Tag Archives: Ziegfield Follies

The Trajectory of a Celebrity

Nora Bayes

Nora Bayes

Not all stars of the vaudeville stage are still remembered today. One of the most well-known singers in the 1910s and 1920s was Nora Bayes. Born in Joliet, Illinois as Eleanora Sarah Goldberg, she was on-stage by the time she was 18. She was a star of the Ziegfield Follies.

If you know the songs “Shine On, Harvest Moon” (probably written by Dave Stamper) or “Over There” (written by George M. Cohan) and you’ve heard the first recordings of those songs, then you’ve heard Nora Bayes singing.

Shine On, Harvest MoonAnother huge hit for her was “How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?” 

And yet her name has not lived on. An interesting classroom discussion would be to talk over which celebrities today will still be known in one hundred years … and why. Why is Will Rogers still a fairly well-known name today but Nora Bayes isn’t? 

You can listen to Nora Bayes singing here,


The Life Fantastic Vaudeville, Burlesque, and the Follies

What’s the difference between vaudeville, burlesque, and revue shows like The Ziegfield Follies?

Bon Ton BurlesqueBurlesque originated in London in the 1830s and ran until the 1890s where it was most often a musical theater parody of a well-known play or opera or ballet. Brought to America in the 1840s, American Burlesque took a turn toward satiric and bawdy productions which usually incorporated exotic dancers. These performances were frequented by working-class men. Tickets were very inexpensive.

Sandow Tracadero Vaudeville“Vaudeville grew out of that burlesque tradition when Tony Pastor and E.B. Keith recognized, in the 1880s, that middle class families would come to their theaters, and create more profit, if they had classier acts that wouldn’t offend or scandalize women and children. Types of acts included popular and classical musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies.” (Wikipedia)

Ziegfield FolliesThe Ziegfield Follies were on Broadway and then radio from 1907 to 1936. The costumes were lavish, the sets were splendiferous, and there were always Ziegfield Girls parading up and down long stairways in fanciful costumes. The acts were similar to those on the vaudeville stage. In fact, many performers moved easily from burlesque to vaudeville to Follies venues, especially the most well-known stars.

Teresa wouldn’t have dreamed of going on the burlesque stage. Because of its origins in burlesque, many people believed that vaudeville was only “one step up from girlie shows.” Vaudeville was attainable but the Follies, performed only in New York City, were beyond her reach when The Life Fantastic takes place. In 1913, Teresa was just beginning her career. After the last chapter of the book … where do you think Teresa’s career will take her next?