Don’t Miss This! – A Decade of Eccentric Performing Arts – Photography by Jim Moore

A Limited Edition of 500 by Vaudevisuals Press.

Photographer Jim Moore comes from the trenches. He busked in a dozen cities before deciding that chronicling his peers was more enjoyable than performing. The respected artist began as a photographer for rock and roll magazines. Following his “bliss,” he’s been published in numerous, diverse magazines and newspapers as well as exhibited. He notably acted as photographer/co-conspirator for then roommate Philippe Petit’s 1974 walk across the Twin Towers.

Those in the Nose (Holly McCracken, Nina Levine, Evelyn Tuths)

In 2009, Moore launched Vaudevisuals, an appreciative anything-you-want-to-know web site about the genre followed by establishing Vaudevisuals Press. Collected photos in this volume are from 2010 to 2019. They’re evocative, fun, and make one want to experience entertainers in person. Moore doesn’t just take a good photograph, he frames a moment that best captures each stage persona; he knew and knows them all. Many of these artists are still in the city, still offering their unique kind of entertainment.

“The ‘clown’ or ‘eccentric’ performer doesn’t live in the circus. Some do. But many are around us all the time, in theaters, … convention centers, public parks, and subway cars. The outsider sensibility, the overthrow of theatrical convention is what I strive to document….Enjoy the show!” Jim Moore

Todd Robbins

History

Variety entertainment has always been a part of American history. Street performance/busking, small traveling troops, minstrel shows (comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music performed by White people in make-up or blackface for the purpose of playing the role of Black people), medicine shows (where miracle cures were peddled between acts), carnivals, and circuses brought a wide variety of “acts” to a welcoming public.

From the 1880s through the 1930s, vaudeville offered brief, unrelated performances including: comics, clowning, singing, dancing, juggling, acrobatics, magic, strongmen, ventriloquism, female and male impersonators, puppets, animal acts…At first disreputable, theaters cleaned up in order to attract a wider, more genteel audience.

Trav SD and Betsy Propane

There was also burlesque identified as “vaudeville’s ‘evil twin” by expert/ historian  TravSD (Travesty) on his own wonderful site Travalanche. “Whereas vaudeville presented many more diverse acts which were for the most part ‘clean’, burlesque focused on beautiful females who sang, danced, clowned and later (predominantly) stripped, along with a company of musicians and lowbrow comedians.”

In the 1930s, both genres declined due to the Depression and competition from movies. Nothing can kill off public appetite for novelty distraction, however. Ed Sullivan brought variety to television from 1948 to 1971, followed by The Hollywood Palace and shows built around multi-faceted personalities like Carol Burnett. Today we have “new” vaudeville and burlesque.

Who Are These People

Scotty the Blue Bunny (Scott Grabel); Hilary Chaplain

“Eccentrics…share the risk inherent in an unpredictable, anything-might-happen performance…no second takes, no splicing and editing, no laugh track…Buster Keaton only used a stuntman once in his career. Astaire insisted his dances be shot in a single take. Today such an attitude would be dismissed as hopelessly purist…Live performance is a ritual for performer and audience alike. They both give, they both take…” (John Towsen, performer and author of Clowns, a Panoramic History.)

You might see/have seen Chris McDaniels sing cowboy songs, tell stories and do expert rope tricks; Todd Robbins hosting Monday Night Magic or displaying a panoply of sideshow skills; Mime Bill Bowers who against all odds has literally made a living with (increasingly theatrical) shows his entire working life; acrobatic clown Bello Nock with signature hair that looks like he stuck his finger in a socket; Harley Newman’s often mystical feats exhibiting balance, strength, tolerance, and imagination; Tina Cione who seems to have a secret agreement with fire; Shereen Hickman and Darien Crago in a vibrant love letter to the silent film era…

Eric Davis as the Red Bastard, Chris Rozzi as Shakespeare, Zero Boy

Hilary Chaplain, who mixes clowning, comedy, puppetry, and serious theater; Laura Anderson as a Burlesque, Rockstar, Dinosaur; Cardone’s magic spook show; Paris, the Hip Hop Juggler- basketballs anyone?; Ventriloqust Carla Rhodes with cantankerous Cecil Sinclaire; James Taylor’s “My Sideshow Mamas”; L’il Miss Lixx (Hovey Burgess) in ‘The Polar Bare’, unique burlesque variety…

Some of the current venues presenting vaudeville and burlesque: The Slipper Room, Coney Island USA, City Winery, the Box, Duane Park, House of Yes, Wasabassco Burlesque, Nurse Bettie, Le Scandal Cabaret.

Photo of Jim R. Moore by Kirk Marsh

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Don’t Miss This! A Decade of Eccentric Performing Arts
Jim R. Moore

About Alix Cohen (1312 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.