Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Abby Sher

Bawdy and blonde, the outrageous Sophie Tucker


(Jewniverse via JTA)-Long before Lady Gaga was pulling down her knickers on London stages, there was a bawdy blonde breaking boundaries named Sophie Tucker. Tucker was born Sonya Kalish in 1887. Her family soon fled czarist Russia and set up a new life in Hartford, Connecticut, where Tucker started out singing for tips at her parents' restaurant. When she tried to make it in the Big Apple, she was told she was too homely. But Tucker zipped up her sequined gown and kept on crooning.

"The Outrageous Sophie Tucker" is a truly fun documentary about this dazzling showbiz icon from the turn of the century. The writers/producers, Susan and Lloyd Ecker, spent eight years poring through Tucker's 400-plus scrapbooks and interviewing people who knew her, including Judy Garland. It also features such luminaries as Barbara Walters, Carol Channing and Paul Anka.

Even though Tucker told many versions of the same story, this much is clear: She was hilarious, passionate and impossible not to love. She was large and loud, opening the door for women of all shapes and colors onstage. Known as "The Last of the Red Hot Mamas," Tucker made sure everyone in the audience was having a grand old time.

"The Outrageous Sophie Tucker" opens all over the U.S. on today.

Abby Sher is a writer and performer living in Brooklyn. She is the author of "Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying (Among Other Things)" and "Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery."

Jewniverse is a daily email list and blog featuring extraordinary, inspirational, forgotten, and just-plain-strange dispatches from Jewish culture, tradition and history. Sign up at www.TheJewniverse.com.


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