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In the beginning there was Vaudeville

February 4, 2010

It would be disingenuous of me if I didn’t call attention to the beautiful header of my blog created by my friend Gina of gvcreative.com she is a genius to say the least.  

I am aware of the fact that entertainment has been attracting crowds since the dawn of time but for our purposes we will choose vaudeville as the big bang. This medium was basically the professional version of today’s American Idol. The audience reaction definitely determined the future of the performing acts. Vaudeville thrived through the depression and the second world war when entertainment was at a premium but a person could go see a show at numerous times during the day and it didn’t matter what time you entered because the acts changed continuously until the headliner came to the stage, which brings me to the point of this blog. My association with vaudeville was never as a headliner, as the playbill will attest but to pay homage to formed my opinion on what was necessary to hold the focus of the collective audience and move it in unison to anywhere you want to take it. There are many who have done this, Elvis, Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Richard Pryor etc. but the first person I saw do it remains indelibly on my mind, the incredible Dorothy Dandridge.  

The versatile duo

  

My name is Dick Monda so myself and my sister were the special attraction (kid song and dance team) right after the fourth performer. This gave me time to get out front to watch Ms Dandridge.  If I said she was great I would be underestimating her performance. First of all her entrance was worth the price of admission not to mention the fact that she was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the planet. She was wearing a long white gown which clung to her, like every mans fantasy, as she walked on stage from the right side of the audience’s point of view. She did not stop at center stage but continued on to the left side, forcing everyone to follow her every move. She did not have pyrotechnics, flashing lights, acrobatic maneuvers or any thing other than herself to aid her entrance, she did not need anything other than herself. Upon arriving at the designated michrophone she began to flip a coin’ which she continued to do until she finished her set and exited the stage leaving the audience numb. This performance taught me that every time you take the stage or for that matter any artistic endeavor requires a holistic approach. Physical appearance, suspense or danger, performance and virtuosity. The percentages of these change with every artist. Bob Dylan and Lady GaGa divide it up differently but each possess all the parts of a successful show.

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21 comments

  1. Dorothy Dandridge must have looked like heaven to a nine-year-old in 1950. I look pretty cute in the photo. I don’t remember Dorothy Dandridge,though. But then I don’t remember being there myself.


  2. Oh my god, I’ve been searching for Daddy Dewdrop for most of my adult life!


  3. Go Dewdrop!!!


  4. When I met you as a young man (I thought) I never knew that you fought in the Revolutionary War and Betsy Ross was your tailor. Now I find that Stephen Foster was your mentor and music teacher.I can truthfully say I am honored (and bewildered and befuddled , but not bemused) to learn that you were in vaudeville.
    Do you have a video of your act? Maybe I can get you a booking?


  5. P.S.
    great observation and food for thought “This medium was basically the professional version of today’s American Idol. “


  6. Holland Girl looks like her mom. Don’t ya think?
    Hi Gloria!


    • Hi Bobbi.


  7. I remember that pic. Holland Girl looks like Mom; don’t ya think? Hi Gloria!


  8. This is not an April fools joke. I cannot believe that I have finally a venue to express my inner… about you know who. How GREAT is The Daddy?


  9. I Love This Talent!


  10. Wow Dick – We never talked about it but I too started out at that age doing shows with my older brother, Roy, for women’s clubs and on the radio in Santa Barbara. I would sing accapella much of the time. One time on the radio station KTMS my brother really got me. I had just finished singing “America The Beautiful” in my little voice and of course had started in too high of a key and had struggled a bit in falsetto near the end. As soon as I finished Roy said “And now, a record of “America The Beautiful” and proceeded to play the Tabernacle Choir!! How mean was that?! It was all good experience at a very young age and I was never really scared of performing because of it and also learned that I wanted to know exactly what was going to happen in any performance I was involved with and to be really prepared. After all, in a live performance there is no re-take like there is in a recording situation.
    Nice blog and keep it going Daddy!!


  11. Show biz is truely your life!! I never knew about your Vaudeville childhood and didn’t know much about Dorthy either. Reading your discription and seeing her through your eyes as a kid made me want to know more. I clicked on her Bio and was facinated by her groundbreaking but tragic story.
    Great blog, I’ll stay tuned for more.


  12. I want more. A lot more!


  13. I agree one hundred percent. I know that feeling when you see greatness. Whe I was 14 years old I saw Judy Garland at The Palace in New York. Her entrance was amazing. You couldn’t take your eyes of her. I’ll never gotget. She wore a gold lame gown, exactly the same one my brother Bill was wearing.


  14. So you sold the gold lame gown I gave you to Bill Hudson? It was for your vaudeville act. No wonder the act fell apart! (And look how far he’s gone with it)


  15. Daddy-
    Love all the comments. If I could still play I’d be lining up for any auditions. Long live the Dew!
    Butch
    PS Can’t wait to hear the new Chick-A-Boom.


  16. New Chick-a-boom? Inform me please.

    Hi Bobby.


  17. Okay, I’m not even going to get into the reasons why Brett H. revealed that his brother Bill was wearing Judy Garland’s gold lame gown because quite frankly, it’s a scary topic.

    That said, thanks for sharing the memories, Daddy. I’ve seen some pretty amazing people on stage in my time from Bobby Darrin to Elvis to Michael Jackson and the ability to connect with an audience is one of the most important talents that a performer can possess. You’re lucky you were able to watch a pro, first hand.


  18. WOW! What an amazing life you’ve had Monda….do you mind if I call you Dick?
    I could not agree with you more on that undeniable “STAR” factor. You can’t teach it or buy it….it just is! Like my brother Brett said in his comment, I was 16 years old when we saw Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall and that’s when it hit me right between the eyes. That night I realized two things…..that Judy Garland was a superstar, and my brothers were homosexuals. Not that that’s a bad thing, but they wanted to change our name to…the Hudson Brothers…Mark, Ziegfried and Roy, and that was pushing it a little (not to mention that Brett showed up at our next gig crammed in satin hot pants! He looked like a shiny Italian sausage). When I first heard Chick-A- Boom, I knew it was a smash, and that Daddy Dewdrop was also a star, and that he will shine on, long after I am in a diaper and my brothers are in matching satin Depends!


  19. Shalooooooooooommm! Some day I will be the famous one and you will be on one of those “Where Are They Now?” shows.


  20. Dick,

    I really enjoyed reading your reminiscences of working with Dorothy Dandridge. She really did seem to hold a crowd enraptured, but I had no idea until I read your post. Very inspiring! I am sure she was very impressed by you and your sister, as well!

    Best wishes,
    Michelle Malik
    (Eddie Cantor Appreciation Society)



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