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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

Al Jolson, perhaps the most famous vaudeville star in the world, caused a sensation at Spokane’s Auditorium Theater in the touring show “Dancing Around.”

The “dynamic little blackface star,” as The Spokesman-Review’s critic called him, was “completely surrounded by dimpled dancing maidens.” Yet Jolson completely dominated the show.

When anyone else threatened to get a laugh, Jolson acted like the “German submarine that bobs upon the scene and torpedoes the efforts of the others without warning.”

“No plot can survive long in the zone of Jolson’s impromptu efforts,” said the critic. “That does not mean Jolson spoils the show. He makes it. Without him, it would be a mere series of terpsichorean and sartorial spectacles with little cohesion. Jolson means laughter every time he appears.”

Jolson regaled the audience with the “sad, sweet story of his life, with his aims and shattered ambitions,” including his ambition to be “a whiteface star.”

“To demonstrate this, he did appear for a minute at the end of the last act in natural hue and sang, ‘Everybody Rag With Me.’ ”

The crowd “could not get enough.” For an encore Jolson sang “When Grownup Ladies Act Like Babies.”

 

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