BROADWAY BABYLON by Boze Hadleigh

BROADWAY BABYLON

Glamour, Glitz, and Gossip on the Great White Way
Age Range: 1919 - 1959
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The fabulous invalid (Broadway) is also, apparently, the horny invalid.

The curtain is barely up on this history of the Great White Way when Hadleigh (Celebrity Diss and Tell, 2005, etc.) notes that actor-director-choreographer Bob Fosse was sexually insatiable. Hadleigh puts a sexual spin on the adage that you can’t tell the players without a scorecard by homing in on who slept with whom and who was/is bi-, gay or straight. As to how Topic A shaped what happens onstage, Hadleigh suggests homophobia shaded the plays and reputation of Tennessee Williams and helped destroy playwright William Inge. But Hadleigh terms his history “selective…and non-chronological,” its aim to entertain. So his history soon heads to diverting topics such as dueling divas Mary Martin and Carol Channing and the history of Gypsy, punctuated by frequent blasts from Ethel Merman. But even the most devoted theater buffs will wonder if Lucille Ball’s Broadway flop Wildcat deserves an entire chapter, especially since much of what turns up has already turned up elsewhere. Sources of specific stories remain unclear. Many anecdotes come from books Hadleigh cites in an extensive bibliography and, apparently, from the showbiz scribe’s own interviews. Some reported events sound suspiciously like stunts devised by desperate press agents. One such tale finds Tommy Tune coming up from the audience to dance with Josephine Baker onstage at the Palace Theater. (Tune claims the moment effectively ended his imminent film career.) Hadleigh builds entire chapters on just quotes, scattering them one after the other like ticket stubs in the West Forties. Many of these quips have been making the rounds of parties for years. The final two chapter titles, “Rumors” and “Broadway Babble On,” sum up the effort.

Useful for hosts looking for party lines, but no match for Ethan Mordden’s All That Glittered: The Golden Age of Drama on Broadway, 1919-1959 (2007).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8230-8830-0
Page count: 352pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2007




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