Tony Pastor



  • (1837 - 1908). US variety performer and theater managerknown as the father of vaudeville. Antonio Pastor made his debutat the age of nine at Barnum's Museum, New York, and subsequently travelledas a circus clown and minstrel, singing sentimental ballads, of whichhe had nearly 2000 in his repertoire. He also began arranging concertsin small towns and in 1861 booked his first variety acts into thedisreputable American Theatre on Broadway.

    In 1865, wishing to rescue variety from its vulgar reputation,he took over New York's Volksgarten and renamed it Tony Pastor's OperaHouse, billing the venue as 'The Great Family Resort'. He subsequentlytried, with only moderate success, to lure women and children to matinéeswith door-prizes of turkeys and hams. In 1881 he moved his "straight,clean, variety show" to the small 14th Street Theatre and heachieved an unexpected success presenting wholesome family entertainment(such as comics, singers, jugglers, dancers, and dog acts). This encouragedother managers to offer what would later become known as vaudeville(a term Pastor never used), and led eventually to the Keith and Albeecircuit of some 300 vaudeville houses.

    Pastor, an overweight man with a waxed moustache, was a devoutCatholic who kept a holy shrine backstage. Although an expert at bookingand presenting acts, he eventually lost his best performers becausehe paid them so little. Despite being a pioneer showman, he died apoor man.