Queen of Vaudeville

Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay by Andrew Erdman

Before Madonna, Katy Perry, and Lady GaGa, there was Eva Tanguay. Never heard of her? Neither had I, but by the time I finished this entertaining biography, I knew more about the First Lady of Vaudeville than I ever needed to know.

Tanguay began performing at the tender age of 8, and went on to become the most celebrated performer of her time, despite regular reports that she could neither sing nor dance. She made up for her lack of talent with her outrageous performances, which she undertook with enthusiasm and joyful abandonment. She became known for songs such as “It’s All Been Done Before, But Not the Way I Do It,” “Go As Far As You Like,” “That’s Why They Call me Tabasco,” and her most famous ditty, “I Don’t Care.”

At one point in her career, she was the highest paid performer in Vaudeville, earning as much as $3500 a week, unheard of at that time, especially for a woman. Erdman does a fine job of recounting Tanguay’s life and rise to stardom. The photos sprinkled throughout the text show a vivacious woman, usually grinning or winking at the camera, who obviously loved what she did for a living.

Anyone with a taste for pop culture should find this biography highly entertaining, just like Eva Tanguay.