Sophie Tucker

First Lady of Show Business


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About the Book

Sophie Tucker appeared in only seven American stage musicals and appeared only twice on Broadway but, then, it was difficult to cast her in a show. A buxom and ebullient performer, she—and her audiences—quickly found that playing herself was most effective.
This is a biography of a vaudeville and cabaret performer who saw herself as one of the first liberated women and one of the last “red hot mamas.” It tells the story of her birth as her mother traveled to Boston from Russia, her childhood in Boston, and her first public performance at Poli’s Vaudeville Theatre at the age of 13. It also tells the story of her troubled marriage to Louis Tuck and the birth of their son, her meeting with Willie Howard, a vaudeville veteran who encouraged her to go to New York and pursue a stage career, her discovery by Flo Ziegfeld (of the Ziegfeld Follies), and her rise to headliner status under the guidance of her agent William Morris. She was best known for appearing on stage with just a piano player, and openly discussing her life and Jewish upbringing.

About the Author(s)

The late Armond Fields was a social historian specializing in American popular theater. The author of numerous books about vaudeville and other early theater figures, he lived in Culver City, California.

Bibliographic Details

Armond Fields
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 272
Bibliographic Info: photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1577-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     v
Introduction     1

1 Welcome to America     7
2 Breaking In     18
3 The Mary Garden of Ragtime (1)     32
4 The Mary Garden of Ragtime (2)     44
5 Vaudeville Stardom     55
6 Celebrating Cabarets     71
7 Risky Business     85
8 At the Top of Her Game     102
9 Burning Up the Boards     123
10 Honky Tonk     136
11 Escape to London     148
12 Looking Back Over Her Shoulder     164
13 The Labor Union Blues     184
14 Fast Becoming a Legend     194
15 The Glory Years     210
16 A Fabulous Character     227

Epilogue     246
Notes     251
Selected Bibliography and Source Material     255
Index     259

Book Reviews & Awards

“important…a welcome addition”—Cambridge University Press; “a biography that reads like a novel”—I>Hadassah Magazine.