as classic as the curves of a broom handle

car dance

Oscar Hammerstein’s Olympic Theatre was on the verge of bankruptcy until he had the inspired idea of staging the worst act in vaudeville – The Cherry Sisters.***

The sisters were so awful that patrons conveyed their critical consensus by flinging cabbages and overripe tomatoes. At one performance, theater-goers threw eggs and chased the girls offstage. To protect her siblings, Addie at least once brandished a shotgun at an overly rambunctious crowd.


image of Charlene Holt found here

The sisters mistook the raucousness for approval, and considered themselves a huge success so were horrified by a nasty review in the Cedar Rapids Gazette and sued the city editor for slander. A theatrical trial was held the following day with the Cherrys mounting the stage for the benefit of the magistrate, offering their performance as testimony. The jury, confronted with the evidence of the plaintiffs’ far graver crime, nevertheless found the editor guilty and sentenced him to marry one of the sisters. (All parties declined to enforce the ruling.)


From Davenport to Vinton, month after month, the onslaught of rotten eggs and pension-aged fruit continued. At one show, patrons of the arts pitched slabs of fresh liver at the hapless troupe; in Dubuque, they were greeted by “a volley of turnips.” Everywhere they went, it rained cabbages, potatoes, rutabagas; one spectator heaved an old tin wash boiler onstage.


image of Cherry Darling (NOT one of the Cherry Sisters) found here

Then, things got ugly and the reviews got worse.

“Effie is spavined, Addie is knock-kneed and string-halt, and Jessie, the only one who showed her stockings, has legs without calves, as classic in their outlines as the curves of a broom handle.”


Learn how to graft a cherry tree here

In “The Gipsy’s Warning,” Jessie portrayed a barefoot flower maiden falling prey to a swashbuckling Lothario, played by Addie. Later in the evening, a “living sculpture” tableau entitled “Clinging to the Cross” featured Jessie suspended from a giant crucifix.


Hammerstein assured his headliners that the barrage was orchestrated by jealous rival stars. “Your talent is so great,” he explained, “that you can expect fruit and vegetables to be thrown at every performance.” The Cherrys played to packed houses for two months, earning upwards of a grand per week.

They amassed a fortune estimated around $200,000. The American Weekly noted that over seven years of touring, “They began as the four worst professional actresses in the world and ended without improving one iota.”

None ever married, in fact they boasted of never having been kissed. (“We are too devoted to each other to consider matrimony and we could never stand the shock of being dictated to by a man.”)

***You can read the article I have quoted in its entirety here

don cherry 1

image of Don Cherry found here

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 6:26 am  Comments (35)  
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35 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful post! I just love it. Cherries everywhere! And the best pictures!

    • My favourite is Cherry Darling. Isn’t she gorgeous?

      • ideas for the next “corset friday” channeling event?

      • Actually I’m rather keen on the gaudy melodrama of the crucifix clutcher in the storm.

  2. The Cherry Sisters sound like precursors of the Cheeky Girls

  3. Man, this girls sound like they would be perfect for network television.

    The old time version of Walter Huang.

    • Who’s Walter Huang?

      • I think G meant William Hung from American Idol.

      • Yes.

        Although it’s spelled with an “A” I believe.

  4. Something akin to the Kransky Sisters from Esk in Queensland

    I love bad acts. They can be so much fun. Or maybe it is because they remind me of me – – –

  5. Man, I love actresses. I dated several and found all of them to be needy damaged souls who were fantastic in bed.

    • ah…. always performing, even when horizontal… so long as you gave them a “standing o”, suspect they were happy…

  6. They used their assets to their own best advantage – lots of cabbage.

    Thursday Thirteen – Fiendish Facts

  7. I guess the pic of Don Cherry was just to cap off the whole looking/acting/dressing badly? Pretty snappy jacket he’s sporting.

    • Nope, it was just because his name is Cherry

      • To some he was Pop Cherry – – –

  8. It sounds like they were the first in a long line of entertainment that’s so bad it’s good. That genre is now being filled by Jerry Springer, America’s (or Brittan’s) Got Talent, and the beginning episodes of Idol. It would have been fun to be a show that people were actually heaving rotten tomatoes.

  9. A cherry that’s never been kissed?

    There’s a word for that.

  10. Scott beat me to it. I do believe this is why we have American Idol.

  11. Well if bad performances can amass a fortune for oneself, there’s hope for my blog yet.

  12. Think of how much they saved that the grocery store.

  13. One is reminded of Florence Foster Jenkins.

    • Yes, one certainly is 😉

  14. Listen doll… keep wearing those hot corsets, and it’ll be your cherry I’m after taking.

  15. I think these girls would appeal to me as much as Florence Foster Jenkins, I’m particular;y fond of this quote:
    the relationship between Jenkins and her long-suffering accompanist, Cosme McMoon, whereby two deeply untalented people, one totally possessed by her mission and the other all too aware of his mediocrity, find a crazy, touching mutual comfort
    Sweet no?

  16. I didn’t know I could be turned on by a woman with a machine gun leg until I saw Planet Terror.

  17. DAMN WAY TOO MUCH SEXINESS HERE! I feel like I am cheating on my wife

    • Heavens! And it’s not even Corset Friday

  18. That is one hell of a suit.

  19. What a fascinating story. The picture of Don Cherry at the end caught me a little off guard. He’s a bit of a local icon..

  20. Oscar Hammerstein was obviously a man with great vision.

  21. Grapes “aka Don Cherry” pays good money for his suits. Not bad for a Kingston boy, eh?

  22. And Don Cherry’s offspring, Nenah Cherry and Eagle Eye Cherry are talented performers in their own right.

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