Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mimi Fae Duffy & Austin Goetz


Today, I want to talk about some talented people from my family. And, of course, there are some cartoons in the mix. But first a bit of the past. "Long past?" "No, your past."



Above, my great grandmother on my Mother's side, Mimi Fae Duffy. She was a Vaudeville performer in the teens and 20s. This is one of a series of photos of her in various costumes.

And this is her husband, and partner in her act, Austin Goetz. Yeah, a German name, but he was black Irish. Now, these were a couple of handsome people!

In 1916-17, they were part of the Billy Allen company. Information on this group is pretty much nonexistent on the Web, but I did find out that Billy Allen's son grew up to be comedian/original TONIGHT SHOW host/writer Steve Allen.


Goetz and Duffy (or "Getz and Duffy" as they were sometimes billed), went out on their own, creating a musical comedy act billed as a "matrimonial oddity." Above: an undated newspaper advertisement from one of Mimi Fae's thick books of clippings that my Mom has. This was back in the day of staff cartoonists.

Above: detail from the clipping.

Above: detail on what may or may not be a signature on the art. It looks like "Einar Vitalis Quist," and that is all I know.

Life on the road was lonely. Above, an original watercolor by a guy I assume was a friend named Fred Page. I'm guessing here, but the silhouette may be Austin's, and the warmly colored Auditorium Cafe Chicago in the left hand inset (with a lovely woman offering a nice glass) must've been far away from that town of "Dumpsville," where Austin waits for the train to come in.

Above: an undated Evening Standard cartoon rating some of the local acts. The cartoons of my great grandparents josh:

Austin: Yes - I believe in divorce - it keeps women in circulation.

Mimi Fae: I wear my sweetie's picture on my knee - he likes to hang around joints.

Some comedy ages well. Some doesn't.

This dialogue gave Goetz & Duffy, "funsters - steppers," a whopping 85% approval rate from the reviewer. Since there's also a caricature of Rudolph Valentino there at the bottom, I put this ad at circa. 1926.

Above, Virginia, my grandmother, daughter of Goetz & Duffy. She was raised by relatives while her parents were on the Vaudeville circuit. When my grandmother grew up, she married Charles Powell. Even though she was a housewife, she still wrote and directed, ending up at the Grand Rapids Playhouse as business manager many years later. It was there that my parents met. Both of them drifted away from theatre, but that's another story.

In later years, Austin Goetz retired from acting and became a playwright. STAR TREK's Deforest Kelley was in one of them when he was a kid, and it helped propel him into acting. Mimi Fae became a staunch Christian Scientist.

I know that they did their act, which was about 12 minutes long, for a long time. It was typical for a Vaudeville performer to hone an act over a lifetime -- and those 12 minutes were their bread and butter for a long time.

I did not find a script for the act. This is too bad. But I found a lot of music, some from a revue they later headlined titled "Listen to Me." There was some other music as well. Maybe it was from their act. (By the way, my thanks to my Mom, for showing me their scrapbooks and photos when I visited this past Thanksgiving.)

I never knew them well. Austin passed away, but Mimi Fae was still around when I was a kid.

In 1977 -- before Mimi Fae had passed away -- I remember writing and performing in a little high school comedy skit (with, among others, then-aspiring funster-stepper, and now-current NY Times columnist, David Pogue). My Dad phoned my great grandmother at her home in California, letting her know that I was doing this little skit with some other kids at school. She was very happy to hear that finally, at long last, someone of the family was getting back into show business.

1 comment:

poguenyt said...

And you still are in show business, Mike.

Thanks for the memories!!

--David Pogue