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Cantor, Eddie ( September 1892?–10 October 1964), entertainer, was born Israel Iskowitz in New York City, the son of Mechel Iskowitz, a violinist, and Meta Kantrowitz. Orphaned at the age of three, he was raised by Esther Kantrowitz, his maternal grandmother. He was educated in the public schools of New York’s Lower East Side. His grandmother registered him as “Israel Kantrowitz,” but the name was subsequently anglicized to “Isidore Kanter” by a school official. Kanter, who altered the spelling of his name to “Cantor” upon embarking on a show business career in 1911, grew up on the streets. His grandmother, an Orthodox Jew, earned a living selling candles and other household items and by securing employment for young immigrants as maids in East Side homes....

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Clark, Bobby (16 June 1888–12 February 1960), clown, was born Robert Edwin Clark in a church rectory (his grandfather was the church sexton) in Springfield, Ohio, the son of Victor Brown Clark, a railroad conductor, and Alice Marilla Sneed. His father died when Bobby was six. As a young boy Clark sang in the church choir and played the bugle. His fascination with outlandish costumes, which became one of his theatrical trademarks, was apparent at an early age. When he was in the fourth grade Bobby met Paul McCullough, four years his senior, and a close friendship was formed that lasted over thirty-five years. The two boys soon put together a bugling and tumbling act that they performed at the local YMCA. Clark and McCullough’s act was received so favorably by the residents of the area that, at the ages of seventeen and twenty-one, respectively, they decided to embark upon a career in show business. They began to place advertisements in various theatrical publications. The response was favorable and Clark and McCullough, as they now called themselves, were hired by a minstrel troupe as tumblers, buglers, and handymen, with a combined weekly salary of twenty-five dollars. They were on their way....

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Fields, Lewis Maurice (01 January 1867–20 July 1941), theater performer and producer, was born Moses Schoenfeld in Poland, the son of Solomon Schoenfeld, a tailor, and Sarah Franks. The family immigrated to New York City during his childhood. He made his stage debut at the age of ten as half of a bumbling blackface act in a Lower East Side amateur show. From that time on the stage was his passion and his meal ticket. Growing up in the Bowery slums in the 1870s, Schoenfeld embraced acting as an alternative to working in a sweatshop, as did his father and brothers, or running with a gang. He found early encouragement among his classmates at Public School No. 42 on Allen Street; they responded with laughter to his acrobatic antics while the teacher’s back was turned. From the very beginning, Fields’s philosophy was simply, in his own words, “to give the public what it wants.”...

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Weber, Joseph Morris (11 August 1867–10 May 1942), vaudeville comedian and producer, was born Joseph Moishe Weber in New York City, the son of Abraham Weber, a schechter (kosher butcher and lay officer of the synagogue), and Gertrude Enoch. As the seventeenth child in this Jewish immigrant family from Poland (via a stopover in Birmingham, England, where the family learned English), Weber began at age seven working part-time in a cigarette factory while still attending Public School 42 on Allen Street in New York’s Lower East Side. His life changed dramatically the following year when he literally bumped into another immigrant child, ...