edwards and Inez Cavanaugh. Jean’s Intrigue is also a small jazz cave off the Champs-tlysees housing Jean Parks, Lobo Nocho and bicycling Aaron Bridgers and Art Simmons. Dick Edwards has his third Ringside-spot here, which is low-priced and gets a young jiv ( e crowd. The Mars Club is an intimer now featuring the vocalistics of Anny Ross and Blossom Desire, and is an agreeable spot for an early or late-evening drink. All these v clubs serve Americana dishes such as chile con carne, liotdogs and hamburgers fur any gastronomically homesick statesiders. i Big Spending C afes I The Eve, sister bpite to the Nouvelle Eve, is closed for a while, but opening in the opera district is a new club, the Macumba, a Latin-American motif club with an eye- popping cooch dancer in Aissita. Big influx of free-spend- ing South Americans (mostly Brazilian and Argentinian) is probable impetus to the new boite. Also in this vein is the Canne Au Sucre, which features American Negro dancers, Byron Cutler and Othella Stozier, in some fren- zied Afro-Cuban dance stints. L’Aiglon on the Champs Elysces has a castanet-shaking rhumba hand, ditto Cafe Society Montparnasse and the. new carriage-trade spot, L Elephant Blanc. Latter is where the elite -congregate to be seen. Others in the carioca vein are the Habana Mexico and the Puerta Del Sol both, on the Champs Ely- secs'and featuring Mexican and Spanish attractions. As a rule, the French seem to prefer their terping on the boards or in flobtshows, usually preferring to gabble while the tourist trips the light fantastic. However, the jnany dansapation spots get a big French turnout both for the dance and as a rendezvous spot. Places where youngsters meet are Mimi Pinson and Qlympia, large- size ballrooms with no entrance fee but drinks obligatory. A lot of joy-gals mixed in with the regular clientele also has this a visiting spot for on the towners. Tango and foxtrot seem to be the preferred steps, with passing manias for the Mambo, Charleston and Lindy Hop in 'ogue in the Existentialist spots. Benny Bennett, Ameri- can bandleader, has opened a new dancery here, the Coli- ‘Oum, featuring torrid Latin dance tunes for a good fol- lowing. _ There are other famous dance centres noted for their oior and atmosphere. Rue de Lappe, the old tough pache section, still has some “dansants? where .the old i of dancing (“man’s hands on woman's but- ( ' is stilL put on for visitors’ assuagement. Spots 'here are Balajo and Bal Bousca. The Bal Negre is an- A Bad Rib on Robey Recent review in Variety of a “Music Hall" pro- gram from BBC-TV in London mentions the good per- formance by 83-year-old comic, George Robey. He once paid the penalty of fame in an unusual way. Some 45 years ago, an obscure tradesman at Coventry, England, was inspired to set up in business under firm name of “George Robey, the World's Provider.” Among other things he peddled by mail talking mar chines of a particularly villainous tone quality. Per- sons who ordered thought they were dealing with the music hall idol. . Disillusionment and disguest followed when the machines were received, and soon, wherever the real Robey appeared, he was greeted by angry shouts of “I say, George, give us back our money! Those gramophones of yours are beastly!” The harried comic finally went to court and sought an injunction against the Coventry man doing busi- ness in his name. Merchant argued he was acting within his rights, since he employed, a clerk named George Robey and had incorporated the business in the clerk’s name. But the court didn’t see it that way. He was ordered to cease and desist being “George Robey, the World’s Provider,” the comedian’s life gradually returned to normal. OF VAUDE & VAUDERS =====By LOU WALTERS - - —J There’s the story of the trapeze worker. He did a great act, played the Palace again and again; always opened or closed the show, everyone was either walking in or exiting when he was. on. Even his feature trick, when he swung oyer the audience suspended on the bar by the back of his neck, never got a hand because there was no one to see it.. Happened one night that the star was late, man- ager came back in a hurry—no one was ready to go on except this acrobat. For the first time he had an audi- ence, got so much applause for this great trick that he forgot himself and took a bow. In the heyday of the old NVA, E. F. Albee wanted everyone to join. Everyone did except Duffy & Sweeney. Called on the carpet, Duffy said, “Look, we. don’t play pool!” Sweeney said, “We’re working all the time and we don’t have time to go to the NVA.” Albee patiently explained the benefits, and “remember,” he said, “the insurance benefit. If you die you get $1,000”’ So they joined. Two weeks later Albee got a wire, “We just died in Buffalo, send us the thousand.” There was the time I produced and directed French Musical Comedy Stock at the Imperial Theatre, Montreal. Couldn’t speak or understand a word of French. . Had to have an interpreter explaining the lyrics and stories, who I was afterwards told cleaned up the punchlines in the retelling. When later I heard a literal translation I won- dered how I kept out of jail. And the time I had a 25-people tab show on the road in New England. 'Twas April, we were booked into the Paramount, Saint John, New Brunswick, a 400- mile hop. Left Boston Saturday midnight, had to get there the next night for a Sunday midnight show. En route we- were told that- the Saint John river was over- flowing from spring freshets, but we kept going. By 8 o’clock Sunday evening we were abou 40 miles Trom St. John, the road was rutty and muddy, had to drive miles in low gear, finally got stuck in the mud, couldn’t go ahead, couldn’t retreat. Sat there, moaning. The show had to go on, but if it did it would have to go on with- out us. Shivering cold and miserable, in the middle of nowhere, in a dark black muddy vacuum. Sat for what seemed like years. And at last, by what seemed special show business dispensation, an old T-Model Ford truck came along, chains on its old worn-out wheels. Plugged alongside of us, as if it were riding on concrete. On the front seat, two muskrat trappers had about 40 dead musk- rats’in the open body of the truck. How we did it I shall never know, but we all piled on, 25 of us, chorus girls, actors, musicians, scenery, cos- tumes, instruments and props. It looked like a mountain- high covered wagon. But that Ford got through where Cadillacs and Packards were stymied in the mire. We got to the theatre after 12, the feature was half through, we had about 40 minutes to hang scenery, set the stage, dress and make up. Half that time was spent placating the manager who seemed to feel that we had done it all on purpose to make his life miserable. But the show went, on. other spot that rate's a look-see on its mixed clientele and dancing styles. Boccacio is a more intirhe dancery utilized for the tete-a-tete. Caveau Shubert has dancing to a fiery gypsy band, and Chalet Du Lac has old-fashioned Gallic dances to accordion music, latter overlooking the Seine. Jimmy's In Montparnasse is a dancery for the more hep and monied clientele while the Crazy Horse Saloon brings a western ambiance to the Champs Elysees and calls a square dance. All the.smaller clubs from B.utte Montmartre to Mont- parnasse have standard rates and among them can be found a few offbeat spots that bring in visitors by hearsay. The Lapin Agile in Montmartre is a famed literary centre where the Paris pen-set goes and indulges in an evening of French folk songs and drinking and chanting. Liberty’s in Pigalle acts as an incubator for budding variety apts and has an interminable floorshow that runs from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. It gives talented newcomers and needy oldtimers a haven, The Villa has the zany touch, with cups and. saucers being broken on patrons' heads from time to time. Chez Renee Bell has audience participation contests with prizes for best legs, breasts, etc,, and the Tango has an Apache team that belts each other all over the place for mayhem and bbuffe love. "" Other clubs around are w.k., and though they may sing the turnstile blues, seem to be filled with paying patrons. Christmas and New Year’s, a traditonal night out here also; had everybody making reservations at niteries, and some of the top odes charged as high as 10;000 francs per person ($25), and got it. So nitery biz here looks on a good par, with looser-spending French giving it a fresh impetus. OVER MV SHOULDER o'. - - By lulu McConnell - - - Y’know, when yclu look ahead past the point of your nose things seem a long time coming. But when you look back at ’em—over your shoulder—from the beginning to right now seems just about long enough to work up a good hiccup. Looking over my shoulder, I see a lot of things happening—so many you wouldn’t think they’d fit into that space of time. My becoming an actress, and the 20th century, started about the same time—and wffen I say 20th century, I ain’t talkin’ about the train. We traveled by wagon in those days—I started off with a set of pigtails, a half-baked' voice and a lot of crust. There ain’t many of us left I guess, who have seen show business go round in its com- plete circle—from medicine shows, to rep, to tab, to vaude, to legit, to films, to radio and now TV. Right back where we started. The old medicihe show deal was a come-on. A part-time, non-union Indian, who manicured the horses when he wasn't acting, banged on-a drum. Two or three tired females did a wiggle, and what passed as a time step. : Then the professor, came out and peddled the spoopgoo. The talent was only to corral the suckers, drag ’em close so the Prof could make his pitch. And here we are right back at it again with cameras. I served my time with the Spot Remover-Cough Syrup- Dandruff Cure boys. Just a kid 1 was. I sang songs. I don’t know whether the Winrow Winnies and Milkmaid Minnies liked my song—or just came close to see if that noise was really cornin’ out of the pudgy punk on the tailgate— but they came close—which was the main thing. I jumped from the end gate to a tab setup—then a rep mob—and about that time I met my old man. ■ Some of the oldtimers remember my old man, Grant Simpson, Anyone who ever met him will remember him. We met up when our troupes crossed* and the next thing we knew we were married. And from then on, we hit the trail together—from the sticks to Broadway, by way of roadshows and vaudeville. We never knew there was such a thing as vaudeville till a musical we were in folded. It was either go home or else. So we or elsed. We found out another team in the show had whipped up a comical omelet they called an act and were “working east.” So. we followed suit. And right off the reel we began takin’ tricks. We made a hit of sorts in the wide open spaces as a -ketch team—Grant & Simpson—maybe I got first billing —I didn’t care. Anyhow we dreamed up a skit, and a couple of song and dance specialties and started around. Pat Casey heard of us and sent for us. We went to New York. Broadway , at last. Grant’s main ambition was to . get our names up on Broadway—and this looked like it. We hopped in and headed for a boarding house we'd heard tell of. It was bn 43d St., just west of Broadway. It used to be—not any more. Some guys got together and built a big building and started printing a paper of some kind, full of news and other disasters, and not a chuckle till you got to the obits. I guess it’s a good, paper but it always seemed to me a shame to put the jody on a joint where you could get the best cornbeef and cabbage in town for eight bucks a week, including the use of the waslitub and soap, just so people would be able to find out what the politicians did yesterday. The Uasey Dime I We waited for the Casey o'nce to call—they didn’t— and we were gettin’ down to bedrock. The only use we iiad for my old mail’s wallet to wedge it between the door and the jam so it wouldn’t blow open nights. We were down to the dime we wore in his shoe, just “in case.” Well, “in ca::c” happened. One morning ho loft to case the Casey office. I held on to the dime. I knew .if I turned him loose in the big city with that much jack on him he might squander it on high life—not beer either—I mean the kind with women and song mixed in. So I hold on to the deemer, and sat on the stoop and waited. I waited till almost sundown. Then he came along wearing a smile that made his face look like a split melon. “Come on,” he said, “and bring the dime.” • ' I did. The first symptom of insanity I noticed was we • took a streetcar. I asked where we were goin’—and got a vague, husbandly answer. We went for a long trip, all the way up to around 125th Street. Then we got out. Down the block was a theatre. We walked towards it. Then he stopped and pointed. The sign read: “This week (I forgot the star’s name), and below that “Special Added Attraction—Grant & Simpson.” “It ain’t exactly Broadway,” my old man said, “but it’s just around the corner.” We walked home. Seein’ our names up like that was worth the dime—and the walk. And when we got home we were dog-tired. We sat down on the stoop—all in but happy, Suddenly my old man started to laugh. “What’s so funny?” I asked him. He pointed up. There, slobbered on the side of a building was a big 24- sheet. It was an ad for the Alhambra—and our names were on it—BIG. It had, in a way, been a wasted dime and a wasted trip, but when we saw that poster, all the tired left us. There it was, right smack on 3road\vay. We were in! A lot of •water has gone into chasers since that day, but every time it conries to my notice that some kid has cracked through, and got a toe-hold in the door that opens on what might be a starter in a show, radio or TV, 1 know he or she is gettin’ the same belt me and my old man got when we saw that poster. So I just push the Times Build- ing to one side, pull up a set of old brownstone steps,- and me and my old man sort of sit down there and do a little touch of remembering. • 10% Nightmare Two actors talking, in Lindy’S. “My agent is getting very worried.” “Wassamatter?” “Well* every night he keeps dreaming lie’s got me booked on personals at $10,000 a week ... he dreams he’s got me radio ahd television guest shots at $5,000 per, and he keeps dreaming he’s got me set in pictures at a hun- dred G’s each.” ' “So what’s he worried about?” “He keeps wakin’ up before he collects his commis- sion!” r Morey Amsterdam.