Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line


At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions


Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists


‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam


‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6

Come Back, Little Shiva

Cabbages & Kings

By Harry K. Schwartz

"It's TV that's bringing it back," the man in the next row said. "You can't kill vaudeville."

He turned and pointed to the billings at the side of the stage. Howardscope. Complete New Policy. Four Shows Daily. Winnie and Willie, Manny King & Co. Dick Richards (Golden Voiced). Shiva and Her Snake.

"Real talent," he went on. "Seen that Manny King years ago in Baltimore. We didn't have no real vaudeville house in Boston, just burlesque. A man couldn't take his family to the show."

For an event like the Grand Premiere of the Old Howard's new vaudeville policy, however, a man could. Mother and a shy looking little girl wearing the forest green of the Girl Scouts completed the family group. Scattered through the sparse audience one could see whole clusters of Decent Citizens. The balcony, if nearly empty, had a more familiar look. A few soldiers on leave, four or five black-jacketed motorcyclists, and a pair of youths in red blazers lettered "M-I-T" looked down from the lower horseshoe.

With a short fanfare from the pit, the show got under way. A prim looking kickline pranced around the stage, fully clothed, as the Golden Voiced male singer implored the audience to "Have fun, you sonofagun, have fun!" Two of the soldiers in the balcony craned forward, eyeing the chorus. They got up to leave.

The billing sign on the side lit up "Shiva and Her Snake" and the curtains parted before a cardboard idol with green light bulbs for eyes. The orchestra was playing something Arabian when Shiva herself appeared, wearing a mass of gauze and a seven-foot snake. Interest in the balcony heightened as the two undulated around the idol in time to the music. In the next row, the Girl Scout had buried her face in her green cap, whimpering with fear.

A somber light played over Shiva and the reptile as the act swelled to its climax. Sprawling on the steps of the idol with the snake draped sleepily over her, Shiva shimmered the squints of her costume. From the balcony there were howls of approval. Shiva, apparently, was delighted. Disengaging herself from the snake she sprang to her feet, curtsied, and smiled a provocative "More?" at the audience. But before the balcony could respond, the maestro waved her off the stage.

With Shiva in the wings and the snake back in the box, the orchestra switched tempo and Golden Voice made another try at "Have fun, you sonofagun..." There was a slight rattle of seats in the balcony as the two MIT blazers filed out. Her composure regained, the Girl Scout started raptly at the singer.

The rattling from the balcony increased as Lew Fitzgibbons appeared through the parted curtains, pushing his xylophone in front of him. Over in a corner the lone remaining soldier slouched drunkenly in his seat. With the opening bars of "Heart of My Heart," he struggled to his feet and made for the exit.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.