BOOK: Rose’s Royal Midgets by Trav S.D.
My pal, author and performer Trav S.D. has teamed up with my other pal, photographer and entrepreneur Jim Moore and published a new book. Both gentlemen are no stranger to these pages, and I am more than pleased to feature them yet again.
The book that they have collaborated on (which if it were written by a phd would be a monograph) is Rose’s Royal Midgets and other Little People of Vaudeville. It’s a fantastic history of a nearly forgotten vaudeville group that was a big deal during the heyday of Vaudeville.
It’s also the story of someone’s grandma, who was in the troupe back in the day. And finally, it’s the story of America’s fascination and treatment of Little People during the last 100 years.
Ike Rose was a showman and producer who followed in the footsteps of PT Barnum and Florenz Ziegfeld. He was the husband of renowned burlesque dancer Saharet, and became most famous for importing American acts into Europe. He booked Houdini in Berlin, the modern dancer Ruth St. Denis in London, and was the manager of the Hilton Sisters, a pair of conjoined twins who appear in the 1932 film Freaks.
Rose’s Royal Midgets
Just before World War II began, Rose put together a company of little people which he entitled (without too much hubris) Rose’s Royal Midgets. It was quite successful for a long time, a vaudeville staple. Under Rose’s ability to garner newspaper ink, the troupe became a nearly household name. They played the 1932 Winter Olympics, the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, and the 1939 World Fair in NY, among many other engagements. . Rose passed away in 1935, and the troupe that outlasted him by almost 25 years, and ran long after vaudeville’s corpse was nothing more than a skeleton.
One of the troupe members was Gladys Farkas, a Hungarian little person. The book contains interviews and reminiscences from her child and grand daughter (Karen McCarty, who is a professional clown.) As well, the book is chock full of reproductions of postcards, playbills, newspaper articles, contracts, and photographs. And it contains a foreword by James Taylor, the impresario behind the Shocked and Amazed magazine and website.
What’s great about this book are, well, a number of things. The care and detail in which the facts, artifacts, and interviews are presented is very evident, and the skill in which other troupes are mentioned and how this particular troupe is place in the context of vaudeville, of sideshow, and of the greater movement away from Little People exploitation is just well-done. You will finish reading this relatively short book with a thorough appreciation of times gone by, and a desire to find out more about other aspects of vaudeville.
See Trav S.D.’s blog Travalanche.
See Jim Moore’s blog Vaudevisuals.
Here’s a video by circus historian Hovey Burgess about the book.
And here’s a video by Jim Moore, which is some of the source interview with Karen McCarty. https://vimeo.com/455335312