Charlie Spievogel and the Greatest Drunk Act in the World.

24 Oct

Charlie Spievogel ruled the Great White Way at the beginning of World War I. (And by beginning I mean when the good ol’ USA entered the conflict, Buddy because those pinky in the air types, with their sub-titled films and peanut butter like concoctions that they spread on their kid’s toast that tastes like month old fudge, are always begging us to save their bacon at some point.) Charlie had a stupendous drunk act. Though, he preferred “Thespian in a Tips-a-chorean manner”.

But whatever you called it it was knee slapping, fall down, I think you just wet your pants funny. Brilliant? Yeah, brilliant like the sun when you first come out of a matinee. It simply shed that much light on the human condition.

If you just read it off the page, sure it just looked like slurred speech and some shuffling about in rumpled clothes. But you could say the same for The Little Tramp on paper. Art is what leaps off the page into your heart.

It was so good that legend has it that a man, a lush for years, laughed so hard he laughed himself sober and never took a drink, again.

Alas Mr. Spievogel’s talent did not have legs. It lasted a very short time. Less than Hamlet’s candle.

He began to have bouts of ineffectiveness. (Some blamed his wife, Eloise, who squandered much of Charlie’s earnings on imported liquer candies shaped like the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.) He pressed. He tinkered. The slump made him anxious off stage and on. To steady his nerves he began to drink.

One night he became so despondent he performed his drunk act while he was drunk. A girl juvenile in a fiddle/tap duo, now 86 years old said it was her most dispiriting moment in theater. Decades later it still made her cry.

That night, broken, Charlie retired the act. Over the years it was rumored that some had seen him in a cheap carny show where he swallowed beetles and an occasional centipede. His last official appearance was as an aging bellboy on After-MASH. His character, though rickety, was not a drunk. He had no speaking lines.


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