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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sophie Tucker Avoids Puddles Makes Splash at Rock Springs Park

According to biographer Armond Fields in his book Sophie Tucker: first lady of show business (2003), singer Sophie Tucker appeared at Rock Springs Park in 1908. Variety reported that Tucker made quite an impression on the townspeople of Chester that summer. In her tour de force stage performance, Tucker crooned in blackface at the insistence of manager Phil Hathaway and others who claimed she was "too fat and ugly" to be accepted by an audience in any other context. Although, fans flocked to the park's Summer Theater to see her, it was an impromtu performance on the streets of Chester which led to a major controversy.

Sophie was spotted in town wearing a new “sheath dress” and happily demonstrated to an admiring crowd how easily she could step from the curb and avoid puddles while wearing it. When local law enforcement threatened to jail her for exposing not only her ankles but a flash of leg during the exhibition, she was briskly escorted to the local news agency by newsmen and interviewed about the event.

During the run of her show at Rock Springs, patrons called out to Tucker to wear the sheath dress on stage. She did her best to ignore the riotous behavior, as Hathaway had warned her prior to the performances to “Confine (her) actions to the scripted stage.”

Tucker, known as the "The Last of the Red Hot Mamas” for her bawdy song lyrics and style, continued to sing and perform in movies and television into the mid-1960’s. Perhaps her size, or more likely the volume at which she sang, led Paul McCartney to jokingly refer to her as the Beatles “favorite American group.” The remark, made while McCartney was introducing the Beatles version of the 'Till There Was You' (from 'The Music Man') in 1963, resulted in the belief that Tucker had covered the popular Broadway tune in her own career, which she had not.

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