Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom

By Herbert G. Goldman | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

THE TURNING

"In my neighborhood, a boy was hung. Why -- or how -- I escaped the
same fate, I still don't know."

Eddie was back in his grandmother's apartment but not in her good graces. She said he had to get a job, and stop fooling around.

Esther gave her grandson a scant breakfast and some dinner but no money to buy lunch. He took to bumming off his friends in the two weeks that followed his return to Bubba's basement -- friends who soon grew tired of his mooching and, like her, told him to "get a job."

"Ah, I'm an actor," he would whine. "I'm looking."

History seemed to be repeating itself. He was an actor in the same way his father had been a violinist. Major population centers like New York needed performers in those days before the advent of the mass media, but Eddie, like his father, merely whined and asked for help.

His friends -- other East Side kids in their teens -- were predictably unsympathetic. If he was an actor, they maintained, he could go on amateur night at Miner's Bowery Theatre. Even if he got "the hook" that dragged unsuccessful performers off the stage before the audience could pelt them with rotten fruit, he still would earn a dollar. Eddie pointed to his torn pants, but one of the gang, Herman Walker, offered to lend him his trousers-in return for half the dollar he would earn.

That evening, Eddie Kanter stood in the wings at Miner's Bowery Theatre, shivering in Herman Walker's pants as seasoned amateurs -- some of whom made livings off their winnings on these nights -- were jeered and hooted and finally got the hook. Nor was Kanter helped by the announcer's introduction: "Next, Mr. Edward Kanter. He says he's an impersonator."

The rougher element in the gallery, there to jeer the amateur performers, echoed "Ed-ward" in tones that suggested the name was effeminate and greeted Kanter's entrance with a storm of noisy catcalls.

-20-

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Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue - More Than Meets the Eyes xi
  • Chapter 1 - The Bubba and Her Itchik 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Turning 20
  • Chapter 3 - The Climb 36
  • Chapter 4 - The Follies 57
  • Chapter 5 - Of Equity and Shuberts 75
  • Chapter 6 - Kid Boots 94
  • Chapter 7 - Whoopee 116
  • Chapter 8 - Eyes on the Medium 135
  • Chapter 9 - The Peak 158
  • Chapter 10 - "Before L' Ma Performer. . ." 183
  • Chapter 11 - "We'Re Having a Baby" 212
  • Chapter 12 - The Other Madonna 229
  • Chapter 13 - Colgate Comedy Hour 256
  • Chapter 14 - "... and You Have to Give It All Back " 282
  • Epiloeue - "0ld Perf0rmers Never Die . . ." 308
  • Notes 313
  • Bibliography - Books by Eddie Cantor (chronologically Arranged) 316
  • Stageography 317
  • Filmography 356
  • Radiography 370
  • Televisionograpghy 377
  • Discography 381
  • Index 395
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