That time Jimmy Durante performed in Boston

Hollywood legend Jimmy Durante performed at the Wilbur in 1968 after a fire destroyed Blinstrub’s Village.

PHOTO BY BILL BRETT
Jimmy Durante, center, with US House Speaker John W. McCormack, left, with Thomas Eisenstadt, who was on the Boston School Committee and running for Suffolk County Sheriff.

THEATER DISTRICT — Jimmy Durante, the famed vaudevillian and comic, made Boston a regular stop on his many national tours.

His favorite stop, The Boston Globe’s Ernie Santosuosso wrote in Durante’s obituary in 1980, was the supper club Blinstrub’s Village in South Boston. Bill Brett took this photo of Durante, who is at the Wilbur Theater on Tremont Street in 1968. Durante’s appearance was moved to the Wilbur after Blinstrub’s was destroyed by fire just two days before Durante’s scheduled opening in March 1968, according to newspaper reports.

Durante’s birthday was Feb. 10, 1893. He died on Jan. 30, 1980 at the age of 86. The “born on this day” news reports prompted Bill to pull this image from his archives.

Durante had a large following in Boston after coming to city with various acts over the early part of the 20th century. The Globe’s Santosuosso wrote about a number of Durante’s performances.

Remembering the act while writing about Durante’s passing, Santosuosso wrote: “Durante’s trademarks were the ‘strut-away in my cutaway,’ a battered soft hat worn rakishly so as partially to shade his classic proboscis and a disarming effervescence.”

He continued: “Between engagements, he was a homebody who loved nothing more than to enjoy a quiet dinner at home or hang out with chums. His loyalty to friends was so constant that he reportedly refused to identify individuals who once stole from him even though he knew them.”

Durante once told Santosuosso that if he changed his trademark style and pronounced words correctly, he and “about 60 other” people would be out of work tomorrow.

Photo by Bill Brett

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