That’s entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

Trinidad started early in the wacky and flamboyant department

by Ken Fletcher

TRINIDAD — Although vaudeville was offered as “family entertainment,” at times it could attract a rowdy customer, as reported in the Chronicle-News on March 21, 1906:

“C.S. Talbert was arrested last evening at the Crystal theater where he was creating a disturbance and annoying the patrons of the house. A cop harvested this fellow before he got very busy. He made considerable objection to being taken in but he was landed with a charge of drunk and disorderly against his name.”

Behind the stage curtain, trouble also could erupt as quoted from the Chronicle-News on February 28, 1909:

“Phyllis Allen, a contralto singer, and Corinne Sales, a pretty little dancing girl, both appearing before the footlights of the Crystal this week, became involved in a fight yesterday afternoon during the matinee performance, and the singer, weighing some 185 pounds, plunged a finger nail file into the arm of the dancer, who tips the scale barely at the ninety notch.

The fight was brought about by insinuations of Miss Allen, which angered Miss Sales, who, grabbing a small whip lying in her dressing room, threatened to whip the bigger woman with it. Before she had time to use it, Miss Allen had thrust her weapon into Miss Sales’ arm.

The fight came to a stop with the sight of blood and a great commotion was created back of the stage. A doctor was called and the police were asked to hurry to the Crystal dressing room. Officer Wilkerson responded.

When arraigned before Judge Finch and asked if guilty or not guilty of cutting the dancer, Miss Allen pleaded not guilty. Judge Finch could not see it that way and he fined her $25 and costs, which she paid.

Manager Scott of the Crystal, announced last night that Miss Allen would not appear again because of her conduct. He has made arrangements to fill in with a doubling up on the part of the other talent.”

Boisterous or unruly patrons, and at times a feud between members of the troupe, was not the only predicament that could befall early vaudeville. Before the advent of other forms of transportation, travel between engagements was by train. At times the train was late and rearrangement of the scheduled program could prove to be a scramble; as noted in the Chronicle-News on October 20, 1908:

“Yesterday, owing to train delays, the performers booked to appear last night did not reach the city, which put Mr. Miller between “the devil and the deep blue sea.” Five acts had been advertised, only one on hand to perform. Before entering the managing business Mr. Miller used to entertain some himself as a magician. Consequently, he cut out his lunch hour and began practicing his sleight of hand act, which he had not “pulled off for two years”. By the time the evening performance was ready to start, Mr. Miller was sweating like a porpoise, and turning the tricks like Hermann the great. Last night there were besides the moving pictures just two numbers and Mr. Miller was one of them. Stepping before the curtain he gave as clever and high class a performance in sleight-of-hand as has been seen here for some time. Tricks with coins, cards and billiard balls, together with other sleek bits of deception were admirably executed by the manager, while he kept up an easy flow of talk which kept the audience in a good humor. The other act was a very clever juggler and hoop roller.”

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Just a week later, the chief attraction was “Roberts and his white rats.” The Chronicle-News, on October 28 reported:

“The chief feature of the Crystal theatre show this week is a well trained troupe of rats. These rodents perform about every feat except make a political speech. A rat is the least intelligent of all four footed animals, notwithstanding this, these little rats walk the tight rope, climb poles, turn somersaults and do many other quite clever stunts. The moving picture shows the inside of a shoe factory, and how shoes are made from the time the rough leather is laid out until the shoe is ready for market.”

During the week of November 8, 1909, and considered one of the most “pretentious” acts to ever hit the stage in Trinidad, was the “Huntress.”

Huntress is an impersonator and has a big novelty spectacular dancing act. He carries plush draperies and two full settings of the most gorgeous and beautiful scenery. Huntress is a man with a tendency to boldness, who in full view of the audience transforms himself into a “Gibson Girl” that would make even an original envious. At the finish of his dance there is a transformation scene and the stage in full view of the audience transforms to a beautiful Arctic setting showing a sea of ice and icebergs in most gorgeous colors, and glitter, foil and spangles. After the transformation the dancer is seen to make his entrance in a beautiful sleigh drawn by a reindeer. The dancer alights and a large globe is rolled in and on this he does his dance. Gorgeous electrical effects follow the dancer as he rolls over the stage on the globe manipulating the huge white draperies which hand in graceful billows from his shoulders. This dance is called “L’esprit du Nord” or the Spirit of the North. To his credit it must be said that there is nothing offensive in this transformation and the entire act while sensational is the acme of refinement and cleverness.” (Monitor, November 12, 1909)

The Crystal would continue to offer vaudeville until July 1913 when it was discontinued.