Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Little Napoleon of the Show World

Billy Rose, short in stature but a giant in his field, was one of the great American showmen. He entered show biz through Tin Pan Alley as a collaborative lyricist, with some famous songs to his credit: Me and My Shadow, It's Only a Paper Moon, and one 1923 hit that was lucrative enough to finance his first nightclub—Barney Google (with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes).

He was a firm believer in The-Big-Night-Out. Rose's nightclubs and revues were the toast of New York for decades.

He really hit the legit with the 1939 World's Fair—Billy Rose's Aquacade—"a brilliant girl show of spectacular size and content". Starring Olympian Eleanor Holm (who Rose married after divorcing comedienne Fanny Brice), the show also headlined future MGM soggy star Esther Williams and Tarzan himself, Johnny Weissmuller.

When Rose died in 1966, the 'little Napoleon of the show world' had an estimated fortune of $42 million (funding a foundation in his name, snubbing his two sisters).

I've got some more Billy Rose stuff around here somewhere, but darned if I can find it. At least here's a bit of it.

Below, an ad from the Sunday funnies, July 21, 1940.

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