Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘Studs Terkel

The flash act

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I had no money before the Depression. I had no money then. So I wasn’t aware of anything affecting my life. I was a dancer. I worked up in the rehearsal hall every day, looked for jobs, and auditioned. In ’33, we were performing on what was known as half-salary—breaking in. Whenever we got through with the break-in period, this manager would replace somebody in the act—make up another name for the act, and it would become another break-in. So we always worked on half-salary. I wasn’t aware of it for a long time. I worked on half-salary for years.

Vaudeville was still alive. We used to do five shows a day at movie houses. You did thirty-five shows a week. I was always being hired for 19/35 of one week’s work. Some act would get sick, and they’d say: Who can come in without rehearsal? I was at the time a flash act soloist. I used to work on a marble table top and had one number, “Bye Bye Blues.” I was not hard to place in a show. A flash act goes on and off. It is without personality in any way. It is only the act. A juggler or acrobats. A dancer was, at that time, a flash act. It was only the exhibition of one’s physical skills. You could always be fitted into a show without interfering with anything else.

Paul Draper, quoted by Studs Terkel in Hard Times

Written by nevalalee

June 3, 2018 at 7:30 am

The carpenter’s son

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“Maclean” means son of a carpenter. That’s what my family has been. They were all carpenters. My father was the pride and joy of his sisters because he made his living without his hands. He was a marvelous carpenter himself…Working with hands is one of our deepest and most beautiful characteristics. I think the most beautiful parts of the human body are the hands of certain men and women. I can’t keep my eyes off them. I was brought up to believe that hands were the instrument of the mind. Even doing simple things. I still look pretty good with an axe…

You have to be gifted with a long life to attain a dream and make it harmonious. I feel infinitely grateful in my old age that I’ve had in this country, within my family, the training needed to be the best that was in me. It’s no great thing, but at seventy-five, I’m fulfilled. There aren’t any big pieces in me that never got a chance to come out. They may say at the end of my life, I have no alibis. I have two children of my own, whom I admire and love and try not to annoy very much. I see my father going right on with my children. You’ve got to pass the ball along.

Norman Maclean, quoted in American Dreams: Lost and Found by Studs Terkel

Written by nevalalee

July 4, 2017 at 7:30 am

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