Wednesday, February 12, 2020

No illusion: The Show Won’t Go On is featured in a special show at the world-famous Magic Castle

Photo by AMA Archivist Taylor Wong
The Show Won’t Go On show went on in one of the most historic, exclusive and mysterious venues in show business last night as authors Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns brought their multimedia presentation to the hallowed Inner Circle of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood.

David Regal regales the crowd  (Photo by AMA Archivist Taylor Wong)
Acclaimed magician and writer David Regal was a witty, knowledgable and entertaining moderator as he led Abraham and Kearns through stories from the fast-selling book -- along with a few others.

Photo by AMA Archivist Taylor Wong
Photo by AMA Archivist Taylor Wong

The Magic Castle is the exclusive members-only meeting place for the elite magicians of the world, so many of their stories told Tuesday night focused on the untimely deaths of magicians, incuding Chung Ling Soo (whose biggest secret is revealed in the book), "Amazing" Joe Burrus (who in his own way managed to earn a place alongside the great Houdini), and the many who attempted the bullet catch -- unnscuccesfully.
Photo by AMA Archivist Taylor Wong
There were also stories of  performers who “died doing what they loved” in the fields of classical music, comedy -- and even lion-taming.

Getting down to business after the show (Photo by AMA Archivist Taylor Wong)
The Magic Castle appearance had special meaning for Jeff Abraham, who in his youth was a "Junior Magician” at the Castle, as the audience saw in a projected photo -- Jeff and other young prestidigitators surrounding the legendary magician Dai Vernon (aka “The Professor”) on the occasion of his eighty-eighth birthday in 1982.

Dai Vernon & the Junior Magicians (photo by Victoria Jackson)


Yes, The Magic Castle has a dress code

Special thanks to Paul Green, Ben Roman, Rick Manfredi, the technical team and the chef, among others, at the world-famous Magic Castle...


Monday, January 20, 2020

Montreal Times: 'The Show Won’t Go On' is one of Best Books of 2019


The Show Won’t Go On, the new book by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns, got a surprise boost mid-January when the Montreal Times announced its Best Books of 2019. And yes, the compendium of “The Most Shocking, Bizarre, and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage” is among them.

Critic Stuart Nulman wrote:

The Show Won’t Go On by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns – Who knew that a collection of true stories about well-known or obscure entertainers who literally faced their final curtains onstage could be such a morbidly-fascinating, read-in-one-sitting book? This duo has managed to take a depressing subject on the surface and turn it into a bizarre, yet engrossing catalogue of more than 300 years of final curtain calls ranging from heart attacks to onstage mishaps, which befell upon a variety of unsuspecting performers, whether they were comedian Dick Shawn, British comedian/magician Tommy Cooper, or 1960s entertainment curiosity Tiny Tim.

The Times is only one publication that rated the book from Chicago Review Press as one of the best of 2019.




Sadly, the accolades came days before another performer passed away onstage. Americana singer-songwriter David Olney paused midsong at the 30A Songwriters Festival in S. Walton Florida. He said, “I’m sorry,” and closed his eyes. Forever.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Ugly Things magazine has a pretty, pretty, pretty good review of The Show Won’t Go On

Ugly Things? Pretty Cool! That’s the word from our pals Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns, as the revered music magazine offers the latest praise for their book, The Show Won’t Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre, and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage.

Noted writer, critic and editor Alan Bisbort reviewed the book from Chicago Review Press  in #52, the Winter 2019 issue of the  jam-packed rock ’n’ roll magazine that celebrates “wild sounds from past dimensions.” Bisbort wrote that the book is “touching... dramatic"... and that the authors "have combed the morgues of entertainment history to offer more than mere titillation.

“Though their book charts moments of human tragedy, the treatment does not feel cheap or exploitative. Rather, they use the death as a means by which to reexamine the careers of the fallen and set the stage, so to speak, for their swan songs... All of these performers may have fallen, but their beats will go on, thanks to Abraham and Kearns."

The issue also features an extended interview with coauthor Kearns.

From the Ugly Things interview with
The Show Won’t Go On coauthor Burt Kearns
Ugly Things was founded in 1983, is based in La Mesa, California, and edited by Mike Stax. It focuses on beat, garage rock, and psychedelic music from the 1960s. The magazine’s name? It’s a tribute to the rock and blues band, The Pretty Things.

Buy this issue 152-page issue and other Ugly Things merch by clicking this sentence!

Click here to follow Ugly Things on Facebook.

Visit The Show Won't Go On website for lots of extras.

And Abraham and Kearns’ appearance with Shut Up I Love It podcasters Steven Cohen and Sasha Feiler at Stories Books and Cafe in Los Angeles’s Echo Park is now a bonus episode of Shut Up I Love it.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Show Won’t Go On goes on author's arm

The Show Won’t Go On tattoo, freshly inked on 21 December 2019

Burt Kearns, who, with Jeff Abraham,  wrote The Show Won’t Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre, and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage, has commemorated the publication with a different kind of ink.

Crankee of the Inkpire Tattoo Studio in Northridge, California, was the artist.  Kearns also has a tattoo for his book, Tabloid Baby.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Buffalo News excerpt from 'The Show Won’t Go On' features native son Dick Shawn

The Buffalo News of Buffalo, New York published an excerpt from The Show Won’t Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage in its Sunday Gusto section on December 8.

The adapted passage centers on brilliant comedian Dick Shawn, who died onstage in 1987, and as a special introduction to the excerpt showed, never forgot his roots in upstate New York.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Genii magazine reviews The Show Won't Go On: “Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper! Highly Recommended!"



Genii, ‘The Conjurors’ Magazine,’ the pre-eminent and classiest mag for magicians, reviews The Show Won't Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre, and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstagethe new book by our pals Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns, in the December 2019 issue (the one with Broadway sensation Derren Brown on the cover). We encourage you to buy the magazine, or subscribe to the website.  It’s that good.

And according to the review by Tom Frame, so is The Show Won’t Go On!

BOOKS
TOM FRAME

Your tricks failed. Your patter and presentations weren’t entertaining. Your performance generated no applause, only the stodgy stridulating of crickets. In show-biz parlance, you died on stage.

But that’s merely a macabre metaphor for your pitiful performance. You didn’t literally drop dead, but you may wish you had. If you do eventually perish during your performance, you may wind up in a future edition of The Show Won’t Go On.

Jeff Abraham is a public relations executive and a Hollywood and pop-culture historian. Burt Kearns is an award-winning television and film producer, director, writer, journalist, and author of the memoir Tabloid Baby.

In The Show Won’t Go On, the authors recount the on-stage deaths of146 performers, some who are remembered as much for how they died as for what they did.

They didn’t include athletes, fighters, toreadors, race car drivers, or others for whom death is always a potential outcome. The number of performers who have died and continue to die onstage was too vast to be contained within a single volume. So they chose onstage fatalities that stood dead and shoulders above the rest.

Mr. Abraham and Mr. Kearns grouped the performers into the categories of The Guinness World Record, Theater, Comedy, The Tommy Cooper Effect, Magicians & Escape Artists, Dance, Classical Musicians & Opera Stars, Rock ’n’ Roll and Hip-Hop, Country & Gospel Music, Jazz, International Pop Music, Television, Radio, Social Media, Vaudeville and the Circus.

The authors write well and perform the amazing trick of making this grim material entertaining. The photographs, dare I say, enliven the text.
I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of these thanatographies, so I’ll provide only enough detail to whet your morbid appetite.

Jane Little played the double bass in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. During a concert on May 15, 2016 at the age of 87, Miss Little died while performing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” You’ll learn which Guinness World Record she achieved.

In the Theater chapter, you’ll encounter memorable onstage deaths in which an actor recited a line and then took his leave from the mortal coil, as if on cue. Death imitating art?

The Comedy section describes comedians whose material often served as a foreboding set-up for the ultimate punchline.

The Magicians & Escape Artists section features 27 magicians, and will likely be of the most interest. The authors describe the creepy behind-the-curtain details of Tommy Cooper’s televised death and its eerie repercussions. One magician said, “When I die, I hope it’s like Tommy—on stage, surrounded by laughter.” Be careful what you wish for.

I wasn’t familiar with the lives and deaths of “Amazing Joe” Burrus, Trevor Revell, Charles Rowan, Royden Genesta, Walter Edwin Floyd, Bernhard Eskilsen, or Gordon Williams. I knew about Washington Irving Bishop, but I wasn’t aware of his appetite for cocaine and morphine, which he occasionally used during performance. I had no idea how lethal an Egg Bag could be until I read the tale of Adolphe Blind.

The Bullet Catch is so infamous that it got its own sub-chapter. Chung Ling Soo is the most famous Bullet Catch casualty. But you may not have heard the tragic tales of Professor Adam Epstein, Michael Hatal, Edvin Lindberg, or Professor Otto Blumenfeld.

One magician was preparing to perform the effect, but his faithful assistant used the gun to bash in his brain instead.

A female magician performed the Bullet Catch with a firing squad consisting of six shill soldiers with blank cartridges. One of the shills, apparently displeased with his boss, loaded and fired a real cartridge.

A performer’s father served as his gun-toting assistant. After shooting and killing his son, the father was convicted of “homicide through imprudence” and sentenced to six months in prison.

One magician was killed when a volunteer from the audience secretly dropped nails into the barrel of the rifle.

One unhappy performer “perverted the trick” to commit suicide.

A trusting performer handed a gun to an audience member and directed the man to shoot him. The man did just that, killing the magician instantly.

The double-header in Deadwood: during a performance in South Dakota, a magician was killed by his angry wife, who then killed herself. Hell hath no fury.

As a magician was about to perform the effect, a man in the audience jumped up, shouted, “Catch this one, Professor,” and shot him dead. The man was tried for murder, but received only a fine and probation after testifying that he truly believed that the professor could catch the bullet.

Penn Jillette provides a brief respite from the grisly goings-on by discussing Penn and Teller’s philosophy of the Bullet Catch. They adhere to Houdini’s policy of never doing anything more dangerous than sitting in his living room. The duo believe that it’s immoral to perform any effect that might physically harm them. Furthermore, they contend that anyone who attends any performance hoping to see anyone get hurt is also immoral.

To elevate the effect beyond its built-in brutality and horror, they never say that they’re going to catch bullets. They say that they’re going to move the bullet from one side of the stage to the other, using magic wands.

The authors accompany Death as it visits the other calamitous categories. Dancers drop dead, classical musicians croak, and opera stars succumb.

I was surprised to learn that rappers don’t suffer the greatest number of on-stage deaths, and I’m still stunned by the group of performers who do.

Country singers buy the farm and gospel singers meet their maker. Celebrities die live on television and radio. 

On wretched social media, people continue to broadcast themselves getting killed while engaging in all manner of pathetic, narcissistic “performances.” 

In the Epilogue, Abraham and Kearns describe the ultimate display of audience participation. During a performance by a folk music group, a man upstaged the performers by hurling himself to his death and landing on the stage several feet from them. 

As if that wasn’t enough to satisfy your blood lust, the authors conclude this terminal tome with an appendix of Fifty More Who Died Onstage—a Chronological Selection. 

All of these performers died doing what they loved. Was it really the way they wanted to go? If these spectral sorcerers could speak, I suspect that many of them would say “yes.” Perhaps that affirmation would provide some measure of consolation to their friends and loved ones.

Clearly, this book is not for everyone. Think of it as a litmus test for ghouls. If reading and thinking about death arouses negative emotions in you, then don’t go anywhere near this book, unless you’re a masochist. You have been warned.

The intended reader is someone who is at least comfortable with, if not fascinated by, accounts of people’s deaths. Someone who appreciates gallows humor. Someone who likes true crime stories. Someone with a rather dark sensibility and an appetite for the macabre. Someone like me. I enjoyed The Show Won’t Go On immensely. Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper.

Highly Recommended.

The Show Won’t Go On * Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns  *  6” x 9” * 
paperback * 240 pages * 43 photographs * www.amazon.com
• $16.99

Sunday, November 10, 2019

“FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS!” New Zealand gossip legend loves ‘The Show Won’t Go On'

 

11th November 2019

I’M not one to gossip but…………........................I have just read an amazing book called “The Show Won’t Go On” by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns, and trust me there has never been a show business book quite like this one. To my knowledge this is the first comprehensive study of a bizarre phenomenon: performers who died onstage.

Throughout the 224 pages it covers almost every genre of entertainment, and is full of unearthed anecdotes, exclusive interviews, extremely colourful characters, and ironic twists thrown into the mix. Not to mention heart-stopping stories, thrown in for good measurement. What’s also nice about this well produced book,  is there is a photo section in the book of many of the people they talk about.  Jeff and Burt have done an amazing amount of researching for their book, including a story on a magic act that not even the person who runs the New Zealand’s magician’s archives knew about. You can see the cutting below. Their account of this little unknown fact is absolutely true.


Booklist said: “A wonderful read for those looking for a unique twist on true crime.” 
I happily award The Show Won’t Go On, five out of five stars. By the way this book was not sent to me by publisher for a review, I bought it online.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Shut Up! Echo Park loves ‘The Show Won’t Go On’ event featuring comedy podcasters


Rock 'n' roll electrocutions, Siberian nightmares and the most dangerous occupation in show business were the hot topics at Stories Books and Cafe on Sunset Boulevard last night as the hosts of Eagle Rock's popular podcast Shut Up I Love It gave another grilling to the authors of The Show Won't Go On.


Sasha Feiler and Steve Cohen had hosted authors Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns on Shut Up I Love It last month. On the show in which guests defend unpopular or controversial pop culture figures and works.  Jeff and Burt spoke movingly about their idol Jerry Lewis and his (unfairly, they insisted) maligned film, The Day The Clown Cried.  This time, onstage at the iconic independent bookstore in Echo Park, the topic was the acclaimed new book about "the most shocking, bizaatte and historic deaths of performers onstage.



It was an informative, often funny show that featured actual fireworks when a colorful, awesome display went off in the sky just a block away from the patio on which rows of theatre-style chairs have been arranged for the book event.

Feiler and Cohen were as witty and charming as they are on their podcast.  Sasha Feiler took the topic to an intimate level when she spoke of growing up in Siberia, and how the death onstage of a Russian movie star had haunted her since childhood and led to a special interest in death and celebrity.

Haunting Sasha
(Following that revelation, Jeff and Burt went to their volumnious archives. "Sasha was most likely talking about  Andrei Mironov," Burt tells us. "He was a movie star who was the leading man in popular Soviet films including The Diamond Arm, Beware of the Car and Twelve Chairs.  He was also a singer, and performed onstage. On August 14, 1987, he was at the Riga Opera Theatre in Latvia, performing the lead role in The Marriage of Figaro, when he collapsed onstage.  He died in a hospital two days later.  He was 46. Cause of death? A cerebral aneurysm. The LA Times reported that 'scores of thousands' of Muscovites turned out for his funeral."

Thanks, Burt -- "Closer to home, the classical pianist Mikhail Klein actually died onstage in Siberia two years ago.  He was performing with the Irkutsk Philharmonic Orchestra in Irkutsk.  I don't want to add to Sasha's trauma, but Klein was playing a jazz number he wrote called 'This Is All Russia' when he slipped from the bench and wound up in a heap at the foot of the grand piano.  Heart failure at 72.”


Musician Andrew Haworth wrote and performs the Shut Up I Love It theme and has a new album, Simple Man
Comedy Store legend Steven Alan Green wrote and starred in I Eat People Like You for Breakfast, a one-man show about his traumatic experience with Jerry Lewis 
Another poignant highlight of the evening was Burt's tribute to Stories Books and Cafe as "one of the last literary temples" in Los Angeles, and to influential author Nick Tosches, who died over the weekend.  Tosches was a friend to the folks who run the literary website, PleaseKillMe.com. Burt and Jeff are frequent contributors to the site, and one of their stories, The Death of Cathy Wayne, an outtake from The Show Won't Go On, was a topic at last night's event.

Burt puts at least one listener to sleep
The group discussion was recorded and may wind up as a bonus episode of Shut Up I Love It. We'll keep you posted on that and the next stop on the roadshow for The Show Won't Go On: the Most Shocking, Bizarre and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage.

Courtesy: Raquel Queen of Bail

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Only in Hollywood: Dearly departed performers from 'The Show Won’t Go On' take center stage at the iconic Dearly Departed Museum


The Dearly Departed Artifact Museum was the liveliest place in Hollywood yesterday afternoon as The Show Won't Go On roadshow made its latest stop on a stage that included remnants of the late Tiny Tim and the cremains of Ken Weatherwax, who portrayed Pugsley on television's The Addams Family.

Hollywood legend Scott Michaels of the Dearly Departed Tours and Museum
introduces the authors of The Show Won’t Go On 
Yes, it was that kind of afternoon in the coolest, most fascinating and most deeply Hollywood museum in the world, let alone that mythological section of Los Angeles.  While movie fans queued across Santa Monica Boulevard for a screening at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, Dearly Departed founder Scott Michaels, an acclaimed pop culture expert and author in his own right, introduced authors Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns, kicking off a dramatic yet often hilarious discussion of performers who walked onto a stage... and had to be carried off.

Is Jeff breaking into song? No... well, maybe.
Burt makes a point, with Karl Wallenda looking on over his right shoulder.
The Show Won't Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage was published in September by Chicago Review Press.  The book has been praised by the publications as diverse as Vanity Fair, the UK Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Vanish magic magazine  (*****), while Abraham and Kearns have lit up many radio shows and podcasts (including one dedicated to their shared obsession with Jerry Lewis -- more on that later).  


The deadly duo have also led discussions and book signings at various venues in Southern California, including the landmark Book Soup on the Sunset Strip and the horror haven Dark Delicacies in Burbank.

A portion of Ken Weatherwax’s cremains are on respectful display at the Dearly Departed Artifact Museum
But no site was more fitting than the Artifact Museum, ground zero for the very popular Tragical History Tours of Hollywood and beyond, and the Charles Manson-themed Helter Skelter tour (given a great boost by  the popularity of Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-touted Once Upon A Time in... Hollywood, the film on which Michaels was a consultant).  


The museum includes displays that include rare, valuable, and significant memorabilia from Manson victim Sharon Tate, the cremains of Michu, the late "world's smallest man" (which is how he fit into the Alf costume on television) and the car in which fifties sex symbol Jayne Mansfield lost her wig (but not, as legend has it, her head) and her life in 1967.


The book event took place in the museum's front room, with a seating arrangement similar to that of wake, with Abraham and Kearns placed in the spot where a casket might be placed, flanked by a display of Tiny Tim (who died after an onstage tumble in 1996) and a framed photo and autograph of circus legend Karl Wallenda  (who famously said "To be on the wire is life," and found that to fall from the wire into a parking lot is death).
 
Wayne Federman, who will be starring in the final season of Silicon Velley on HBO.
Celebrities in the crowd included popular comedian, actor and podcaster Wayne Federman and the entrepreneur, writer and most significantly, bondswoman known and treasured by Hollywood's finest as "Raquel, Queen of Bail.” 

To the left of the photo of Scott Michaels with Burt & Jeff's pal Bruce Vilanch is a shot of Scott with Jack Russell, 
whose tragic gig with his Great White band at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island is featured in The Show Won't Go On.
The Show Won't  Go On  book tour rolls on this week with a special appearance at the Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park.  This discussion promises morbid fun, as it will be hosted and moderated by comedy hotshots Sasha Feiler and Steve Cohen, cohosts of the popular Shut Up I Love It podcast (the  one that featured the instantly-historic episode on which Jeff and Burt defended Jerry Lewis and his maligned yet unseen film, The Day The Clown Cried).

Next stop... Tuesday

Acclaimed photographer Donato Di Camillo opens first solo exhibit October 29 in Brooklyn courthouse



The acclaimed photographer Donato Di Camillo is presenting his first solo exhibit, somewhat fittingly, in a federal courthouse.


Di Camillo, who famously went from a prison term to acclaim as one of New York City’s top street photographers, is now considered one of the finest documentary photographers in the country.  His very first solo show opens on October 29 at the United States District Court on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.

The exhibit in the Hon. Charles P. Sifton Gallery will take place in the same building in which Di Camillo was indicted many years ago for crime family-related activities. He was invited back by United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, who considers Donato Di Camillo to be one of the justice system's greatest success stories. Di Camillo learned photography during his prison stay.




Find out more about Donato Di Camillo here, and find another reason to visit a courthouse by his photo exhibit.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Authors Abraham & Kearns’ 'Show Won’t Go On' roadshow rolls into Hollywood & Echo Park October 19 & 22


The show is most definitely going on in Los Angeles later this week for the pair Vanity Fair has called  “show business and pop culture savants.”  Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns, authors of The Show Won’t Go On, will be out and about in Los Angeles for more unpredictable, informative and often hilarious discussions and signings of the book about “The Most Shocking, Bizarre and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage.”


The pair takes their show to the Dearly Departed Artifact Museum in Hollywood on Saturday afternoon, October 19 at five p.m.  Museum founder Scott Michaels, an author and celebrity in his own right, will host the event amid a unique collection of celebrity death memorabilia, from “The Jayne Mansfield Death Car” to the cremated remains of Michu, the little star of Big Top Pee Wee and Alf.  Michaels is best known as for his Dearly Departed Tours, which offer essential tragical history tours of Hollywod from star's homes to death sites.  


On Tuesday, October 22 at 8 p.m., Abraham and Kearns will meet the crowd at Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park. The event at the book lovers’ oasis and literary hotspot will be hosted and moderated by the podcast stars of Eagle Rock.  Improv performer and comedy writer Sasha Feiler and comedian Steven Cohen host the popular Shut Up I Love It podcast.  Abraham and Kearns were guests on the show in September, defending their hero, Jerry Lewis, and his unseen yet often-maligned film, The Day The Clown Cried.

Cohen & Feiler of Shut Up I Love It
The Show Won't Go On, published by Chicago Review Press, has received great acclaim from the likes of Vanity Fair, the UK Telegraph and Daily MailNational Public Radio — and Gilbert Gottfried.  The book, audiobook and ebook are all available at bookstores, Amazon and other online bookstores -- and through the website, TheShowWontGoOn.com.

Watch this space for the latest on events by The Show Won’t Go On team.


JEFF ABRAHAM AND BURT KEARNS, authors of The Show Won't Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre, and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage:

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19 at 5 pm:  DEARLY DEPARTED ARTIFACT MUSEUM, 5901 Santa Monica Blvd, HOLLYWOOD
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22 at 8 pm: STORIES BOOKS & CAFE, 1716 Sunset Blvd,  ECHO PARK