Popcorn Preview: The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

April 11, 2015 2:33 AM

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In Sophie Tucker's words... "I was around when the Dead Sea was only sick." And she was... she was around at least a decade before the people we usually think of as cultural pioneers. She was the pioneer to the pioneers. Born in 1887 while her parents were en route to America from Ukraine, Sophie was a hardworking daughter in her parents' kosher restaurant in Hartford, CT. One day her father sent her to the theater to hand out flyers to the Jewish performers, trying to drum up business. When Sophie found the stage door open, she snuck in and discovered the world of vaudeville. She thought she'd discovered her calling, but got sidetracked at age 16 to marry Louis Tuck and have a baby. As soon as she realized her mistake, she divorced Tuck, left the kid with her 14-year-old sister, added "er" to Tuck and took off for New York... over the strong objections of her orthodox Jewish parents.

The problem was that Sophie had absolutely no possibility of becoming a showgirl. She was... to put it bluntly... fat. And there was no place in show biz for a fat girl. That's when she started performing in blackface. The blackface act gave her a start, even though she wasn't proud of it. One day s...

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