A Case of Cherry


cherry1

Sample of Gong Show Acts

Sample of Gong Show Acts

On This Date in History:

Some of you may remember The Gong Show. People came on the show and the judges would give them a score. If the acts were really bad, a judge would stand up and bang a gong that meant the act was off the show. I think the winner of the show got something like $32.98 or some such odd, low number. America loved it for awhile as they loved to watch the stupid, crummy acts, not the good ones. We love competition but sometimes we seem to gravitate to the most preposterous or bad performances. One of NFL Films most popular team biopic is on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that lost 26 games in a row and every game in a season…the only team to do so in modern times until the Detroit Lions joined them this year. And of course, there is American Idol and the infamous William Hung. He is probably more well known than most of the winners.

This is not new with America.

William Hung

Before the Gong Show and the Buccaneers and William Hung, there was the Cherry Sisters. They were so bad, they became a smash hit. The Cherry Sisters first took to the stage on this date in 1893 in Marion, Iowa. They received $250 for a one hour show. Pretty good money. In Marion, the folks must have been kind because it was in Marion that they got their only good newspaper review. When they took their act to Cedar Rapids, the local Gazette referred to their performance as “ultimate gall.” The paper also mentioned that people threw overshoes at the ladies. See…Iraqis did not invent the act of throwing shoes at people on stage. Not to outdone by their neighbors, the people of Dubuque tossed a tin wash boiler, turnips and sprayed them down with a fire extinguisher. I’m not sure what a tin wash boiler is but, who brings turnips to a show? The newspaper in Davenport, Iowa issued a warning to would be concert-goers. Rocks larger than two inches would not be allowed in the theatre! I guess Constitutional rights only go so far….one inch rocks were okay but two inches? Forget it!

Addie and Effie (One In Middle Not Jessie)

Eventually, the act was so bad, it became popular and the “The Celebrated Cherry Sisters” made their way to the big time of the Big Apple. Yup…they went to Broadway in 1896 under the guidance of none other than Flo Ziegfeld himself. People came to the theatre in droves just to hurl insults and garbage at them. Much like the Blues Brothers, the stage manager stretched a fish net across the stage to protect them from hurtling objects. But, it finally went too far.

These ladies were indeed modern women determined to move ahead the process of jurisprudence when they did a very late 20th century thing. They sued. The Des Moines Leader wrote a review that called “Addie” a “capering monstrosity of 35” and sister “Effie” “an old jade of 50 summers.” Not true…Effie lived until 1944. It was kinder to “Jessie” referring as a “frisky filly of 40.”

Hideous Creatures?

The truth is that Jessie died of typhoid in 1903 at age 31. It also called the sounds the sisters made “were like the wailings of damned souls.” I don’t know why they sued the Leader because Billy Hamilton of the Odebolt Chronicle in western Iowa called the ladies “three hideous creatures surpassing the witches of MacBeth.” I guess being a hideous creature and people throwing rocks and garbage was one thing but telling the public that Effie was 50 was too much. So what did the judge do? He had them perform in court and the case was closed. He ruled in favor of the newspaper saying that “Freedom of discussion is guaranteed by our fundamental law.” This was not just any court though…it was the Iowa State Supreme Court and, while the Sister’s act may be long forgotten, the case has become a textbook standard citation of First Amendment law under the moniker, the Cherry Case. I don’t know how much money the ladies made but if they pocketed $250 in Marion, Iowa they must have done pretty good in New York. Nevertheless, I doubt if they planned on being remembered in history for a lawsuit against a newspaper that ridiculed them mercilessly. Another case of unintended consequences.

Weather Bottom Line:  Told you there would be snow and the rest of the forecast will hold true as well with pretty cold temperatures through the weekend.  Snow White was driving to Louisville on Thursday and I told her that she would probably not get snow until about the time she it Lexington.  She reported that at the 75/64 interchange, she saw her first snowflake.  She took some issue with the conditions of I-64 on Thursday afternoon from about Shelbyville on in. Not sure why the road was not addressed since this storm was well known in advance.  On Monday, there is another chance for snow but this one probably won’t be as significant as the system is southern in nature and will be traversing the Dixie states well to our South.  Nevertheless, some over running moisture will bring at least some snow showers if not light snow  We may get back above freezing on Thursday afternoon.

2 Responses

  1. That sure does look like an Iowa pie cherry up there – not one of those fancy Northwestern bings or whatever.

    I actually have heard of these gals, because I lived for a time in Atkins, Iowa – just about the same distance from Cedar Rapids to the west as Marion is to the east. There was some kind of fund-raiser in Cedar Rapids that featured “old-time entertainment”, and a group showed up to parody the Cherry Sisters.

    Oh – the tin wash boiler? My grandma had one. It was just the galvanized tin tub in the back yard they filled with hot water to wash clothes. When I got big enough, I got to help by using the “wash stick” to get the clothes out.

  2. We do seem to have gotten much more thin skinned since the Cherrys were around entertaining our grandparents and great grandparents. There’s a lesson in there for the “Modern World”, maybe more than one. Hummmm… wonder what it/they might be? Think it has anything to do with our legal system? Seems the old folks were a might tougher than they looked in those old pictures. Maybe it had something to do with the way they parted their hair, or the length of the ladies dresses…. or those hats, yeh maybe it was the hats they wore, all we wear is baseball hats (the Army wears those French things).. what could it be?

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