Entertainment

THE VIDEO GAME turns twenty-five this year, and it has packed a whole lot of history into a mere quarter-century

Every spring thirty million Americans watch the Indianapolis 500. It’s the nation’s premier racing event and the pinnacle of a glamorous, murderous epic that stretches back nearly a century.

May is a month of traditions: of flowers and commencements, of the Kentucky Derby for 117 years and Indianapolis five-hundred-mile races for 81. For an automobile race, Indy is ancient. Read more >>
Some people think that the history of boxing as a glamorous business, as promotion rather than as sport, begins with Muhammad Ali and Don King. Before Ali, they say, boxing was I just a bunch of palookas punching each other. Read more >>

For generations it was the mainspring, the proof, and the reward of a civilized social life. Now, a fond student of the ritual looks back on the golden age of the dinner party and tells you just how you should have behaved.

The dour radio comedian regarded his work as totally ephemeral, but a new generation of comics has built upon his foundations

Satire, according to the playwright George S. Kaufman, “is what closes Saturday night,” but for seventeen years Fred Allen used his satiric brand of humor to create some of the nation’s most popular radio comedy. Read more >>

Superb carvings by an obscure artisan recapture the circus world of the 1920s

The Florida Speed Carnivals at Daytona lasted less than a decade, but they saw American motoring grow from rich man’s sport to national obsession

It has been said that motor sport was the first organized activity in America that drew all social classes together. Certainly William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., and Barney Oldfield would have been unlikely to have exchanged pleasantries otherwise. Read more >>

Had Thomas Morton raised his maypole anywhere but next door to the Pilgrims, history and legend probably would have no record of him, his town, or his “lascivious” revels

TIME: Summer, 1628. Read more >>

Robert Benchley, a woebegone chronicler of his own inadequacies, was the humorist’s humorist, a man beloved by practically everyone but himself

Early in 1939 Robert Charles Benchley—Phillips Exeter Academy, 1908; Harvard, 1912—put on a paper hat and hoisted himself up onto a set of phony telephone wires strung between mock utility poles on a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sound stage in Hollywood. Read more >>

Lorenzo Da Ponte, New York bookseller and Pennsylvania grocer, was a charming ne’er-do-well in the eyes of his fellow Americans. He happened, also, to have written the words for Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro .

It was to be a historic moment, the opening of the very first authentic production of an Italian opera in America, in November 1825. Read more >>

He built a career and a fortune out of shocking his fellow Americans

Whatever town he was lecturing in—Chicago or Cheyenne, New York or Denver—Robert Green Ingersoll packed the house. When the seats were full, people would stand in the aisles, on the stage, in the wings. Read more >>
ANY CHILD KNOWS that the amount of fun in a game is likely to be inversely proportional to its educational value. Read more >>

Using the same bold colors that drew the rubes in to see the Giant Rat of Sumatra and the Three-Headed Calf, he painted a fanciful record of his world

T HE GREAT DEPRESSION was as hard on circuses as it was on every other enterprise, but during those years, R. G. Read more >>

In 1913 the Ouija board dictated a novel. Twenty years later it commanded a murder. It is most popular in times of national catastrophe, and it’s selling pretty briskly just now.

PARKER BROTHERS , who bought the rights to the Ouija in 1966, denies that it is more than a game. Read more >>

Americans don’t hesitate to say anything they please about a public performance. But the right to do so wasn’t established until the Cherry Sisters sued a critic who didn’t like their appalling vaudeville act.

The year 1896 found Oscar Hammerstein in trouble. He was in debt, and the acts he had brought to Broadway weren’t doing well. He was desperate. “I’ve tried the best,” he is reported to have said. “Now I’ll try the worst.” So he sent for the Cherry Sisters. Read more >>

Saltair, the stately pleasure dome that used to rise out of the waters of Great Salt Lake, was the Coney Island of the West.

WHEN JOSEPH KNOWLES STRIPPED TO THE BUFF AND SLIPPED INTO THE MAINE WOODS IN 1913, HE HOPED TO LEAD THE NATION BACK TO NATURE.

It was raining. A forty-four-year-old man named Joseph Knowles gingerly entered an old logging road in the Dead River country of Maine. Read more >>

It was fifty years ago that Bobby Jones won his Grand Slam, making him the only man who ever has—or probably ever will—conquer the “Impregnable Quadrilateral” of golf

Francis Albertanti, assistant sports editor of the New York Evening Mail, considered baseball, boxing, and horse racing the meat and potatoes of the sports section. Read more >>

Minstrel Men and Minstrel Myths

It is on our supermarket shelves, in our advertising, and in our literature. But most of all, it is in our entertainment. Read more >>

Jenny Lind and P.T. Barnum

When it comes to the performing arts, Americans have often suffered from a sense of cultural inferiority. Foreign artists are considered somehow better—more glamorous, more gifted, more refined—than our own. Read more >>

How I Beat Jess Willard

“The world is my country, to hate rascals is my religion” he once said, and for more than forty years—before he mysteriously vanished—he blasted away at the delusions, pretentions, posturings, hopes, dreams, foibles, and institutions of all mankind. His name was Ambrose Bierce …

If Ambrose Bierce, America’s first exponent of black humor, crudest epigrammist, and most terrifying teller of horror tales, is now finally coming into his own, it is because thinking Americans are finally recognizing the relevance of his vision—that America Read more >>
Pornography seems to be doing very well these days. Every fair-sized town has its “adult-book store,” and x-rated feature films have advanced from their first big-city beachheads of the midigGo’s to occupy theatres in suburban shopping centers. Read more >>

No other impresario ever matched the record of the indomitable Max Maretzek in bringing new works and new stars to America

He was called “the indomitable Max,” “the indefatigable Max,” “the hardy pioneer,” “the Napoleon of Opera.” About that Napoleonic designation Max Maretzek himself disagreed. Read more >>
Today the place is one great migraine headache of noise and neon, and it takes a very observant visitor indeed to pick out the few pathetic remnants of the old glory: a scrap of decorative wrought iron on top of a building, a carved wooden allegory in the cla Read more >>

Riding to hounds has been as much of a sport among well-to-do Americans as among the British gentry

Ask anyone where fox hunting originated and odds are he will respond promptly, “Why, the British Isles, of course.” Indeed, the cry of “Tallyho!” conjures up visions of Lord or Lady Poddlesmere galloping across the English countryside, leaping mammoth hedges for hours on end, a Read more >>

Pried loose from a furious Great Britain to meet a tragic death in the New World, this huge elephant made a fortune for his owner, delighted millions, and added a new superlative to our language

It is a warm summer evening in 1882, in a small town in New England, and the circus of Messrs. Barnum, Bailey, and Hutchinson has come to town for a one-day stand. Read more >>
The hiss of a poisonous snake warns the passer-by to keep his distance or risk a dangerous bite. Man’s hiss is far deadlier; a single one, uttered in Scotland, killed more than thirty people three years later in New York City. Read more >>

AN IMPRESARIO NAMED HAMMERSTEIN SET HIS SIGHTS ON TUMBLING AN INSTITUTION CALLED THE MET

The curtain of the Manhattan Opera House rose for the first time at nine o’clock on the night of December 3, 1906. Read more >>

Could he have beaten Bobby Fischer?

Oliver Wendell Holmes once celebrated Americans as a people “which insists in sending out yachts and horses and boys to outsail, out-run, out-fight, and checkmate all the rest of creation.” The concluding champion on his list was Paul Charles Morphy, whose yo Read more >>