Wednesday, March 11, 2009

give my regards to broadway

To go along with my previous ragtime post, I thought I would add a bit of information about Irving Berlin.

I learned just this week from a very interesting documentary about Broadway, that without ragtime, Broadway as we know it would not exist. To go along with what I said earlier, a Broadway historian said that ragtime was like rap music during that time period. Irving Berlin was the inspiration for the American musical. Before his innovative style, only European operas were performed.

Watch this great tribute to Irving Berlin from the 1982 Oscars performed by favorite Broadway star, Bernadette Peters. There are so many songs I recognize, but I did not know were written by Irving Berlin.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

paparazzi circa 1915

A random note about one of my favorite passengers of the Lusitania. Alfred Vanderbilt.

The Vanderbilt family was well known, and their name is still synonymous with wealth and prosperity. Alfred lived an interesting, paparazzi-filled life. To the chagrin of his family, Alfred divorced his first wife after she publicly accused him of having an affair with another married woman, Agnes Ruiz. Agnes committed suicide that same year, ashamed of the scandal.

Alfred then married a fellow divorcee named Margaret with whom he had two little boys. Because he traveled often, he never said goodbye to his children anymore, and most likely had other women on the side.

He was a frequent sailor on the Lusitania, and actually had a good relationship with Captain Turner. An interesting fact about him is that he was due to sail on the Titanic, but at the last minute decided to cancel. Three years later, however, he sailed on the fated

There are many rumors of his heroic acts during the sinking. It is said that he gave his life jacket to a woman passenger, giving in to what he saw as his inevitable fate. Although Alfred was extremely athletic, he could not swim, and most believe he drowned as a result.

Alfred Vanderbilt
October 20, 1877 - May 7, 1915