Variety Shows, Chorus Lines, and Even Cab Calloway

This is the very talented George “Baron” Bryan
at the height of his career as agent/promoter
in the early 1950’s.
This is the great Cab Calloway in a strikingly
elegant pose. Image.

Despite the inevitable ups and downs plaguing Panama’s fragile economy during the post WWII years and the early fifties, as we’ve noted, cultural and sporting events, shows and even religious revivals from abroad were welcomed with the most earnest enthusiasm by Panamanians in general but especially Panamanians of Westindian descent. The Westindians, after all, were still the largest group of salaried workers on and off the Canal Zone with some kind of steady income and access to a small but sure discretionary fund.

George “Baron” Bryan is a name that looms largely in the area of variety shows and entertainment. A native of the City of Colon and a descendant of the Silver People, he became an agent/promoter of local talent and supplied the many bar/discotheques, night clubs and clubhouses with dance numbers, magic acts, musical bands etc. with increasing skill in the art of organizing.

Baron’s Varieties” reached such fame eventually that he became very sought after to entertain the American troops. His Variety Show would be booked for appearances especially in the Army Camps on the U.S. military bases where his offering of talent was quite popular. The members of his “Varieties” cast included such professionals as the acrobatic Trio America, Marta Nieto, Tomas Rosado, Sonia Zuleta, Marlo The Great (magician), Two Flying Discs, Jean and Johnnie Creighton, Violeta Amores Green, and a new dancing chorus act (at the time) known as the “Baron Brown Beauties” which included Lidia and Mavis Eneleida, Inelda Bascombe, Dolores Miller, Enid Lewis, Silvia Beckford, Veronica Brown, and Peggy Ann Griffith.

In addition to the stage show a special movie, usually the latest Hollywood release would normally be screened at the clubhouse where they appeared. The Variety Show, of course, stirred much interest in and around Panama City as well with advance call for tickets pointing to a big attendance each and every night of the event. For the very accessible price of $1.50 entrance the audiences were dazzled by excellent local talent.

George “Baron” Bryan was often Master of Ceremonies in his own shows, for instance, as when Tiny Davis and his all girl orchestra toured the Isthmus and appeared at the Encanto Theatre and Club Tania supported by Pit Rifkogel y Sus Músicos de Pimiento.

In 1950, the year Cab Calloway decided to re-organize his New Cavaliers, he engaged in a nation-wide tour of Panama. In May of 1950 he opened at the Teatro Central with his New Cavaliers which was composed of four leading musicians who had long been associated with the popular “Highness of Hi-De-Ho.” He happened to be trying out a different type of act and a new image, a more humorous, romantic, and philosophical (yes, philosophical) Cab Calloway.

Of course, he performed all his wonderful acts in the beautiful and outlandish costumes he became so famous for. In a Spanish number, for instance, Cab played the part of “Pedro” the weary Mexican, and in “Slap Her Down Again, Paw,” he aped a mountain man and on ballads he lent his inimitable romantic style to the scene.

This story continues.

3 responses to “Variety Shows, Chorus Lines, and Even Cab Calloway

  1. This is my mother’s father. I am the grandaughter. My cousin Roberto Reid posted this Pic. Thank you so much for perserving his picture; it means so much to me. Grandaughter of the late George Bryan !

  2. This is my grandfather I have the original pic in my livingroom. Bless

  3. Thanks for this. I’m in the process of writing a tribute to my father who passed away last weekend at ninety-nine years old. He had been retired and living in Florida for the past 20 years. I remember being with him when he went to a Cab Calloway performance in Panama City. I had t0 be about six years old and he was perhaps ‘stuck’ with baby sitting at the time. But I can remember the occasion and am mentioning it in my tribute to my dad on Saturday.