Sunday, May 26, 2024

Andrew L. Erdman's "Beautiful"

Andrew L. Erdman is a writer living and working in the New York City area. He is the author of Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay and has also written comedy for the stage, TV, and online platforms. He has a doctorate in theatre studies from the City University of New York, a master's in social work from Yeshiva University, and psychoanalytic training from the Contemporary Freudian Society.

Erdman applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Beautiful: The Story of Julian Eltinge, America's Greatest Female Impersonator, and reported the following:
Page 99. A photograph: Julian Eltinge and his mother sitting on a rustic, log bench at his gentleman-farmer country home in Fort Salonga on the North Shore of Long Island, fifty miles east of New York City. The gender impressionist scored big in vaudeville and made enough bank to buy this lovely property for himself (and his mom) in 1908, though he spent a few years improving and renovating it. By 1910, it was his beloved sanctuary and retreat, as well as a place for his theatrical peeps to get together and take in some country air and lots of gin.

As one stray fiber can eventually unravel your nice, new sweater, so one page, bearing even “just” an illustration and caption cannot but reflect the whole book, somehow. Julian Eltinge’s dad beat him for his love of theatre and for brilliantly playing-up women. The kid didn’t budge, though. His mother loved and encouraged the boy from childhood. In 1900, Julian Eltinge—rhymes with “belting,” thank you very much—made his way to the top of semiprofessional cross-dressed musicals starring the sons of Boston’s high society. From there, he was eventually able to jump into bigtime vaudeville; by 1906, Julian Eltinge was a hot ticket. Though far from his professional and financial peak, he was successful enough to buy a farm retreat for himself and his mother—and get an apartment for his now-impecunious dad over in Manhattan. Dad had dragged his family around the Americas in search of a fabled, frontier dream of goldmine riches that never came to pass. Along the way, Julian got to hone his theatrical and entrepreneurial skills. It turned out the son was the real goldmine, combining unrivaled transvestic talents with song, dance, and genuine stage “rizz” (as the kids are saying lately). Julian rewarded himself and his mother, Julia, quite handsomely. Beautifully, as it were. Then as now, having a nice li’l estate out on Long Island marked one’s ascendence into New York royalty. But this was not the flashy Great Neck/West Egg of Gatsby nor even the East Hampton of our Spielbergian era. It was lower-profile, more countrified, and appealed to other artist and creative types in Julian’s day and beyond. (The area was humble and lowkey enough that working families also enjoyed bungalow colonies on the nearby Long Island Sound.) This picture says, “I made it,” in so many ways. In the decade to come, he’d trade it for a sumptuous-but-tasteful Spanish Colonial/Moorish palazzo atop an aerie overlooking what is now called the Silverlake Reservoir in Los Angeles. The bohemian hood was called Edendale at the time and was home to several early Hollywood studios.
Visit Andrew L. Erdman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Queen of Vaudeville.

My Book, The Movie: Queen of Vaudeville.

--Marshal Zeringue