LOTTIE COLLINS






LOTTIE COLLINS was a famous serio-comedienne and dancer who took the world by storm with the famous song and dance of Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay.

 

Lottie (born Charlotte Louisa Collins) started her theatrical career at a young age with her two sisters Lizzie (Maria Eliza) and Marie (Mary Ann) and became known on the halls as The Sisters Collins.

 

Lottie married the singer / composer James W. Tate.

 

Lottie's daughter from her first marriage was the famous musical comedy star Jose Collins.

 

 

TA-RA-RA BOOM-DE-AY!   Who does not remember it?  

 

“Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,” a senseless song with a dismal yet fascinating melody;  a monotonous chant that merged into a wildly delirious shout and intoxicated the singer.  “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay” drove all London mad, and the rest of the world marvelled at its madness.

 

It was an epidemic, and its secret and cause was Miss Lottie Collins, the lady who “Kicked” the song and herself into world-wide fame.


It was in the month of October 1890 at the Tivoli Music Hall in the Strand, when Lottie first gave the world “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay.”  The song (and its accompanying half-savage dance), which was destined to create such widespread sensation, and so much controversy as to its origin and nationality, was her greatest hit.   How it caught on; how every country eventually claimed it as its very own; and how Lottie Collins, in the zenith of her success, had for months to appear before massed and excited audiences, at four and five halls nightly, is within the recollection of most of us.

 

Ta-ra-ra Boom, or “Bom” de-ay, as it was soon called, spread with the rapidity of a prairie fire, all over the London, throughout the British Isles, and more than half over the globe; I do not doubt but it was finally howled and danced, round midnight fires,  by the naked savages in the remotest quarters of Africa.

 

In London, babies lisped it, school children sang it, tottering old men and staid old ladies hummed it, and streets boys whistled and shrieked it.   Costers, of both sexes, and in each other’s hats, stamped, kicked and yelled it until they were hoarse and feeble from sheer exhaustion.   Street organs and German bands played nothing else; it was taken up and echoed from town to village, and the cry throughout the land from cockcrow till midnight was “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay.”

 

London itself was fast becoming a pandemonium, a veritable lunatic asylum, but, fortunately, the madness abated, gradually exhausted itself, and finally succumbed.

 

One of the greatest songs of the last century is dead but Lottie Collins is very much alive.  In point of fact, since she set the world kicking just eleven years ago, she has amused millions of pleasure-loving people.

 

Miss Collins has only recently returned from a long and glorious tour of Australia; a country which described her as “a breezy whirl of vivacious vocalism, kaleidoscopic movement, and stage sauciness.”   She made one of the greatest successes that any London artiste ever made “down under.”

 

Like many another star, Miss Collins began her stage career when but a little dot of  five years old.  Her first bit of real hard work was what time she put in as a skipping-rope dancer.  Lottie and her two sisters, Marie and Lizzie, unfortunately lost their parents quite early in life, and at a time when most children are still at school the three girls had to go forth and earn their own living.


The Sisters Collins” were engaged in Pantomime for three successive seasons at the Pavilion Theatre, Mile End, appearing during the rest of the year in drama and as a music hall turn at various theatre and halls.


“At fifteen,” says Lottie, “I was so tall that my sisters preferred to work by themselves, which they continued to do until they were married.

 

“I am laughing at the recollection of a little incident of my early days. Lizzie and I were engaged at an obscure little hall in London.  We danced our exit from the stage.  I went first, holding my sister’s foot, but looking away from her. One night, as usual, I caught up her foot and pulled it.  Something was wrong.  The shoe came but no foot didn’t.  I looked back and found poor Lizzie’s other foot had done clean through the stage flooring.  It was rotten – the floor, I mean – and there she stuck until we pulled her out of the hole.

 

“I made a success at the Tivoli and the Pavilion, and about this time my dancing earned for me the proud title of “The Kate Vaughan of the Music Halls.’

 

“In December 1886 I played ‘Mariette’ in the original strong cast of Richard Henry’s burlesque Monte Christo Jun, at the Gaiety.    Then overwork made me ill and Miss Letty Lind took up my part.  When I recovered I went back to music halls, appearing all over the kingdom, and playing pantomime each Christmas.   My memory for dates is not a good one, but I shall never forget October 1890.  Then it was that I made my great sensational hit.  Of course I refer to ‘Ta ra ________’ Gets on your nerves?  Well, I will not finish the title. Any way you know how the multitude  like the song and wild dance.  That was all I cared about. “Ta-ra-ra’ ___ so sorry, I mean the song ___ was sent over to me by a friend in America.  I got it on a Wednesday and sang it on the Saturday following at the Tivoli.  You know the result.

 

“And just fancy, it had already been sun in the States for some years without any appreciable success; curious wasn’t it?  And here is a coincidence. About the same time there was sung, at a Berlin music hall, a peculiar song, which seemed to be composed of this one line, ‘I’m Grunewald, im Grunewald, ist Holzauction.’  In just the same way as with Ta-ra-ra,’ the one air that was whistled, hummed, yelled and sung, from one end of Berlin to the other, was ‘Im Grunewald, im Grunewald, isn’t Holzauction.’

 

“I sang Tar-ra-ra at the Islington Grand in the 18909-91 pantomime Dick Whittington.  In March 1891 I was doing four turns per night, appearing at the Tivoli, Gaiety, Pavilion and Royal.  Fourteen weeks of this meant real hard work, for me, as you may guess, and no wonder I fell ill.   The venerable Charles Morton, then managing the Tivoli, heard that I was dead, but I happened just then to the be the liveliest corpse in London, and my wire which told him so was posted up and read by crowds outside the building.

 

“As soon as I was well again, Charles Frohman sent me to America, for a six week’s engagement.  He must have spent a lot of money on hr magnificent suite of rooms which he caused to be provided for me on the steamer. 

 

“I made my first appearance in New York in a new costume of salmon and black.

 

I suppose I was immensely liked, for on many evenings several hundred people were unable to gain admission to the theatre.  My success in the States turned my original short engagement into a stay of seven months, during which, of course I sang that same brain-maddening ditty which you said just now had got on your nerves.  I gave it between the acts of such comedies as Jane, Gloriana and Miss Heylett (known in this country as Miss Decima.)   Mr Frohman pressed me to return to America, and offered to have a musical comedy written for me,  but I had already arranged to tour the States with my own company.   This contained many clever English and American artistes.  We played in vaudeville theatres in all the big America towns, but after a three years’ tour, I sighed for dear old England and a pleasant voyage brought me once more into merry London.

 

A long engagement at the Palace Theatre followed, and then Miss Collins played in The New Barmaid, produced 12th February 1896 at the Avenue, and eventually shook up the title role in this piece.  After that, until August of last year, she appeared at various theatres and music halls, and amongst the songs that never failed to fascinate and delight her audiences were “The Little Widow”, “The Girl On The Ran-Dan”, “A Leader of Society,” and “The Coalman’s Wife”; in themselves four turns as opposite in character as north, south, east and west.  Then came her Australian tour.

 

Said Miss Collins:  “We arrived in Sydney – whose beautiful harbour is surely second to none in the world – in October of last year.  I opened  at the Tivoli under Mr Harry Rickard’s management and with the thermometer standing at 104 in the shade, sang every night for nine weeks.”

 

This was a record, and to give a legitimate idea of her reception it will not be out of place to quote the Australian press.  On the occasion of a Viceregal Command night, when His Excellency the Governor, Earl Beauchamp, visited the Tivoli, the Sydney Bulletin said as follows: ___ “Lottie Collins, the late of London, billed as ‘absolutely the most expensive engagement ever made in Australia,’ whirls on to the stage in a riding habit and hat of brilliant scarlet, as the Girl on the Ran-Dan.  She almost whispers her song, and then pace grows swifter and the scarlet riding habit flicks with increasing devilry till the sudden explosion of utter abandon – a dance of jagged angles, in which the red skirt flashes abot with pointed jerks reminiscent of forked lightning, and she ricochets off the stage amidst thunders of applause.

 

Back again, in short skirts of purple plush glimmering with spangles, the brazen, hard-faced wife of the coalman.   The coalman never washes his face and is popularly supposed to be a coon; but his a true Londoner, and, though his pals seem to doubt him, his wife knows his face to be the blackest part about him. 

 

Then, as the packed, sweltering house composes itself, a plump pleasing widow glides on.  She trails her weeds across the brilliant garden scene and sweeps softly for the two departed dears, and then, with a world of desire in her glance, whispers for a third.  The anticipation overcomes her.   A sudden stoop, the black skirt is whirled up, and, as the widow spins round the stage, there is a lurid glare from the glowing underskirts of ruby-coloured Liberty silk.  It, in contradistinction to the first, is a dance of graceful curves.  A vision of flame coloured silken skirts, and above, in the centre of the circling lingerie,  a widow’s face with bright brown hair beneath her weeds.   It is the World, the Flesh, and a very strong Devil.  But it is swift, and clever, and brilliant.  She goes through it all with a whirl and a dash that annihilates time, and when she finally disappears as Gabriella Brown she seems to have been there but a moment.  Lottie is going to boom.”

 

From Sydney Miss Collins played right through the principal cities and towns.  She made friends everywhere, and many a jolly picnic and grandest country in the world, formed part of the day’s programme; whilst at night her exuberant vivacity and captivating singing and dancing was met with uproarious applause from huge audiences.

 

Miss Collins returned to London about six months ago, but before leaving the Antipodes she received over the footlights, on the last night of her farewell engagement at Sydney, a written testimonial which finished with “Au revoir but not good-bye,” a handsome manicure set, and a solid silver dressing-case suite, on which was inscribed “Presented to Lottie Collins from a few admiring friends. Sydney, N.S.W., 5th March 1901.   She may be seen shortly in a new musical piece which has been written for her.  Meantime, she is no w busy fulfilling her London and provincial engagements.