News and Gossip of the World of Outdoor and Indoor Sport.
[Copyright: 1910; By John L. Sullivan.]
[Copyright: 1910; By the Press Publishing Company, New York World.]
My most interesting experience as an actor was when I hit the road with the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" company. The only reason for my starring as a heavy villain was because I needed the money. I took the part of Simon Legree, and if I do say it myself I was some Simon. One of the papers wrote me up as a "Legree who beats out the bloodhounds for ferocity." That Legree stunt was certainly on the bloodthirsty order.
The way I used to lay that cowhide on Uncle Tom made the tender hearts of the front rows sit up and take notice. I'll bet I was hissed more than any man in the world who ever played Simon Legree.
I shall never forget one performance I played when three old ladies sat in the front row. Every time I would lay the cowhide onto Uncle Tom they would hiss at me and cry "wretch." When I caught the drift of what they were saying I went to the edge of the footlights and roared right at them. They almost jumped out of their seats in fright. Just for fun I tried it once more, and they ran out of the theater.
One night in a small town in upper Pennsylvania there was a fierce snowstorm. The weather was so bad that only a few people got to the theater to see me beat up Uncle Tom. When the show was over the storm had so increased in violence that it was a risk to start for the hotel. As I came off the stage I walked out to the entrance of the theater, and there was most all of the audience waiting for a chance to start home.
Chases Women Into Blizzard.
A woman saw me coming and set up a yell: "Here comes that cruel man, Sullivan." Before the men who were with the women could hold them back they jumped right out into the blizzard and started on the run for home. They must have thought I still had a cowhide up my sleeve. Not one of them would take a chance on coming within ten feet of me.
While with that show I stood for a lot of joshing by the reporters. I always had to stand for that, and I did so because I knew they were my friends. But when a Canadian tried to josh me I couldn't stand for that brand of humor.
I was supposed to be interviewed by a Canadian reporter, who made it appear thus:
"Do you think, Mr. Sullivan, that the story of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' really brought on the war?"
"You can search me," I am supposed to have replied. "But we certainly did give them Spaniards a run."
Another fresh young fellow down in Baltimore said in a paper that the reason the show was called off was because Eliza couldn't escape across the river on the ice, the reason being that I used up all the ice in making highballs.
Our troubles in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" almost came to a climax when we arrived at Paterson, N. J., to appear at the Garden theater. That was the night of the big fire, and the theater went up in smoke.
Our special cars, which contained all the scenery, the dogs, the donkeys, and finally the actors, were sidetracked in the Pennsylvania railroad yards. The manager went out foraging for a new date and left the company there without any money, and worse than that—nothing to eat.
Bloodhounds in Danger.
It was a bad night and morning in those cars. I had to sit up all night to keep Little Eva from eating the bloodhounds because she was so hungry, and a report spread around that Topsy was in with the donkeys eating the hay. Not being able to get a drink or a sandwich Uncle Tom and I were up all night spitting cotton, and we were afraid every minute that Eliza would break up the show by eating the ice on which she was supposed to escape across the river. Aunt Ophelia was the only quiet one in the bunch. She took things good naturedly, but I think that was because she had indigestion and didn't care whether she had anything to eat or not.
At 5 o'clock, before most of the people in Jersey had got out of bed, I started out to look for some funds and a drink. I walked into Frank Remington's place at 316 Barrow street and asked if Frank was in. Calling the bartender aside, I whispered:
"Hey, Bill, is Frank around?"
"He hasn't been home all night," replied the barkeep, and I nearly fainted.
"We are cooped up in a car down in the yards," I told him, "and we haven't had a bite. Something has to be done or I believe Little Eva will starve."
I went back to the yards after leaving word for Remington to come to the rescue as soon as he arrived. He got home about 8 o'clock, and it certainly was a glad sight to see him coming down those yards with a bottle under one arm. Remington usually carried a big bank roll, but all he had was $25. That was enough to buy breakfast and a few other things, and I told him to leave the $25.
I divided the money among the gang and we all began to eat. I found that the negro band had gone away with Geroge Watson, the negro porter, to levy an attachment on the scenery for salaries due.
Manager to the Rescue.
Later the deputy sheriffs came along and levied on the donkeys, dogs, and scenery, and Uncle Tom and myself levied on the bottle of whisky.
At 5 o'clock that evening Mr. Goodrich, the manager, returned with plenty of money and a new date. He squared up with the negro band, but when he went to inquire for Marks and Little Eva he found that they had fled, having saved up enough money to buy tickets for Columbus, O.
The remnants of the company stuck together, and after getting a new Little Eva we went to Bridgeport and played a week.
That ended my career as a villain in the show, and, to tell the truth, I was pretty glad when it was all over.
Later I started out as a monologue artist, but it proved a frost. I had a lot of poor pictures which I explained in my lecture, but it didn't work. The people didn't want to see me in a dress suit. They wanted me to put up my dukes and fight.
[To be continued tomorrow.]