Arriving at the Blank Street house I plunged through the crowd and, opening the door, said: "Has the Virginia Judge arrived with the Keatons yet?" The landlady said: "Yes." I asked her: "Is there any way I can get rid of this mob? We have tipped them twice." She says, "I'll show you how we do it over here," and she commenced to smash. I was there with her. The best we got in return was "Thank you, sir."
The elegant Victorian fašade of Queens House, Leicester Square. Built in 1897 as the Queens Hotel, this is where the Keatons stayed (joining Walter C. Kelly) after one night around the corner at the De Provence Hotel, now demolished. Photo courtesy Peter W. Burrowes, 1999. Used by permission.

By the time I had paid the bookkeeper his salary I was out $10.

Then I discovered we were living in a questionable place. Kelly had been told it was all right and that it would do for the night.

The next day I called on Alfred Butt at the Palace. I found an elegant big theatre, standing alone and occupying an entire block. I saw nineteen acts billed, but no Keaton! Not even a photo out. The smallest salaried act on the program was billed, but not the Keatons. I called on Damar, the stage manager, and asked him if the Keatons were playing at the Palace. He said: "Absolutely. Aren't you one of them?" I said: "Yes. Are you bringing us here on a wild goose chase? Are you ashamed to bill us?" He said he had no time to argue.

Everybody Works But Father, original song sheet by Havez.

"Everybody Works But Father" was one of Joe Keaton's favorite songs; it was written by Jean Havez (later one of Buster's gagmen in Hollywood), and published by Fred Helf and a partner. The performer, Lew Dockstader, may well be related to Bill Dockstader, who gave Buster his first break in the theater. Image courtesy Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library, Duke University, North Carolina. Used by permission. To view a larger version, visit their website at:



I called to rehearse. Fred Helf had arranged a nice set of orchestrations for Mr. Fink's* (Palace) orchestra, and Fred also fixed me up a presentation speech. Fred said before I sailed: "Joe, there's nothing like getting in right. I have arranged a beautiful overture for Mr. Fink, and when you are called to rehearse, take your music and mind, take your hat off and approach the leader. You know, Mr. Fink is a stockholder in the Palace and has more influence than Butt."

Here is the speech: Is this Mr. Fink?  Allow me on behalf of Mr. Fred Helf, the American music publisher of New York City, to offer you this set of orchestrations with his compliments.

"What has that got to do with the act?" said Mr. Fink.

  *Mr."Fink" is actually a Mr. Herman Finck.