Barry Ono—collector extraordinaire

barry-ono-pic-001Barry Ono (1876 – 1941 ) was both a comic ( in the Music Halls) and a collector of comics. This photo from the Collector’s Miscellany of August 1936 shows him lecturing at the ‘Barry Ono Penny Dreadful Exhibit ‘at Selfridge’s Hobbies Exhibition.

In a short article for the same magazine a trawl by Ono through the ‘ For Sale ‘ and ‘Exchange’ adverts in the Boy’s Standard of the 1880s recalls his own early triumphs as an avid collector of Penny Dreadfuls.

“There was a little shop in the Waterloo Road, London, that had stacks and stacks of the Chas. Fox publications when that firm passed out, 6d a vol. mint in wraps. “Spring Heeled Jack”, “Sweeny Todd” , “Turnpike Dick” and all the lot, plus quarterly divisions in wrappers of the Boy’s Standard, Boy’s Leisure, and Boy’s Champion at 3d each. At another second hand shop, also in the Waterloo Road, a shilling used to be my limit for such items as “The Boy Detective, or The Crimes of London”, “Gentleman Clifford”, etc, etc. Seems incredible now, and all a fantastic dream. Yes, my £20 would have gone quite a long way then, wouldn’t it? And many now completely unknown and unheard of rarities would have been saved. Well, since I acquired belated wisdom, many a tattered only derelict have I rescued from that oblivion it was hastening to, midst unfeeling and heedless vandals, carefully have I doctored it, gorgeous has been the half-calf overcoat in which I have had it arrayed, and now a more careful posterity I am thinking will least honour it on my demise as ‘Curiosa’. I am thinking I have been the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the ‘bloods’, rescuing not from the guillotine, but from the flames and the dust bin. Continue reading

The Ragtime Postman

Edwardian postmanFound in a scrapbook of clippings and manuscript material dating from c 1914 – 1930 and entitled ‘Gags ‘ is this written down ditty called ‘Ragtime Postman’. We are informed that the first verse should be sung ‘ by 4 with movement ‘.

Morning, noon & night you’ll always hear

Rat a tat Rat a tat Rat a tat

Then the ragtime Postman will appear

On his back in a sack he’s got letters in a stack

For you and me

And all of us get a move on post man do

Letters with kisses from other fellows’ misses

All of want to see what’s in them

(enter comedy postman & sings chorus) Continue reading

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Making up is hard to do

A rare pamphlet (there is only one for sale on Abebooks), The Secrets of Making-Up, co-edited  by two old stagers, J. Ainsley Brough and George M Slater, is 70 pages of very useful advice on how to transform yourself into anything from a man of ninety to an octoroon. It seems to date from around 1922, but for some reason a typeface is adopted that was current c 1903. There are some wonderful photos of actors from the Music Hall and Revue, all demonstrating the transformative powers of grease paint and powder.

Although politically very much of its time (the N word is one of a number of dubious references), essentially this is a practical and modern guide. The humour—especially in a lively article on Revue and Vaudeville by Slater ( 1870 – 1949), a theatre manager and prolific writer of pantomimes, whose archive is now at the V & A—is genuinely funny, even slightly ribald. The ads at the back also contribute much to modern theatrical history.

Some tips:
1) An actor should ideally shave off his moustache, not cover it with 'goldbeater’s skin' , whatever that is,  if portraying a clean shaven person.
2) Stage Character make-up is useless for film work, and when wigs are used they must on no account have a ‘scalp join’ . No explanation is offered.
3) When portraying a Chinese or Japanese person, 'do not line under the eyes, as Chinese and Japanese have small eyes’. [RR]