Date: Sun, 24 May 1998 20:09:24 EDT
From: Bapopik
Subject: Variety terms; Meet the Press


A few antedates here; it's not rock and roll, but I like it.
This is from "Lefty's Notebook" by Joe Laurie, Jr., VARIETY, 17 March
1943, pg. 6, col. 4:

Dear Joe,
There's a lot of words show folks use every day of their lives that they
don't lnow how they originated to apply to the things they are used for. For
instance the word matinee; how it came to be applied to afternoon performances
is not generally known. Matinee, meaning "morning time" or "forenoon."
Some 75 years ago concerts of classical music became popular in Paris,
and were given at 11 in the morning, and therefore called "Matinees
Musicales." But the fashionable ladies soon found this hour too early and too
exacting following so closely soirees, balls and theatricals of the previous
night. The hour was changed to noon, then to 1 o'clock and later to 2 p.m.
The success of these concerts prompted the theatre directors to try day
performances also, and they were called "Matinees Theatrales." From Paris the
custom passed to London, then to America, the name "matinee" being retained.
Of course later on the "small time" added "morning shows" which actors called
"Milkman's matinees." (not in RHHDAS--ed.)
_Origination of Phrases_
Talking about "small time," "Variety" was the first to use expressions
like "big time" and "small time." _Jolo_, when he didn't care very much for
an act, would finish up his reviews with the line, "Good for the Small Time."
Later on "Four-a-day," "Three-a-day," "Smallest Time," "Intermediate Time,"
were all expressions originating in "Variety."
It was 1936 when the Show World lost three great artists: Marylin (sic)
Miller, Roxy and Irving Thalberg went "Upstairs." (RHHDAS has 1969 for "Man

We knew that Variety used "big time" and "small time," but I didn't know
that Jolo coined these phrases. I'll have to read it again for his reviews,
and check my old papers to find Jolo's full name.
This is from VARIETY, "Lefty's Notebook" by Joe Laurie, Jr., 7 April
1943, pg. 6, col. 4:

Dear Joe:
Well, according to the calendar, spring is here and the circus will soon
be in town.
I've always been a pushover for a circus. I knew a lot of the gang in
the old days and their slang used to get to me. Here are some real circus
expressions that might be interesting to you. The number one question in the
craft is: "Who is the man with the shoes?," meaning who's the boss. (RHHDAS
?) "The mill" is where one works. (carnival use not in RHHDAS) "Fire Up"
means to eat. (carnival use not in RHHDAS) "Cutting up jackpots" is small
talk. (RHHDAS has Sept. 25, 1943) "Ironclad" means working with protection.
(carnival use not in RHHDAS) "On the sneak" is working without protection.
(not in RHHDAS "on the--"; "sneak" ?) "T. B." is a blank or bloomer, a bad
place to work. (RHHDAS ?) "Red one," a good spot to work. (RHHDAS ?)
"Fuzz" is a copper. (RHHDAS 1929; this is first carnival citation and is from
"old days") "A Skin Show" is dancing girls. (RHHDAS ?)
"Patch" is a legal adjuster. (RHHDAS ?) "Hershey bars" are colored
entertainers. (RHHDAS has 1945 WWII Gen. Hershey only) "Geek show" is a
snake show. (RHHDAS 1928) "Mitt joint," a fortune teller. (RHHDAS 1921)
"Working slum," selling novelties. (RHHDAS ?) "Punk worker," one who sells
to children, balloons, etc. (RHHDAS ?) "Nose trouble" means eavesdropping.
(RHHDAS 1971, 1966, 1964--backwards cites?) "Donniker" is, of course, the
rest room. (RHHDAS 1931 "donnicker") "Putting up paper" is boosting a pal.
(RHHDAS ?) "Cannon, whiz, or fooster," a pickpocket. (RHHDAS "cannon" 1909,
"whiz" ?, "fooster" no entry) "Cat rack queen," girl who runs ball game
concessions. (RHHDAS no entry) "Punkins," county fairs. (RHHDAS ?)
"Gilly," small traveling show. (RHHDAS 1796 meaning "yokel or ignorant
countryman," but no entry as "gilly show") A broad is known as a "bree"
(RHHDAS no entry), a guy a "gee" (RHHDAS 1907), a shill is a "stick" (RHHDAS
?), and a sucker is a "monkey" (RHHDAS 1922, from Variety). "Grind or bally"
means does he have to talk all the time or only before each show. (RHHDAS
1926 for "grind," 1921 for "bally") "What's the line?" means how much salary?
(RHHDAS ?) "Pickle Punks" means a spieler for "live" shows. (RHHDAS ?)
"Lame brain" worker is a spieler for freak shows. (RHHDAS 1919)
Of course you heard the one about the dame in a circus who was a
sharpshooter's assistant. She quit when he got St. Vitus dance. (RHHDAS ?)

This is from VARIETY, "Lefty's Notebook" by Joe Laurie, Jr., 26 May 1943,
pg. 6, col. 4:

Of course, Willie Hammerstein wad the pioneer of the "freak acts."
(RHHDAS has no entry for "freak act") ... Harry Hershfield started as a
"chalk talk" artist and became one of the top story tellers of show business.
When vaudeville went, Harry scrammed to the dinnertable and radio. Talking
about "chalk-talkers"...many cartoonists played vaudeville... (RHHDAS no

This is from VARIETY, "Lefty's Notebook" by Joe Laurie, Jr., 12 May 1943,
pg. 6, col. 4:

Me and Aggie have been reading in the New York papers about a lot of the
movie stars, that used to be vaudevillians, stopping at the top-notch hotels
in New York with suites of rooms. Which is as it should be, but it reminded
us of the old vaudeville days when the actors weren't so particular where they
"pecked and padded" (meaning eat and sleep to you muggs who don't understand
vaudeville English). (RHHDAS ?)


In VARIETY, 13 January 1943, pg. 36, cols. 1-4, an ad for the United

It Swings along
with the Swing Shifts
American industry is working 24 hours a day to win the war. A third of the
men and women making this total effort work at night. They compose the swing
shifts, who breakfast at bedtime and dine at dawn. They miss much of normal
life. But United Press sees to it they do not miss the news. United Press
24-hour radio news swings along with them. keeps them as accurately, quickly
and completely posted as it does listeners during the seven-to-eleven peak
radio hours. No matter in what part of the nation or at what time Americans
work, United Press across-the-country and around-the-clock radio service
assures them of the world's best coverage of the world's biggest news.

U.P. Around-

The OED has "swing shift" from 26 March 1943. I can't find "around-the-
clock" (meaning 24 hours, as in "rock around the clock") in the RHHDAS.
Stuart Berg Flexner's I HEAR AMERICA TALKING has "around-the-clock bombing" on
page 425, but doesn't give the WWII date.


On 7 November 1997, MEET THE PRESS celebrated its 50th anniversary. It
declared itself the longest-running program in television history. (see
It was the title of a radio program at least four years before the tv
program. This is from BILLBOARD, 30 January 1943, pg. 8, col. 3:

"Meet the Press"
Reviewed Saturday (Hey! Wait a minute! SATURDAYS! "If it's Sunday, it's
Meet the Press."--ed.) 11-11:15 a.m. Style--Dramatized interviews.
Sustaining on WMAQ (Chicago).
For some reason, the public attaches a certain amount of glamour to the
newspaper business, and _Meet the Press_ provides an interesting and
entertaining quarter-hour of information about outstanding newspapermen and
women who gather, write, edit and publish the news. Cleve Conway, NBC
announcer and newscaster, capably conducts the interviews.
(...) On subsequent broadcasts cartoonists, columnists, writers and
photographers of papers in the Chicago region will be interviewed. Program
has excellent possibilities. _Nat Green_.

William Safire was on again today--it must be Sunday.