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Pontoons on the Potomac: 1925

Pontoons on the Potomac: 1925

April 29, 1925. "Girls from Keith's [vaudeville theater] at Arlington Beach." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Keith's was Polite and High Class

B.F. Keith was the reigning king of vaudeville in the eastern U.S. in the 20s operating some 30 different theaters and having an estimated net worth of $50 million. Keith had begun in Boston offering only clean entertainment that would appeal to middle-class sensibilities and eschewing the bawdiness of burlesque houses. With the help of his ruthless manager E.F. Albee, he became wildly successful. His theaters all reportedly posted backstage the following warning for performers:

"Don't say ‘slob’ or ‘son of a gun’ or ‘hully gee’ on the stage unless you want to be canceled peremptorily. Do not address anyone in the audience in any manner. If you do not have the ability to entertain Mr. Keith's audience without risk of offending them, do the best you can. Lack of talent will be less open to censure than would be an insult to a patron. If you are in doubt as to the character of your act consult the local manager before you go on stage, for if you are guilty of uttering anything sacrilegious or even suggestive you will be immediately closed and will never again be allowed in a theatre where Mr. Keith is in authority."

Nice interior pictures here:

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