Veterans Day Walking Tour at Cypress Hills National Cemetery

Veterans Day is on Wednesday, Nov. 11, but I am holding a walking tour on Sunday, Nov. 8, Noon, to honor the holiday. Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills National Cemetery is the only National Cemetery in New York City. I started going there in 2010 when I was researching my Governors Island book. In 1886, the U.S. Army closed the post cemetery that served Fort Columbus (today Fort Jay), and moved all of the graves to Cypress Continue Reading →

Rudolph Carpos, the Clown of Vaudeville Days

Kensico Vaudeville Project #: 10 Name: Rudolph Carpos Act: Clown Born: 9 Sept 1875, Vienna, Austria Died: 4 Nov 1935, New York City There are two different gravestones for Rudolph Carpos, a professional clown who was beloved by vaudeville audiences. He was born Rudolph Karp on 9 September 1875 in Vienna, Austria. In 1914 he toured Sydney and Newcastle, Australia, before sailing to Hawaii aboard the Ventura. During World War I he registered for the Continue Reading →

Sig Mealey: From the Follies to Babe La Tour’s Bed

Kensico Vaudeville Project #: 8 Name: Sig Mealey Act: Acrobat Born: 20 June 1881, possibly Sweden Died: 1951 Sig Mealey was an accomplished acrobat who appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1909, on the same bill with headliners Nora Bayes and Eva Tanguay, at the Grand Opera House. He was briefly married to burlesque and vaudeville star Babe La Tour. He’s buried in the National Vaudeville Association burial ground with his real and stage name. Continue Reading →

The Kid Acrobat James Bird

Kensico Vaudeville Project #: 7 Name: James Bird Act: Acrobat Born: About 1875 Died: 21 August 1935, New York City In 1890 James Bird’s name appeared in the New York Times, and it wasn’t in the theater department. The headline says it all: “Minors in the Law’s Eyes” and tells: “The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children… cited Marcus Jacobs and Robert Nelson, managers, respectively, of H. R. Jacobs’s Third Avenue Theatre and Continue Reading →

The Mysterious Soldier, Andrew Joseph Basso

Kensico Vaudeville Project #: 6 Name: Andrew Joseph Basso Act: None Born: 16 November 1892, New York City Died: 22 March 1943, New York City There is only one gravestone in the National Vaudeville Association plot that was given by the Veterans Administration, the federal agency that provides official monuments for U.S. servicemen and women. This is for Andrew Joseph Basso, and his tie to vaudeville and show business can’t be confirmed. Basso was born Continue Reading →

From Mississippi to Stage and Screen with Charles Barney

Kensico Vaudeville Project #: 5 Name: Charles Barney Act: Actor-Writer Born: 12 October 1884, Columbus, Mississippi Died: 30 April 1929, New York City Comedy actor and writer Charles Barney (aka Charlie Barnes and Charles Burns) played the vaudeville circuit from New York to Seattle and appeared in early silent pictures. He also wrote fiction and screenplays. Charles Gorham Barney, Jr., was born 12 October 1884, in Columbus, Mississippi. He and his mother, Frances, moved to Continue Reading →

Two Wheels of Hard-Living Fun for Charlie Ahearn

Kensico Vaudeville Project #2 Name: Charles Ahearn Act: Cyclist Born: 5 April 1886 Died: 26 April 1940 Charles Ahearn was “The Racing Man” – a comedian on a bike. His fame took him to play London’s Hippodrome in 1909, where “the smartest and most amusing wheel acts America has ever sent us.” He returned to New York and took out a full-page ad in Variety to hail his triumph. Ahearn appeared with Anna Held at Continue Reading →

Condé Nast in Life and Death


Condé Nast

Condé Nast


Condé Nast

Condé Nast

Here is Condé Nast himself, the man who made Vogue & Vanity Fair a powerhouse before World War I. I’m talking about him Thursday, March 26, at the Drama Book Shop during Dorothy Parker Night.

Last summer when I was at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne–paying my respects to Algonquin Round Table members Heywood Broun and Deems Taylor–I stopped by Condé Nast’s grave. He’s buried beside his family in a simple plot, no ostentation at all. I also wrote about him for the Huffington Post and how his magazines launched Dorothy Parker’s career.

Many of the Vicious Circle collected paychecks from Nast, who I find was one of the most interesting men of Jazz Age Manhattan.

The Kensico Vaudeville Project Launches

Project Updates and Biographies are posted here. Twenty-eight miles north of Forty-second Street is Kensico Cemetery. Interred there are hundreds—perhaps more than a thousand—stage performers and associates. These men and women were onstage in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I stumbled across perhaps three hundred old vaudeville entertainers in a little-known plot, long forgotten about, laid out in neat rows in the historic cemetery. The Kensico Vaudeville Project will tell some of their stories. Continue Reading →

Visiting the Graves of Sara and Gerald Murphy

Today I visited the graves of Gerald Murphy (1888-1964) and Sara Wiborg Murphy (1886-1975) in South End Cemetery, East Hampton, Long Island, New York. Nearby are their sons Baoth Murphy (1919-1935) and Patrick Murphy (1920-1937). The inscription on Sara’s gravestone reads “…and She made all of light” from the English poet Thomas Campion. Gerald’s speaks more to his personality: “Ripeness is all.” from “King Lear. I’ve been meaning to go for 10 years and it Continue Reading →