finished, but Mr. Damar would not allow us to take a
bow. The applause kept up and the audience shouted
"Bravo!" "Encore!" Billy Gould
was standing in the rear of the house with Butt.
Billy said to him: "Fine applause. Why don't
they allow them a bow?" Mr. Butt replied:
"It isn't on the level."
they placed Price and Revost, the steal on Rice and
Prevost, trick for trick, right on "No.2";
and shot five-minute turns ahead of us.
Alfred Butt, manager of the Palace
Theatre and later the Victoria Palace Theatre
(1911), was a young former accountant at
Harrod's department store. Famous for
bringing American vaudeville to the English
music hall ("he has done everything
short of flying the Stars and Stripes over
Drury Lane" said one Daily Express
reporter), he will end by bringing over many
landmark musicals such as "Show
Boat", and Gershwin's "Lady Be
Good", with Fred and Adele Astaire and
Cliff Edwards. His appearance is so youthful
that clients sometimes demand to see his
father, or failing that, his elder brother,
and he is known to be "self-opinionated,
over-ambitious". He cares nothing for
art, only how many seats he sells. Yet even
his critics must admit that "his
pushfulness is justified". He ends his
days having made monumental contributions to
popular entertainment, having been the
chairman of the Drury Lane theater, the
manager of the Queen's Theatre and the Globe,
a knight (for food distribution in World War
I), a Unionist MP, and finally a baronet in
1929. His youthful ambition had been to end
as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
See our reading
list for sources.
Butt in 1910, this color portrait from Vanity
Fair. The woman in the background is Maud
Allan, who appeared on the bill with the
Keatons in 1909. Property of the Palace
Theatre, London, England. Kindly loaned by
Palace archivist, Mr. Graeme Cruickshank.
Print provided by Peter W. Burrowes. Used by
The next morning I was called to Butt's
office. With his Damar by his side, Butt said:
"I shall ask you. Is that your own son or an
adopted one?" I told him Buster was my own son.
"My word," said Butt; "I imagined he
was an adopted boy and you didn't give a damn what
you did to him."
Ring, who was backstage visiting Walter
Kelly. According to Buster's autobiography,
"My Wonderful World of Slapstick",
she and Kelly advised Joe to tone down the
act, saying "You actually scared the
audience. They think you are hurting Buster.
The act is too brutal for them."
Image courtesy Rare Book, Manuscript and
Special Collections Library, Duke University,
North Carolina. Used by permission. To view a
larger version, visit their website at: http://odyssey.lib.duke.edu
same day I purchased three tickets for the first boat
sailing. I told Butt the boat would sail Tuesday, not
Wednesday. He didn't know the old story. So I told
him that. He didn't understand then.
I had had a contract calling for four weeks or longer
my treatment would have been different. I should have
waited until Butt put in a stage; I should not have
allowed my wife to flash her musical instruments; I
should have carried my own props; I should not have
made Fred Helf's speech--but I should have taken Hal
Godfrey's word for it.
day we sailed from God's country my father died, and
I never knew of it until I came down the gangplank
again, once more back home--and believe me I am a
better Yankee than ever I was before.
design and captions by Victoria Sainte-Claire
for The Damfinos: The International Buster Keaton
Special thanks to:
Peter W. Burrowes for his imaginative and thorough
research in London
and his many contributions to this article,
Graeme Cruickshank, Archivist of the Palace Theatre in
England, for the images of the playbill and information
and images of Alfred Butt
(an exhibition of the history of the Palace Theatre is
on view in the theater lobby),
Linda McCurdy, Director of Research Services,
Special Collections Library at Duke University for kind
use the song sheets from
Patricia Eliot Tobias, Melody Bunting and The Damfinos
for discovering and reprinting the Variety article in The
Eleanor and Myra Keaton for keeping Buster's datebooks,
Vicky Kothari for coordinating communications and
Sylvie Geigel for maritime research on the big ships.
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