Myra Keaton and her saxophone.Then we commenced. First number, all right. But when mother pulled the saxophone you could hear them all through the pit. "What the blooming hell?" said one. "Are they going to play that?" "I never saw one in tune in my life." said another.

By that time mother had broken down. I was trembling and all I could think of was Hal Godfrey. Rehearsal was over and no "props." We need brooms, a chair, pistol, gong, any old Mammy has them in her log cabin. They couldn't get them (?). *

Damar, the stage manager, said: "Why don't you carry your own props?" I replied: "This is not a production. It's just a little rotten knockabout act from Fire Island, Western Hemisphere." I wanted to rehearse the props with a few pieces of business. He said he had not time, having gone all day without food to get the show on. Mind you, at the Palace there is no matinee Monday, only Wednesday and Saturday.

The playbill from the Palace Theatre, July 13, 1909.
Part of the Palace Theatre of Varieties Playbill, dated 13 July, 1909. The Keatons are fifth on the bill (not an ideal spot); Walter Kelly gets the coveted next-to-closing spot. The Keatons are on for ten minutes, following three five-minute turns and the overture. Maud Allan gets a special matinée advertisement for Wednesday before intermission (with the head of John the Baptist), and following Kelly is the famous Peter the Great, immortalized by Buster in "The Playhouse" in 1921. Following the amazing chimp is a now-famous pageant show in "Kinemacolor", including the dedication of the Victoria & Albert Museum. These are the first color movies ever made, long before Technicolor.

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The stage ran up a hill. It was full of traps and splinters. It would have been murder to slide Buster about as I do over here. Our act went on at the night show. It was only a minute until we had them laughing. Walter Kelly took the pains to run back, and stepping out from behind a wind, hit me with his cane, saying: "Go to it, you Oklahoma Cuss."


*Though this kind of humor wouldn't pass muster today, Buster insists that Joe "didn't know what race prejudice was. Nobody had told him that there was such a thing." Since Joe refers to himself as an "Oklahoma Cuss" and to the act as a "little rotten knockabout act from Fire Island", we can probably take it as read that he also applied such unflattering epithets to himself.