Lucifer's Valet

a LOST WORLD

Posted in Culture Vulturing by lucifersvalet on 16 August 2011

World as in world of practices, ways of life. Who tap dances for a living anymore? Who can do that trick w/the drum, the one where Buddy Rich bounce passes a stick to Eleanor Powell?

One appeal of vaudeville, or rather, one appealing thing about the idea of vaudeville, is that it is so obviously work. (Which can appeal to those who like stories about work.) It’s right there in the theatricality of it. There’s no sprezzatura: these folks are obviously working their asses off. & have been for years. (What did Gladwell say? You don’t get good at something till you do it 10,00o times?) W/every turn, twist, and tumble, the dancer says, “I’m working hard for you, hard-working people of the USA!” (& this work-as-show reaches its apotheosis, does it not? in Jack Benny’s radio show, whose story was all & only about putting on Jack Benny’s radio show.)

& why shouldn’t these things be lost? Tap dancing: how arbitrary! how absurd! These people are so good at something that was so context-specific, an intricate flower that grew only in one small valley in the great range of history.  (Rich’s virtuoso technique operated in a more durable genre, but still there’s something unnervingly contingent about a drum kit.)

On the other hand, the appeal of women in bathing suits has no end in sight. & who doesn’t like a sleazy Bert Lahr? Also if I’m not mistaken Tommy Dorsey has the screen presence of an inert ape.

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