There’s no people like show people
They smile when they are low
Even with a turkey that you know will fold
You may be stranded out in the cold
But still you wouldn’t change it for a sack of gold
Let’s go on with the show, let’s go on with the show
I’ve been a fan of show business since I was five – putting on shows in our backyard. We’d drape a couple sheets over the clothesline. I’d gather all my friends together and we’d entertain our parents on warm summer days. There was a lemonade stand nearby, along with bags of popcorn. You could say I had become a show business mogul at the prodigious age of five. Soon my friends took on other interests, but I continued writing plays up until eighth grade.
I was discouraged by a teacher who had no idea how his comment would affect me. He said my play would be impossible to produce with our limited space and financial wherewithal. The pain of my first blow as a writer didn’t last long. I didn’t seriously write until I was a senior in high school. Mixing my love of theater with my avarice for writing has led to a career I love and can’t seem to get out of my blood.
Florenz (Flo) Ziegfield, born on this day in 1867 in Chicago, Illinois. He was witness to the great Chicago fire of 1871, which killed up to 300 people and left more than 100,000 residents homeless. This was his first exposure to the spectacular. Tucked safely under a bridge, the sight of the raging fire must have stirred the flames of his imagination. This would eventually be the path of his life. He began to run a variety of shows when he was in his teens.
His father ran the Chicago Musical College and later opened a nightclub, the Trocadero, to obtain business from the 1893 World’s Fair. He sent Florenz off to find some exciting acts which would bring in an audience. I guess he could be called one of America’s first talent scouts. He went to Europe to hire classical musicians and orchestras.
He married the actress Anna Held in 1896. She was from Europe also and made her debut in Ziegfeld’s first Broadway production. He also acted as her promoter, telling the press about her milk baths. The public always was eager to hear about the show business stars. I guess that hasn’t changed over time.
The success of her performances led Ziegfield to expand his show and create the Ziegfield Follies. These spectacular extravaganzas were filled with beautifully costumed women, songs of the day and talented performers. His success with the Follies went on through the 1920s. His marriage to Anna lasted seventeen years.
He married Billie Burke (Glinda, the good witch from THE WIZARD OF OZ)in 1914 and they remained married until his death.
The twenties were wild and wooly and the entertainment became so as well. Broadway was full of venues, but Ziegfield remained the most amazing showman of his time. His business cards read, “Impresario Extraordinaire.” In 1927, he purchased the Ziegfield Theater and continued to produce great musical shows, including SHOW BOAT which has been run on stages for years after. Be 1932 the nation was in the throes of the great depression. Ziegfield lost his fortune in the crash of the stock market. Entertainment was put on the back burner. People couldn’t afford to go to the theater.
Many famous entertainers came out of the Ziegfield Follies – Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Billie Burke, Will Rogers and so many more. Flo gave all of them the chance to make it big in the business.
Ziegfield died on July 22, 1932 at his home in Hollywood, California. He left considerable debt behind. His wife, Billie then went into films to cover the debts. In his short 65 years of living, he brought beauty, comedy, music and dance and wonderful entertainment to people through good times and bad. Show business sure can have a strong hold on us.
They all hope I will go broke and I wouldn’t like to cause them displeasure.