Hi all! I hope you’re having a great week! I’m very excited to share another Famously Unknown with you & I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
In 1884 the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus opened its doors. One of the circus employees, Harry Abbott, worked as an advance man for the traveling acts. Soon however, he fell in love with the Circus’ bareback horse rider, the lovely Rae Fisher. The pair stayed with the circus after marrying and began talking about a family of their own. While the show was stationed in Ashbury Park, New Jersey, Rae gave birth to twins; a boy and a girl who both grew up loving the stage and all that went with it.
By the time the twins were 15 years old, Harry had changed careers and was working in the Burlesque Variety Show industry. He got his son a job in the box office to help bring in additional money for the family. Dropping out of school was no issue for the young boy, who spent his time daydreaming about comedic acts he himself could put on.
By 1918, Harry’s son had his own touring Burlesque show and married one of his stage dancers. Jenny Mae Pratt was both dancer and comedian, and she strongly preferred going by her stage name – Betty Smith. A few years after the pair married, Betty’s husband met comedian Lou Costello & the pair instantly formed a bond. Their comedic styles were such a match, that when Lou’s regular stage partner became ill, Betty’s husband filled in. From then on a permanent partnership was formed!
This first performance was on the infamous 42nd Street, and from there the hilarious duo went on to capture audiences through stage, film, radio, and television. Overall, they made 36 films together and were some of the highest paid world entertainers during World War II. At the age of 30, Lou’s stage partner developed sudden onset Epilepsy and began having frequent seizures. Not wanting to abandon their career, the team did their best to use this condition in their acts! If a seizure occurred while on stage (which happened quite a few times over the years), Lou would simply carry his partner off and pretend it was all part of the show. That dedication and commitment helped build a bond between the two men that lasted a lifetime.
By now, you may have guessed that Lou’s partner was none other than William “Bud” Abbott – their partnership being the world famous Abbott & Costello! Their sketch “Who’s On First” is one of the best known comedic acts of all time and it earned the pair a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, even though neither of them were baseball players! Abbott also earned 3 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame throughout his long career, before passing away from a stroke at the age of 79 in 1974. Even though he had Epilepsy, Bud found a way to share humor with his beloved audiences. This legacy reminds us that, even though our circumstances may not be what we had hoped for, there is always room for us to smile.
I know I will the next time I hear “Who’s On First”
Thanks Bud, for reminding us to Seize The Day!