Eva Tanguay

Last updated

Eva Tanguay
Eva Tanguay, ca. 1898
Background information
Born(1878-08-01)August 1, 1878
Marbleton, Quebec, Canada
DiedJanuary 11, 1947(1947-01-11) (aged 68)
Hollywood, California, United States
Genres Vaudeville
Occupation(s)Singer, entertainer
Years active1888–1930s

Eva Tanguay (August 1, 1878 – January 11, 1947) was a Canadian singer and entertainer who billed herself as "the girl who made vaudeville famous". She was known as "The Queen of Vaudeville" during the height of her popularity from the early 1900s until the early 1920s. Tanguay also appeared in films, and was the first performer to achieve national mass-media celebrity, with publicists and newspapers covering her tours from coast-to-coast, out-earning the likes of contemporaries Enrico Caruso and Harry Houdini at one time, and being described by Edward Bernays, "the father of public relations", as "our first symbol of emergence from the Victorian age." [1]

Canadians citizens of Canada

Canadians are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, several of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Canadian.

Vaudeville genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s

Vaudeville is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment born in France at the end of the 18th century. A vaudeville was originally a comedy without psychological or moral intentions, based on a comical situation: a kind of dramatic composition or light poetry, interspersed with songs or ballets. It became popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, but the idea of vaudeville's theatre changed radically from its French antecedent.

Enrico Caruso Italian operatic tenor

Enrico Caruso was an Italian operatic tenor. He sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and the Americas, appearing in a wide variety of roles from the Italian and French repertoires that ranged from the lyric to the dramatic. Caruso also made approximately 260 commercially released recordings from 1902 to 1920. All of these recordings, which span most of his stage career, remain available today on CDs and as downloads and digital streams.


Early life

Holyoke's Parsons Hall, where Tanguay made her humble debut at amateur nights as a young girl, wearing several knit chair-throws and the fabric of an old umbrella as her dress Parsons Hall, Holyoke Mass.jpg
Holyoke's Parsons Hall, where Tanguay made her humble debut at amateur nights as a young girl, wearing several knit chair-throws and the fabric of an old umbrella as her dress

Eva Tanguay was born in 1878 in Marbleton, Quebec. [3] Her father was a doctor. [3] Before she reached the age of six, her family moved from Quebec's Eastern Townships to Holyoke, Massachusetts. Her father died soon after. While still a child she developed an interest in the performing arts, making her first appearance on stage at the age of eight, circa 1886, at an amateur night in Holyoke. [2] In her earliest days she was promoted through a small theater company operated by one Paul C. Winkelmann, a successful 16-year old multi-instrumentalist who lived next door to her family, and used his influence to give a testimonial benefit show for her at the Holyoke Opera House, a venue which she would return to years later after establishing her own act. [4] [5]

Eastern Townships

The Eastern Townships is a tourist region and a former administrative region in southeastern Quebec, Canada, situated between the former seigneuries south of the Saint Lawrence River and the United States border. Its northern boundary roughly followed Logan's Line —the geologic boundary between the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the Appalachian Mountains.

Holyoke, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Holyoke is a city in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States, that lies between the western bank of the Connecticut River and the Mount Tom Range. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 39,880. As of 2017, the estimated population was 40,341. Sitting 8 miles (13 km) north of Springfield, Holyoke is part of the Springfield Metropolitan Area, one of the two distinct metropolitan areas in Massachusetts.

Multi-instrumentalist musician who plays two or more musical instruments with some degree of proficiency

A multi-instrumentalist is a musician who plays two or more musical instruments at a professional level of proficiency.


Two years later, she was touring professionally with a production of a stage adaptation of the popular Frances Hodgson Burnett novel Little Lord Fauntleroy . Tanguay eventually landed a spot in the Broadway musical My Lady in 1901. [2] The 1904 show The Chaperons led to her rise in popularity. [3] By 1905, she was also performing in vaudeville as a solo act, where she would spend much of the remainder of her career.[ citation needed ]

Frances Hodgson Burnett English-American childrens playwright and author

Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett was a British-born American novelist and playwright. She is best known for the three children's novels Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911).

<i>Little Lord Fauntleroy</i> novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Little Lord Fauntleroy is a novel by the English-American writer Frances Hodgson Burnett, her first children's novel. It was published as a serial in St. Nicholas Magazine from November 1885 to October 1886, then as a book by Scribner's in 1886. The illustrations by Reginald B. Birch set fashion trends and the novel set a precedent in copyright law when Burnett won a lawsuit in 1888 against E. V. Seebohm over the rights to theatrical adaptations of the work.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

Stage career

Advertisement (1916) Eva Tanguay adv 1916.jpg
Advertisement (1916)
The Wild Girl (1917) The Wild Girl.jpg
The Wild Girl (1917)

Although she possessed only an average voice, the enthusiasm with which Tanguay performed her suggestive songs soon made her an audience favorite. She went on to have a long-lasting vaudeville career and eventually commanded one of the highest salaries of any performer of the day, earning as much as $3,500 a week (about $90,000 in 2019 dollars) at the height of her fame around 1910. [6]

After seeing her perform, English poet and sexual revolutionary Aleister Crowley called Tanguay America's equivalent to Europe's music hall greats, Marie Lloyd of England and Yvette Guilbert of France. The American Genius wrote, "is unlike all others. The 'cultured' artist, in this country, is always a mediocrity. ... The true American is, above all things, FREE; with all the advantages and disadvantages that that implies. His genius is a soul lonely, disolate, reaching to perfection in some unguessed direction. ... Eva Tanguay is the perfect American artist. She is... starry chaste in her colossal corruption." [7]

Aleister Crowley English poet, mountaineer, and occultist

Aleister Crowley was an English occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer. He founded the religion of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Æon of Horus in the early 20th century. A prolific writer, he published widely over the course of his life.

Music hall Type of British theatrical entertainment popular between 1850 and 1960

Music hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment that was popular from the early Victorian era, beginning around 1850. It ended, arguably, after the First World War, when the halls rebranded their entertainment as Variety. Perceptions of a distinction in Britain between bold and scandalous Victorian Music Hall and subsequent, more respectable Variety differ. Music hall involved a mixture of popular songs, comedy, speciality acts, and variety entertainment. The term is derived from a type of theatre or venue in which such entertainment took place. American vaudeville was in some ways analogous to British music hall, featuring rousing songs and comic acts.

Marie Lloyd English music hall singer, comedian and musical theatre actress

Matilda Alice Victoria Wood, professionally known as Marie Lloyd ; was an English music hall singer, comedian and musical theatre actress. She was best known for her performances of songs such as "The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery", "My Old Man " and "Oh Mr Porter What Shall I Do". She received both criticism and praise for her use of innuendo and double entendre during her performances, but enjoyed a long and prosperous career, during which she was affectionately called the "Queen of the Music Hall".

Tanguay is remembered for brassy self-confident songs that symbolized the emancipated woman, such as "It's All Been Done Before But Not the Way I Do It", "I Want Someone to Go Wild With Me", "Go As Far As You Like", and "That's Why They Call Me Tabasco". In showbiz circles, she was nicknamed the "I Don't Care Girl", after her most famous song, "I Don't Care". She was brought in to star in the 1909 Ziegfeld Follies , where she replaced the husband and wife team of Jack Norworth and Nora Bayes, who were engaged in a bitter salary and personal feud with Ziegfeld. Tanguay requested that the musical number "Moving Day in Jungle Town" be taken from rising talent Sophie Tucker and given to her. Despite this, the two later became close friends. [2]

I Dont Care (Eva Tanguay song) 1905 song performed by Eva Tanguay

"I Don't Care" is a 1905 song, words by Jean Lenox, music by Harry O. Sutton, originally performed by Eva Tanguay, becoming her most famous song. It was published by Jerome H. Remick & Co., New York, performed in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1909 and recorded by Eva Tanguay in 1922. It was also recorded by Judy Garland, Mitzi Gaynor and Eydie Gorme among others, sometimes with additional lyrics.

"I DON’T CARE" (1905) Words by Jean Lenox

<i>Ziegfeld Follies</i> musical

The Ziegfeld Follies was a series of elaborate theatrical revue productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 to 1931, with renewals in 1934 and 1936. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.

Jack Norworth American musician

John Godfrey Knauff professionally as Jack Norworth, was an American songwriter, singer and vaudeville performer.

Tanguay spent lavishly on publicity campaigns and costumes. One obituary notes that a "clever manager" told Tanguay early in her career that money made money. She never forgot the lesson, buying huge ads at her own expense and, on one occasion, allegedly spending twice her salary on publicity. [8]

Gaining free publicity with outrageous behavior was one of her strengths. In 1907, she stayed with married entertainment journalist and publicist C. F. Zittel in a Brooklyn hotel for nearly a week. Zittel's wife uncovered the affair by hiring detectives dressed as room-service bellhops to burst in. The event made headlines and did not damage Eva's popularity, reputation, or box-office success. [2] She also got her name in the papers for allegedly being kidnapped, allegedly having her jewels stolen, and being fined $50 in Louisville, Kentucky for throwing a stagehand down a flight of stairs. [9]

Stage costume

Her costumes were as extravagant as her personality. In 1910, a year after the Lincoln penny was issued, Tanguay appeared on stage in a coat entirely covered in the new coins. [10]


Tanguay only made one known recording ("I Don't Care") in 1922 for Nordskog Records. In addition to her singing career, she starred in two film comedies which, despite the limitations of silent film, used the screen to capture her lusty stage vitality. The first, titled Energetic Eva , was made in 1916. The following year she starred opposite Tom Moore in The Wild Girl . [11]


Tanguay was said to have lost more than $2 million (about $30,000,000 in 2019 dollars) in the Wall Street crash of 1929. [12] In the 1930s, she retired from show business. Cataracts caused her to lose her sight, but Sophie Tucker, a friend from vaudeville days, paid for an operation that helped to restore some of her vision. [12]


At the time of her death, Tanguay was working on her autobiography, to be titled Up and Down the Ladder. Three excerpts from the autobiography were published in Hearst newspapers in 1946 and 1947.[ citation needed ]

Death and film portrayal

Eva Tanguay died on January 11, 1947, age 68, in Hollywood. [13] She was interred in the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, now Hollywood Forever Cemetery. [12] In 1953, Mitzi Gaynor portrayed Eva Tanguay in a fictionalized version of her life in the Hollywood motion picture, The I Don't Care Girl . [11]


Tanguay married twice, although she was incorrectly reported to have been married up to four times, due in part to her 1908 public engagement to extremely popular cross-dressing performer Julian Eltinge, who played the bride while she dressed in traditional male formal attire. They exchanged rings but they never legally wed. [2]

Her first marriage was to dancer John Ford in 1913, but they divorced after four years. Following her divorce, Tanguay was romantically linked, though never married, as was sometimes reported, to vaudeville dancer Roscoe Ails. She terminated the relationship after Ails' behavior became increasingly erratic and violent. [2]

In 1927, aged 49, Tanguay married her piano accompanist, 23-year-old Al Parado. Shortly after the marriage she had it annulled on the grounds of fraud. [12] She claimed that Parado had at least two other names which he used so frequently that she was not sure which one was real. [14] The marriage was actually a publicity ploy, and was dissolved by Tanguay when it did not bear the intended promotional results. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Billie Burke American stage and film actress

Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke was an American actress who was famous on Broadway, on radio, early silent film, and subsequently in sound film. She is best known to modern audiences as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Fanny Brice American actress, singer and comedian

Fania Borach, known professionally as Fanny Brice or Fannie Brice, was an American illustrated song model, comedienne, singer, theater, and film actress who made many stage, radio, and film appearances and is known as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series The Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after her death, Brice was portrayed on the Broadway stage by Barbra Streisand in the 1964 musical Funny Girl; Streisand also starred in its 1968 film adaptation, for which she won an Oscar.

Barbara La Marr actress

Barbara La Marr was an American film actress and screenwriter who appeared in 27 films during her career between 1920 and 1926. La Marr was also noted by the media for her beauty, dubbed as the "Girl Who is too Beautiful," as well as her tumultuous personal life.

Lilyan Tashman actress

Lilyan Tashman was an American vaudeville, Broadway, and film actress. Tashman was best known for her supporting roles as tongue-in-cheek villainesses and the vindictive "other woman." She made 66 films over the course of her Hollywood career and although she never obtained superstar status, her cinematic performances are described as "sharp, clever and have aged little over the decades."

Gilda Gray Dancer, singer, actress

Gilda Gray was an American actress and dancer who popularized a dance called the "shimmy" which became fashionable in 1920s films and theater productions.

Mary Nolan actress

Mary Nolan was an American stage and film actress, singer and dancer. She began her career as a Ziegfeld girl in the 1920s performing under the stage name Imogene "Bubbles" Wilson. She was fired from the Ziegfeld Follies in 1924 for her involvement in a tumultuous and highly publicized affair with comedian Frank Tinney. She left the United States shortly thereafter and began making films in Germany. She appeared in seventeen German films from 1925 to 1927 using a new stage name, Imogene Robertson.

Mary Lorson is an American writer, musician and composer. Best known for her time as the lead singer of alternative pop groups Madder Rose and Saint Low, Lorson has gone on to release albums with The Piano Creeps and Mary Lorson & the Soubrettes. She lives in Ithaca, New York.

Blanche Ring American actress and singer

Blanche Ring was an American singer and actress in Broadway theatre productions, musicals, and Hollywood motion pictures.

Lola Carmelita Cotton was, as a child, a vaudeville mentalist and hypnotist, whose performance career flourished from about 1899 to 1915. Her shows were particularly popular in Los Angeles, California and New York City.

Gertrude Hoffmann (dancer) American dancer

Gertrude Hoffman (1886–1966) was an early 20th-century vaudeville dancer and choreographer.

Bird Millman American circus performer, Ziegfeld Girl

Bird Millman O’Day was one of the most celebrated high-wire performers of all time. During the “Golden Age of the American Circus,” she was a premiere attraction with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Althea Henley American film actress

Althea Henley was an American film actress and dancer. She appeared in approximately 15 films between 1930 and 1936.

Andrew L. Erdman is an American author, journalist, and scholar. He served as a staff reporter at Fortune magazine where he wrote a weekly human interest column and profiles of the world’s billionaires. He has written for National Lampoon, Diversions, Women.com and LifetimeTV.com. Erdman has worked in television, serving as head writer for the talk/comedy/variety show Sex, Lives, and Video Clips on VH1. Andrew received his doctorate in theater studies from the City University of New York. He has taught writing, media studies, film, and drama at a number of colleges and universities in the New York City area including Hunter College and Brooklyn College. His book Blue Vaudeville: Sex, Morals, and the Mass Marketing of Amusement, 1895-1915, was published by McFarland in 2003. His new book Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay is the first-ever biography of legendary performer Eva Tanguay (1878–1947), known as “The ‘I Don’t Care’ Girl.” The book will be published by Cornell University Press.

The I Don't Care Girl is a 1953 Technicolor film starring Mitzi Gaynor. It is a biography of an entertainer, Eva Tanguay.

Frank Tinney Comedian and film actor

Frank Aloysius Robert Tinney was an American blackface comedian and actor.

Florence Walton American vaudeville dancer and cabaret performer

Florence Walton was a vaudeville dancer and cabaret performer in the 1910s and '20s.

Blanche Merrill US songwriter

Blanche L. Merrill was a songwriter specializing in tailoring her characterizations to specific performers. She is most well-known for the songs she wrote for Fanny Brice.

Florence Tempest

Florence Tempest, born Claire Lillian Ijames, sometimes billed as Florenze Tempest, was an American comedian and dancer, a vaudeville and musical theatre performer, best known as part of "Sunshine and Tempest" with her sister, Marion Sunshine.


  1. Rosen, Jody (December 1, 2009). "Vanishing Act; In search of Eva Tanguay, the first rock star". Slate. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Erdman, Andrew. Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay, Cornell University Press, 2012 pp. 30–32, 36–38, 47, 93–94, 100–03, 114–15, 139–43, 212–14, 222–23.
  3. 1 2 3 Alan Phillip. Into the 20th Century 1900/1910, "Canada's Illustrated History" series, Natural Science of Canada Ltd., 1977, p. 17
  4. Hill, Everett Gleason (1918). "Paul C. Winkelmann". A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County. II. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 471.
  5. "Opera House". Holyoke Transcript-Telegram. August 21, 1973. p. 2.
  6. McLean, Albert F., American Vaudeville as Ritual (Univ. of Kentucky. Press, 1965), p. 54.
  7. Aleister Crowley, "Drama be Damned! An Appreciation of Eva Tanguay", The International (pp. 127–28), New York, April 1918; reproduced on the site of Thelema Lodge Calendar for June 1996 e.v., Berkeley, CA; accessed April 21, 2008.
  8. Obituary, New York Herald Tribune, January 12, 1947.
  9. Gilbert, Douglas, American Vaudeville: Its Life and Times (Dover Publications 1940), p. 329; ISBN   0-486-20999-7
  10. Silverman, Sime, "Eva Tanguay", Variety, September 24, 1910.
  11. 1 2 Eva Tanguay on IMDb
  12. 1 2 3 4 Barry, Ed, "Eva Tanguay—'I Don't Care' Girl—Slips Away, Taking an Era with Her", Variety, January 15, 1947.
  13. "Eva Tanguay, American Comedienne". Encyclopedia Britannica. January 7, 2019. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  14. "Eva Tanguay Seeks Marriage Annulment", The New York Times, October 9, 1927.