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Allen, Gracie (26 July 1895–27 August 1964), actress and comedienne, was born Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen in San Francisco, California, the daughter of George Allen, an Irish clog and minstrel dancer, and Margaret Darragh. The year of her birth has been cited as late as 1906, but the 1900 U.S. Census confirms the 1895 date. Gracie was the family’s fifth child and fourth daughter. Sometime after 1900 Allen’s father deserted the family, and her mother married Edward Pidgeon, a San Francisco police captain....

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Radner, Gilda (28 June 1946–20 May 1989), comedian, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Herman Radner, the wealthy owner of a real estate business and a brewery, and Henrietta Dworkin Radner. She later recalled that her father, an amateur tap dancer and magician who “couldn't carry a tray to the table without tripping to make us kids laugh and make my mother nervous,” spurred her own interest in performing comedy (quoted in Saltman, p. 37). An obese child, she learned to poke fun at herself before others could make fun of her: “If you can decide to be funny, I decided it at the age of ten. When I was ten, I said to myself, ‘You're not going to make it on looks …' I just knew if people said I was fat, I'd laugh and make jokes about it and that would be my world” (quoted in ...

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Raye, Martha (27 August 1916–19 October 1994), actress and singer, was born Margaret Theresa Yvonne Reed, in Butte, Montana, where her parents, Pete Reed and Maybelle Hooper Reed, Irish immigrants who had formed a vaudeville double act, were stranded at the time. Raye joined the act at age three. She was educated in Montana and Chicago and at the Professional Children's School in New York City....