Billed as the “Female Houdini,” Shee claimed in her publicity that she performed a straitjacket escape while dangling upside down 500 feet in the air from New York’s Times Building. While this may or may not be true, the highlight of her vaudeville act was doing a straitjacket escape while suspended 10 feet above the stage. The first reference found to Shee was her tour of the Keith Circuit starting in January of 1920.  Her act could include escaping from chains and handcuffs, rope ties and a locked mail bag.

Norwich Bulletin, Feb. 27, 1920

In 1920 she joined the National Vaudeville Artists (NVA), so this may have been her first time performing in vaudeville. The NVA was a “union” of performers controlled by Edward Albee, the manager of the Keith Circuit. If a performer wanted to tour the major circuits, it was a good idea to become an NVA member.

Flint Journal, May 25, 1922
For the next few years she toured as a single act playing big and small time vaudeville and summer parks. By 1923 she teamed with James J. Currey in an act called “Curry and Shee – Novelty Surprises”. James was an Irish comedian and dancer. In the new act James danced on a bass drum and Shee did escapes, such as the straight jacket, mail bag and rope ties. Shee dropped the suspended straitjacket escape and did the effect on the stage. Special scenery and electrical effects were later added. They did variations on this act for many years, with an increasing emphasis on comedy.

Palladium Item, Sep. 22, 1930
Shee kept the billing of the “Female Houdini” until the late 1920s when they seemed to drop escapes from the act. They were then billed as “the dancing humorists.” The last reference found for them was in 1930.

A detailed description of Curry and Shee’s act was never found. So how they combined escapes, bass drum dancing and comedy is left to the imagination. It would have been a great act to see and must have lived up to the billing of “novelty surprises.” Shee’s real name is sadly lost to history.

Variety, January 24, 1920
Norwich Bulletin, February 27-28, 1920, Norwich, Connecticut
Vaudeville News, April 30, 1920
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 27, 1922, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Flint Journal, May 25, 1922, Flint, Michigan
Evening Leader, August 17, 1923, Corning, New York
Lebanon Semi-Weekly News, October 27, 1924, Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Oil City Derrick, November 19, 1925, Oil City, Pennsylvania
The Call Leader, December 31, 1927, Elwood, Indiana
Palladium Item, September 20-22, 1930, Richmond, Indiana
(references are in order they were first used)

Gary Hunt Copyright 2018


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