Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh, Mammy; You Is My Mammy Dear

Tony B (Babino) is heading to Toronto for a few performances that have been highly praised everywhere he has appeared. He does a spot-on Al Jolson imitation and I have heard one of his songs; you can’t tell them apart. The press has pretty much gone bonkers for this fellow and I wish he would come here.

Today, only white supremacists and Klan members would attend a blackface minstrel show (and Tony B does not do Jolson this way). But for a while, it was very popular and, after people got their heads on straight, it began to become distasteful. That took a while; the “negroes” with their big white lips were pretty funny at first.

I remember seeing my first photo of Al Jolson without his darkened face and was surprised that he went around without the make-up. I thought he always wore it. Some of the minstrel people said they felt out of place without the burnt cork on their face, almost like a mask for a Kabuki actor.

I did research once on the Elk’s Club; what turned up but their original name, “The Jolly Corks.” Corks? Burnt corks, like blackface? Nope; a coincidence.

Tambourine on one end, bones on the other; Mr. Interlocutor in the middle. While I have heard a recording of a “white” minstrel show, I doubt we could get away with staging one. Someone out there would surely form a protest group and show on tv the old-time photos, rather than what the new people would like to do.


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