Little, Brown & Co. / ASIN: B000OOLB14 (1956)
This is one of those "must-read" books for anyone interested in vaudeville.
Fred takes you back in time and you enter the world as he did, a kid with
a rough act looking for a little work in Show Business. You go with him up
the ladder, one grimy rung at a time -- stage to stage, train to train, and
dressing room to dressing room. It's never a pretty ride, but you can understand
how someone could get addicted to the world and the camaraderie (even with the
jealousy, joke-stealing and fighting over a place on the bill) of vaudeville.
Fred had respect for the people he met on the way, and he asks you to remember
them - even if you never saw them perform. "Dainty Irene," the midget
strong-woman, Tom Heffernan, the one-legged dancer, and Toby Lyons, the comedian.
Now we know them, too.
The one unhappy note to this book is that it was left unfinished.
Fred Allen was taking his evening stroll up New York's West 57th Street
on March 17, 1956 when he suddenly collapsed and died of a heart attack.
Up until then he'd spent part of each morning in an office
he'd leased just for the purpose of working on his life story.
It had no telephone.
(Just one more way of remembering how very intelligent this man was.)
Illustration from A Pictorial History of Vaudeville