Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012
Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay (Cornell University Press), by Andrew L. Erdman
Her biographer readily admits that Eva Tanguay wasn’t much of a singer or a dancer, and yet she was one of America’s biggest stars a century ago. Andrew Erdman uncovers Tanguay as an influence on the later, better-remembered Mae West and a scandal-courting, publicity-seeking precedent for Madonna and Lady Gaga. Erdman is fascinated by Tanguay’s milieu, the vaudeville circuit that coincided with the rise of mass media. Movies were a dim flicker when Tanguay debuted, sound recordings were tinny souvenirs and radio was limited to ship to shore messages, but by 1920, these newer media eclipsed her and marginalized her kind of kicks.