Queen of Vaudeville

Queen of Vaudeville : The Story of Eva Tanguay

3.82 (39 ratings by Goodreads)
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In her day, Eva Tanguay (1879-1947) was one of the most famous women in America. Widely known as the "I Don't Care Girl"--named after a song she popularized and her independent, even brazen persona--Tanguay established herself as a vaudeville and musical comedy star in 1901 with the New York City premiere of the show My Lady--and never looked back. Tanguay was, at the height of a long career that stretched until the early 1930s, a trend-setting performer who embodied the emerging ideal of the bold and sexual female entertainer. Whether suggestively singing songs with titles like "It's All Been Done Before But Not the Way I Do It" and "Go As Far As You Like" or wearing a daring dress made of pennies, she was a precursor to subsequent generations of performers, from Mae West to Madonna and Lady Gaga, who have been both idolized and condemned for simultaneously displaying and playing with blatant displays of female sexuality. In Queen of Vaudeville, Andrew L. Erdman tells Eva Tanguay's remarkable life story with verve. Born into the family of a country doctor in rural Quebec and raised in a New England mill town, Tanguay found a home on the vaudeville stage. Erdman follows the course of her life as she amasses fame and wealth, marries (and divorces) twice, engages in affairs closely followed in the press, declares herself a Christian Scientist, becomes one of the first celebrities to get plastic surgery, loses her fortune following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and receives her last notice, an obituary in Variety. The arc of Tanguay's career follows the history of American popular culture in the first half of the twentieth century. Tanguay's appeal, so dependent on her physical presence and personal charisma, did not come across in the new media of radio and motion pictures. With nineteen rare or previously unpublished images, Queen of Vaudeville is a dynamic portrait of a dazzling and unjustly forgotten show business star.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 152.4 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 793.78g
  • Cornell University Press
  • Ithaca, United States
  • English
  • 19, 19 black & white halftones
  • 0801449707
  • 9780801449703
  • 1,685,423

Review quote

"Andrew L. Erdman's deep research and vivid prose bring to life the story of a woman who defined American popular culture and celebrity and then vanished from memory. He reveals the fascinating trajectory of Eva Tanguay's life--from Quebec to Massachusetts to Times Square--and persuasively establishes her enduring importance for understanding what it means to be a woman and a star in the twentieth century. I highly recommended this book for anyone who wants to understand the past and present of American popular culture."--Robert W. Snyder, Director of American Studies, Rutgers-Newark, and author of The Voice of the City: Vaudeville and Popular Culture in New Yorkshow more

Rating details

39 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 33% (13)
4 36% (14)
3 15% (6)
2 10% (4)
1 5% (2)

Our customer reviews

Before Lady Gaga, before Madonna, even before Mae West, there was Eva Tanguay. Eva who??? The once Queen of Vaudeville, the biggest star of early-twentieth century America, is now largely forgotten. Until now, no biography had ever been written about her. With the exception of a highly-fictionalized movie made in the 1940s, Hollywood has forgotten her as well. Andrew Erdman discovered old newspaper clippings about Eva while researching his doctoral dissertation. Unlike many early stars, Eva left little documentation of her life and no memoirs. This biography required a decade of intensive research on the part of the author, and his effort shows. This is a fascinating story of an entertainer ahead of her time. 5 stars Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."show more
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