Top Bananas: Burlesque Comics / Vaudeville Comedians

Burlesque featured skits & baggy-pants clowns with the “talking woman” who never stripped, but would do bits and serve as foil to the comics.

Top Bananas: Burlesque Comedians

There was one folder in Rose La Rose’s theatre photo archives entitled simply COMICS.

The pix weren’t even all named, and there wasn’t any extra ads or info. Apparently most of the comics didn’t even bother with professional photos with their stage names printed on, at least the ones playing Toledo in the 1960s.

That could be because they just didn’t feel good about doing Burlesque… maybe they didn’t even have enough money.

Here’s a quote I found in this book: Broadway: Its History, People, and Places : an Encyclopedia – Google Books Result by Ken Bloom.

Joey Bishop recalls the attitude of the burlesque comics:

“Every burlesque comic felt like burlesque was the end of the road for him. If he flopped he had no where else to go… “

Finding info on Burlesque comics is even more difficult than researching the girls. There’s a little here and there online, but hopefully more will be added. With google scanning millions of books and magazine’s, every day there’s more info available on zillions of subjects.

I hope they’ll scan all the wonderful old CAVALCADE OF BURLESQUE magazines. They are 95% pix of girls, but the rest features comics — the Top Bananas of the day. You can even read the scripts of some funny comic bits — “Gags” as they called them.

Above is the cover of the 1st issue, Fall 1951. So that means these guys and gals were working in the 1940s. Below are a few comics. My pix are difficult to read. Someday I’ll do quality scans of all my Cavalcades, but for now:

Billy ‘Scratch’ Wallace / Mike Sachs

No names…

Starting below are the pix that were in my archives, so most of these guys were performing circa 1950s & 1960s :

Mickey Jay with Rosemary
Billy Reed with Jean Carroll
Oaky Miller
Ken Duric
Bob Ferguson
Willie Dew
Silky Silvers
Bert Gehan
Erby Wilson
Pat Burns
Dick Martin
Lee Clifford
Jimmy Calvo
Phil Lane
Billy “Cheese’n’Crackers” Hagan (this pic is from the 1951 Cavalcade of Burlesque mag.)
Jack Hayes (another pic from the 1951 Cavalcade of Burlesque mag.)
Jack Hayes owned a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio which he sold in 1954. [Billboard] [Photo of Chalimar]
Billboard Magazine‘s Burlesque notices have Jack in and out as owner of several other restaurants over the years, all over the country, and of course dozens of notices about performing his act.
(Above) A 1972 Michigan newspaper article quoted Jack Hayes, who was still performing (and was the doorman) then, at age 71:

BACKSTAGE: “There’s no more burlesque now. It’s a girlie show now ” said Jack Hayes. Hayes, 71, was for 30 years a burlesque comic now is the ‘theater doorman. Hayes hams it up among the leftover props he sometimes uses for his Saturday night comic part.

The guys below were in my comics folder, but without names:

Thomas ”Scurvy” Miller 

  • Ken M. tells us: “Having seen him a number of times at the old Fox Theater in Indianapolis, I am sure he is Scurvy Miller aka Tommy Miller.
  • Jim D. adds: “Yes indeed! I knew him from the Avenue Theater in downtown Detroit in the late 40s and early 50s. He was the regular non-stripper there for every one of the many performances I saw there during those years. He was known to be a wealthy property-owning resident of Grosse Pointe, the richest Detroit suberb.
Joan Arline‘s comments, above, about Scurvy Miller (from Behind the BurlyQ).

A 1967 article painted a picture of Tommy as ‘an old man’:

 [Image source

I know there were many more Burlesque comics, but I have just shown the pix that I had from Rose’s photo archive.