Julian fans, if you noticed the L-O-N-G break between my second post (how to pronounce Eltinge) and third post (gender blended children’s clothing of the past), I will explain: I was a BRIDE MAMA! In other words, I was diverted from finishing almost completed Blog #3 due to familial affections. Let me tell you, this was a thoroughly planned out event, and I’m pleased to further report, it was perfect in every way. The most beautiful, romantic, happy wedding EVER! (Don’t argue, trust me … I am right.)
My daughter’s wedding got me thinking about one of Julian Eltinge’s marriage events. Of course, everything about Julian was extraordinary, as you will see.
And now I’m going to introduce you to one of the important ladies in Julian’s romantic life. Ever heard of Eva Tanguay? Check her out! She was billed as the “I Don’t Care Girl” and built upon her brassy, sassy, defiantly not classy attitude well enough that her mediocre voice abilities were actually an asset. Her signature characteristic was e-m-a-n-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n. Demure? Not hardly. She was a wild, liberated hot chick. “Go as Far as You Like” and “That’s Why They Call Me Tabasco” are examples of some of her song titles. She was in two films, titled “Energetic Eva” and “The Wild Girl.”
So, here’s the story. Beautiful when depicting women, Julian Eltinge often specialized in portraying the blushing bride. Eva? Well, she cross-dressed her voluptuous curves just to poke people’s minds.
Together, they hatched a plot to carry off a publicity stunt, called “bizarre, hilarious and uniquely vaudevillian” by one historian (Andrew Erdman in Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay). Julian, 100% man as we are so aware, was to gown up as the beauteous blooming bride, and publicly marry Eva, the “I Don’t Care Girl”, who was to be dressed to the nines as the handsome groom.
In May, in Keith’s Alhambra Theater at 116th Street in New York City (now the First Corinthian Baptist Church, the structure still exists), Eva accepted Julian’s ardent proposal. Julian produced a ring for the event. Photographs from the time show the hands of the happy couple with their symbol of infinite love. Julian, in case anyone reading this doesn’t know, was particularly careful of how his hands were shown when he was impersonating females; they were considered extraordinarily beautiful specimens of femininity.
The date set was “sometime before October 1st.” In 1908, Julian was a lusty 27 year old, and “his” sweet Eva was three years older–age 30.
Marriage Called Off
- When you marry some old guy
- Who hasn’t the decency to die,
- Or you marry some old pill
- Who you can neither cure nor kill
- That wouldn’t make a hit with me.
Eva’s song became a hit wherever she performed it, of course, due to the circumstances surrounding its release. She broke records during her thirty-three weeks of consecutive performances in various theatres in New York. Her shows were sold out, with extra rows of seats added and standing room only filled.
Thrilling descriptions of their cross gendered clothing, of course, made it into the papers, along with numerous breathless speculations as to how such a liaison would play out.
Excitement reached a fever pitch, and then–Eva called off the wedding.
Her quoted excuse to the New York Daily Telegraph was “I have decided that it would be folly for me to sacrifice my independence by marrying anyone. Not even a millionaire could supply me with any comforts that I can’t secure alone with my salary.”
Poor Julian? Noooo. He’d hit the big time, and was making a very, very nice salary himself, yes indeed. He’d recently opened in a well received show, the “Cohan and Harris Minstrels” which, coincidentally, reaped timely benefit from his “marriage” publicity.
And THERE’S another story!
Susan Walter has lived in the South Bay for over 30 years. Her interests include ceramics, marine biology, books, and local history. She and her husband Steve are historic archaeologists. They have a daughter Rachael, and son Aaron.