I bought this 1910 vaudeville program a few years ago for $6. I have several programs–they give me good information about acts, names of acts, and jargon that I can use in my mystery series. But thanks to Valentina, a reader of this blog, I learned something I didn’t know about this particular program.
I’d wondered about Act D “Lester and Mildred: Novelty Sister Act.” I mean, come on, how many sisters were named Lester? Well, it is likely that this act is Mae West and her sister, Mildred. According to Valentina (and other sources), Mae West performed as a male impersonator in her younger years and she also performed with her sister, Mildred. They would have been 17 (Mae) and 12 (Mildred) years old at the time of this program, not too young in the vaudeville world. Mae had been performing since she was 5 and would make it to Broadway in 1911, when she was 18.
I mention Mae West briefly in The Impersonator, when Jessie, my main character, tells a group of men that she knew Mae on stage. My fictional character Jessie and Mae West were the same age, and both were in vaudeville, so the claim rings true.
And I’ll bet my $6 program is worth millions now, don’t you think?