Great Entertainers

JAMES A. BAILEY (1846-1906)

Owner and manager of serveal 19th centruy circuses, including the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, the world’s largest  amusement institution.  The impresario is credited with the great success of the Barnum & Bailey Circus.


IRVING BERLIN (1888-1989)

Emigrating from Russia as a boy with his family, Berlin took a job at sixteen as a singing waiter and began composing songs. One of America’s greatest songwriters, his compositions include “God Bless America,” “Alexander’s Rag Time Band,” “White Christmas,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Easter Parade,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”



RUDOLPH BING (1902-1997)

Austrian-born impresario and general manager of Metropolitan Opera from 1950 to 1972.  Bing is considered the first great opera impresario in the globalized opera world.




Actress of stage, screen and TV known for her show “Julia” and films such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”  The award-winning actress broke through multiple racial barriers, winning a Golden Globe in 1968 for Best Actress in a Television Series and becoming the first African-American to earn an Emmy nomination in 1969.


IRENE (1893-1969) AND VERNON CASTLE (1887-1918)

During the Jazz Age, the Castles traveled the world demonstrating a new way to dance. The Fox Trot, Castle Walk and other syncopated dances became all the rage as they set the style for a new century. Orchestra leader James Reese Europe often provided the music for the famous dance team as they swirled to the tunes of W.C. Handy and other great composers.



GEORGE M. COHAN (1875-1942)

Cohan started his career as a child in Vaudeville and went on to become a leader on the American musical comedy stage. He was a writer, composer, performer, producer and theater owner, eventually dubbed “the man who owned Broadway.” His songs included “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Harrigan.”



CELIA CRUZ (1925-2003)

The “Queen of Salsa” was born in Cuba, but left her native land in 1959 following its takeover by Fidel Castro. For over fifty years, Cruz performed with several celebrated bands. Her most enduring performances were with “El Maestro,” the legendary Tito Puente. The Grammy winning artist was also known for her flashy stage costumes, colorful wigs and signature line, “Azucaaar!”




Playing an influential role in the founding of the New York Philharmonic, Damrosch led the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House. He is also credited with bringing German opera to New York. Dr. Damrosch is at rest in a plot purchased by the Oratorio, Arion and the New York Symphony Society. In a public ceremony, the contributing organizations placed a statue of Minerva there designed by Helbig of Dresden.



CLYDE FITCH (1865-1909)

Dramatist, the most popular writer for the Broadway stage of his time.  The playwright was best known for plays of social satire and character study.



Academy Award-nominated, Tony Award-nominated, and Emmy-winning stage, film, and TV actress.  The Irish-American actress was a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

CHARLES GILPIN (1879-1930)

 One of the most highly regarded stage actors of the 1920s, Gilpin helped found the acting troupe associated with the Lafayette Theatre.  The first Black actor to be honored by the Drama League in 1920, Gilpin received many honors and accolades during his career.


VICTOR HERBERT (1859-1924)

Herbert was the most successful and acclaimed writer of light opera. His productions include Babes in Toyland, Kiss Me Again and Naughty Marietta. “March of the Toys” is among his most familiar melodies. He was one of the organizers of ASCAP, which he founded after hearing his music played in restaurants without receiving any royalties.




Billed as “Herrmann the Great,” Alexander became famous with the “Floating Boy” trick in his early years. He was not a mystical magician–through his humorous performances, he often debunked his own tricks. His wife was known as “The Queen of Magic,” and continued to tour as a lead act following her husband’s death.



FRITZ KREISLER (1875-1962)

Known as the “violinist’s violinist,” Kreisler began his career at age thirteen and was considered a child genius. He played to packed crowds all over the world and composed numerous works that received critical acclaim.




Pioneering American theatrical and literary agent and producer  who helped shape modern commercial theater.  She  managed to acquire a number of prominent  dancers like Vernon and Irene Castle as clients.


DEWEY MARKHAM (1904-1981)

African American entertainer, singer, dancer, actor, and comedian.  Markham performed on both the black and white vaudeville circuits and was best known for his skit called ”Here Comes the Judge.”


FLORENCE MILLS (1895-1927)

The “Blackbird of Harlem” was considered the first black female star to win international acclaim. She was a dancer, singer and a major performer at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Duke Ellington wrote his classic “Black Beauty” as a tribute to her.




The Buffalo-born second-generation Irish American was a nationally known singer and actor who played the lead role in numerous Irish themed musicals during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Olcott’s most famous songs include “My Wild Irish Rose,” “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and “Mother Machree.” Olcott became a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1948, the Academy Award-nominated film “My Wild Irish Rose” starring Dennis Morgan and Arlene Dahl was made about his distinguished career.



Pappalardi began his career in rock music as the bassist for the group Mountain, best known for their hit “Mississippi Queen.” He later went on to produce the rock band Cream and co-wrote “Strange Brew” with Eric Clapton.




Actress, director, and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing.  As a producer and director, Perry, whose support of American theater inspired the Tony awards (Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre), was a trailblazer for women in theatre.



As a teenager, Laurette Cooney made her stage debut in Vaudeville. After appearing in a number of J. Hartley Manners’s plays, she made theatrical history in Peg o’ My Heart, which Manners wrote for her as a betrothal present. She triumphed as Amanda Wingfield in the original production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.



OLIVE THOMAS (1894-1920)

Silent-film actress, art model, photo model, Ziegfield girl, and original flapper.  Thomas was the beauty symbol of the Jazz Age and one of Hollywood’s first starlets.



BERT WILLIAMS (1873-1922)

Born in the Bahamas, Williams was one of the greatest entertainers in American history.   Williams was the preeminent Black entertainer of his day and one of the most popular stage comedians for audiences of his time.