This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Happy Hours

07 April 2018

The 1920s were a new modern age.
Peace had returned — mostly.
Prosperity too — for some.
Innovation, invention, and industry
seemed to move the world faster,
rapidly changing culture and traditions
in bold liberating ways,
especially for women.

In an exuberant expression of feminine freedom
women cut their hair, plucked their eyebrows, and painted their lips
in fashions that would have been unthinkable only a few years before.

This impish young woman seated at a piano
exemplifies that new spirit of the jazz age
with her frilly bobbed haircut and Clara Bow lips.
She's imitating the look of an entertainment personality
because she is one too.

She's Betty Dean.

A petite woman, Betty has turned on her piano bench to
look at the camera. Her instrument is not a concert grand
but a large square piano which runs the strings side to side
making a more compact design.
It should be more accurately called a rectangular piano.

Betty's 8"x10' glossy
was taken at the photography studios
of Joseph I. Sussman of
305 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mr. Sussman's studio produced a number of publicity photos
for theater entertainers from the 1910s to the 1930s.
The photo of the vaudeville group
the Cadet Saxophone Sextette
that was in my 2016 story Sax Appeal
was produced in Sussman's studio.

What makes her photo interesting
is that Betty wrote a dedication on the front.

To Mr. & Mrs. Talpan
Wishing You all
the luck & Success
in the world.
From Betty Dean
Happy Hours
Greeting    Season
19276- 27.

The florid handwriting is clear but I'm not certain of the name Talpan. The T might be a K or something else. Below her name, the word construction seems odd, perhaps to avoid writing on her dress. I think she intended "Happy Hours Season Greeting" which would be appropriate for a holiday gift. Also the year 1927 was corrected to 1926 and 27 was added which implies a concert tour or transition from December to January. 

With all these good clues one might think Betty would be easy to find somewhere in the vast internet archives. But unlike last week's story, Betty Dean's history has proven to be cloaked in mystery.

Perhaps she was the Betty Dean who in 1925 played songs everyday at 4:55 PM for radio station WHN in New York. She only had five minutes, just after Engel and Hercog did ten minutes of other songs and at 5:00 Bernard Share, violinist and Frances Brown, pianist played for two hours through the dinner time hours.

Bridgeport CN Telegram
10 June 1925

Following the idea that "Happy Hours Season" referred to some traveling show, I did find a burlesque show touring the northeast in 1926. It was the Big Laughing Sensation, Happy Hours, which starred Norma Noel and a Chorus of Frisky Frolickers.

Allentown PA Morning Call
24 February 1926

Along with Red Hot Norma Noel
the show also featured the world's famous dancer Zalleh?.

Lebanon PA Daily News
24 February 1926

Happy Hours was still on tour in late January 1927 with Harry Stratton & Fred Walker, the speedy funsters and a bevy of beautiful, Broadway belles. Burlesques's biggest, brightest, best bet.

Betty Dean's name was not included in the cast list or in reviews, but she might have been the show's accompanist. Her makeup matches the new Hollywood style of Norma and Zalleh.

Uniontown PA Morning Herald
27 January 1927

Perhaps she was married and one half of Bert & Betty Dean, a Musical Melange, who appeared at the Asbury Park, NJ Palace Theatre in October 1928 as one of the five vaudeville acts around a photoplay film "Square Crooks".

Asbury Park NJ Press
31 October 1928

So what music did Betty Dean play? What songs did she sing? Was she a vaudeville trouper or a radio celebrity? Maybe I'll will never uncover her true story, but I'm sure she was part of a new age of showbiz fashions.

Unlike the decades that followed when the technology of sound recording brought radio DJs, movies with sound, television, and now the internet, in the 1920s music still required live performance. Radio stations struggled to capture the public's attention with this new media, but they didn't use recorded music, they had real musicians playing music over live broadcasts. Theaters kept orchestras employed in the pit to accompany silent films and vaudeville acts. And entertainers like Betty Dean continued to promote themselves with publicity photographs, so in some respects the new age was just the same as the old. 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone has a song to sing.


Kathy said...

I've come to expect the internet to provide me with all the answers and I'm so disappointed when it doesn't. I guess if we were able to get all the answers, there would be no more mysteries to solve. What would be the fun of that?

Wendy said...

Speedy funsters and Frisky Frolickers and Big Laughing Sensation - that is a lot to promise, so I hope they delivered. You always do.

Avid Reader said...

Stunning real sepia.

Molly's Canopy said...

Another wonderfully researched post. I am partial to piano, which was my mother's instrument (she was a livelong school music educator), and I have to admire Betty Dean, whose legs look barely long enough to reach the pedals! And where did you locate that radio schedule? Quite a find.

Postcardy said...

I just tried looking in a Minneapolis paper online--no results. I thought maybe I would see more on the photo studio.

La Nightingail said...

Just as you weren't exactly able to follow Betty's possible career through the ages (although I'll bet Bert & Betty were a team!), I wasn't able to use the internet to discover more about Marilyn Mulvey who did the funny spots with Victor Borge and that surprised me as she had a marvelous soprano voice so I would have supposed a wonderful musical career for her but could find nothing beyond her appearances with Victor which was quite a disappointment.

Barbara Rogers said...

Another great story of a talented musician, wherever she was performing! It's great that you searched for her life story, then gave up and left us wondering which woman she might have we're all left with the same question.


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