Vaudeville @ the Harry Ransom Center

Vaudeville: novelty, naughtiness, noir at the HRC

Vaudeville broke sexual, gender, racial and cultural taboos and continues its evolution today in performances by Colbert, on Saturday Night Live and in many live venues worldwide. I was also struck by it as an early prototype of the internet – browsing an oddball collection of incidental entertainment.

Comedian George Gordon Fuller created the Vaudeville Managers Association, or White Rats Union, originally open only to white impresarios.  As the demand grew and the shows evolved, women and black entertainers started circuits and shows of their own. Both white and black actors used black face and minstrel formats, some black artists ironically.  You can see some of the musicians and stars who progressed into the movie and TV era with much more power than their Vaudeville predecessors.

Drag shows are nothing new. Few performers had careers that were as vaunted and long lasting as drag sensation Vander Clyde/Dora Kallmus from Austria, known internationally as Barbette.

Sex, music, magic, comedy and drama still exert their fascination.  The exhibit is up until July 15th. Go see the show!

Photo tribute to Norman Bel Geddes’ elegant vision of form and function

The Norman Bel Geddes exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center prompted me to collect photos I’ve taken in the last two years that pay homage to his aesthetic. As a self-described naturalist his designs reflected the beauty and forms of nature.  Norman started designing sets and theaters then expanded his vision into every facet of modern life. He definitely did not let beauty go unnoticed and brought the simple elegance of art deco into mid-century American design.  His ethos:

“The greatest profit may be attended by beauty…that whatever is stupid and ugly cannot be possibly functionally superior.”