Bob Effros in 1929

Bob Effros in 1929
Bob Effros (left) with Vincent Lopez Orchestra

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Magicians & Entertainers

A few weeks ago, many viewers tuned into the History Channel to watch a two-part miniseries about the most famous magician the world has ever known: the great Houdini. When I was younger, my mom would tell me stories about the amazing spectacles Houdini performed. As a kid, I was ecstatic to find Harry Houdini's signature in my great grandpa Bob's autograph book.

I wanted to find out how the world's most recognized magician could have come to know my great grandfather. After doing research on the subject, I discovered that Bob Effros and Harry Houdini both belonged to the  St. Cecile Masonic Lodge  #568 (Lodge of the Arts) in New York City. This Masonic Lodge had many famous musicians and entertainers such as Irving Berlin, Vincent Lopez, Al Jolson, and Paul Whiteman.

If you have been a fan of our humble blog for some time, you will remember one of my first posts about great grandpa Bob's magic quarter trick. Bob was fascinated by all forms of entertainment, and he loved magic tricks. According to various members of the Effros family, Bob claimed that he learned several of his magic tricks from the great Houdini himself! One of these tricks included Bob putting a cigarette out on his tongue without being hurt or burned.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Betty Boop "Minnie the Moocher" w/Cab Calloway performance

Not your typical Betty Boop cartoon!   Graveyard scenes, tears, fears with a happpy ending. Grandpa Bob Effros played trumpet in many classic cartoons. Here is great jazz intro featuring Cab Calloway. Click arrow for some mind blowing entertainment!  
Rated PG-13 by yours truly, Barbara & Jonathan.
Jazz influences and big band orchestras music on cartoons of the 1920's and 30's was powerful.  Opening of "Minnie the Moocher" 1932 features fabulous Cab Calloway.  Awesome dance movements and rythm band!   Remind you of anyone of post 1960?

Cab Calloway became one of the most popular entertainers  of the1930's and 40s,  following success of his first hit "Minnie the Moocher". Success did not come easy for Calloway. He became famous through perseverance and hard work. Calloway also went to law school until he met a man who would change his life forever.  Calloway met Louis Armstrong, who tutored him in the art of scat singing (using nonsensical sounds to improvise melodies)" (1)

According to grandpa and other knowledgeable sources we can say: Bob Effros probably did the laughter in the graveyard for this Betty Boop Cartoon.  He played trumpet on countless Max Fleischer cartoons including Betty Boop,  Popeye, Donald Duck.  As children, we always told our friends " listen to our grandpa on these cartoons!"    As young ones we knew little about his impressive career in Jazz Big Bands.

A wonderful personal memory: meeting Mae Questel, Grandpa's friend and better known as the voice of of over 150 "Betty Boop" cartoons.  At 11 years old, I was skeptical of all the famous people Grandpa claimed to know. (Remember, this blog is a journey of research, joy and love, delving into Bob Effros' jazz music, life and legacy).

I met Mae Questel in Forrest Hills, New York at my grandparents apartment.  She told us  "when she was 17, she won a local contest for a girl that sounded and resembled famous singer Helen Kane, whom resembled Max Fleisher's sexy, witty cartoon character."  According to IMDB, "Mae Questel came from an Orthodox Jewish family whom deeply disapproved of  her having an entertainment career and had their wills drawn up accordingly."  In the last years of her life, she starred in a Woody Allen movie - she showed them show biz can be a real career!
Mae Questel
I was only convinced by Mae of her identity, when she did her "Betty Boop" voices along with hilarious sounds imitating voices of "Popeye", "Olive Oyl" and the quacking voice of "Donald Duck". Grandpa Bob was also infamous for his celebrity impressions. The two of them completely delighted us grandchildren - whom adored these cartoons, and of course remain major fans.  Any writing of "Betty Boop",  credit must be given to Mae Questel's influences, not only to Helen Kane (photos below) but Esther Jones, known as "Baby Esther" a wonderful early African American Jazz singer.
Helen Kane  Source: Tumblr
Helen Kane

Note:"there is quite a bit of evidence showing that Kane stole her schtick from a Black woman named Esther Jones who went by the stage name Baby Esther. (2)

Jones, an African American singer in the late ’20′s, worked regularly at the Cotton Club in Harlem. Jones was known for singing in a distinctive baby voice. Her signature song was” I Wanna Be Loved By You” where she scatted the lines "Boop oop a doop.”

Esther Jones aka "Baby Esther"
Credits with more on Max Fleischer and other cartoons  in future posts.
"Minnie the Moocher" was banned due to early censorship laws. People felt that the content of the video was too mature be shown as a cartoon. To the best of our knowledge this cartoon and image are public domain.  If not, please advise, and they will respectfully be removed.

Grandpa Bob knew all these wonderful women through his  performing. Wish I could recall every detail of these fabulous female jazz singers!