The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 9, 2013

Lillian Russell



Early in Lillian’s career, she wore purple tights and showed a little skin, but as she gained weight, she had it entered in her exceedingly lucrative contracts that she “never be required to wear” them. Her audiences scarcely noticed the difference, so exquisitely was she dressed -- much of the time in her own creations.


Lillian didn’t drink much because it was bad for her complexion and voice, but “dining”? Ah, that was quite another story. Just to summarize, I will mention just some of the famous five-course meals that she and Diamond Jim partook of: starting with soups, oysters, and sumptuous hors d’oeuvres; then a fish course, with lobster or crabs and shrimp; followed by a roast for the main entrée. Three or four vegetables were added as sides; and, the whole affair was finished with fancy cakes, Philadelphia Ice Cream or sherbet. The finishing touch would be Turkish and French coffee. Even with all of this good food, Lillian never lost her figure. Stout as she was, she never became fat. Her many activities and go-go lifestyle were helpful, and she was also an avid bicyclist, once taking the whole cast of her Clinton Show on a city-wide tour in the 1890’s. One such picture would have been a gem: Lillian, Diamond Jim, and Marie Dressler, on a three-person tandem! Another bicycle, given to her by the hulking Jim, was gold-plated, had diamond hub caps, and Mother-of- Pearl handle bars!


Interestingly, Lillian appeared in vaudeville with the comedy act of Webber & Fields, and they idolized her. She was a fine actor and comedienne, and Edison even captured her lovely voice on the phonograph. Webber & Fields also appeared in the movie of her life… 35 years after working with Lillian! A movie remade today might play better as the life of an ahead-of-her-time feminist, (businesslike, strong, talented), who was willing to do whatever it took to succeed in show business. Her life tragedies could also play better today. No longer would it be as scandalous, as when she first starred in 1880, that she was a married nineteen-year-old mother and not “a European songstress,” as she was then billed.

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