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The last vaudeville editor of Billboard interviews the singers and hoofers and comics who once trod the boards for the Radio-Keith-Albee and Orpheum circuits. And a singularly contented lot they are! Although a relative few--George Burns, Edgar Bergen, Jack Haley, Rudy Vallee, Milton Berle--managed to make that hard switch into ""talkies"" or radio or TV, the years they spent appearing in four or five shows daily (two at really big-time theaters like the Palace) were for most of them the happiest period in their lives. It is easy to forget that, at least in the silent days, it was the live acts and not the movie that was the draw: the pay was much higher than in the ""legit"" theater, and the eight acts that made up a typical bill often spent years together on the same circuit--a big, happy, wealthy family. The jokes may not all withstand the test of time, but this was an era remembered with fondness by nearly all who lived through it--not just the performers but the fans who followed their favorite acts from year to year, and sometimes from theater to theater. This last bow is for them.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1976
Publisher: Macmillan