George Burns

George Burns had two distinct careers, one an outgrowth of the other. After the death of his beloved wife and partner for 40 years, Gracie Allen, George Burns went back to work in show business as a single. This wasn't the first time, as Burns had a checkered career pre-Burns & Allen when he first started in vaudeville, doing any kind of an act that would keep him in front of audiences. "Show business had a lot of appeal to me," Burns once said, "you got to wear nice clothes, you got to travel, sometimes you got paid, and it didn't require heavy lifting. You didn't really need much talent to get started in vaudeville, and if there was one thing I had, it wasn't much talent." He worked as Glide in "Goldie, Fields, and Glide," Jose of "Jose and Dolores," Eddie Delight, Jed Jackson of "Jackson and Malone," Harris of "Harris and Dunlop," Maurice Valentine of "Maurice Valentine and His Trained Dog," Captain Betts of "Captain Betts and His Trained Seal," and -- at various times -- both Brown and Williams of "Brown and Williams." This kind of non-stop nom de plume action would dismay most performers, but as Burns -- born Nathan Birnbaum in 1896 -- so saliently pointed out, "The only things all of my acts had in common is that they weren't very good. I only had one rule: I only worked with people who would work with me. It was tough, but I loved every minute of it. I was in show business and that was all I cared about. There was always another theater, or a new act, or a new name. I never cared what name I was working under, as long as I working. And why should I have felt bad about changing my name? Even my real name wasn't my real name." But now -- almost 60 years after he started singing with the Pee Wee Quartet for street corner change in New York -- he was on his own again, this time as George Burns, former straight man to one of the most revered comediennes in show business history. This would normally start the descent of most any performer, starting from square one in their seventies. But the single most amazing fact of this story is not only did Burns take those odds, but ended up ultimately becoming the longest-running act in show business with a solo career that even eclipsed his 40 years feeding straight lines to Gracie Allen.

You may also like...