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Fanny Brice

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Biography

Fanny Brice was born on October 29, 1891 to Jewish immigrants on New York’s East Side. She grew up in Newark, NJ as well as Bergenstreet/St. Mark’s Avenue in Brooklyn. As a toddler, Fanny’s earliest performances were when she would sing and dance on the billiards table in the free lunch saloon bar owned by her parents.

On January 16, 1906 (approx.), Franny performed on stage for the first time during amateur night in Frank Keeney’s theater on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. It was on that same stage that Al Jolson performed in his first blackface act in 1904. Fanny won the first prize of 10 dollars that night by singing the coonsong “When You Know You’re Not Forgotten by the Girl You Can’t Forget”. It was on this night that she realized her love for the theater.

In 1910, at 19 years of age, Fanny performed in Max Siegel’s Collage Girl burlesque show for 25 dollars a week. Irving Berlin gave her the Irish song “Sadie Salome” to sing. Originally, it was sang with an Irish accent. However, since Berlin sang it to Fanny with a Jewish accent, she continued with the Jewish accent, and Sadie became a Jewish comedian. Fanny’s performance at the burlesque show inspired Florenz Ziegfeld, the revue king of Broadway, to contract her for his 1910 Follies. She was paid 75 dollars a week, and would become Broadway’s highest earning performer.

In 1918, Fanny married Nick Arnstein. Arnstein was the mastermind of a questionable $5 million Wallstreet stock deal. In February 1920, the deal was front page news and referred to as “The Mastermind Case”. Arnstein was indicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison.

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