Do You Know What Fish Do In That Stuff?

Despite W.C. Fields' ostensible dislike of good old H2O, very early in his career he had a summer job as a "drowner" for various Jersey Shore hotels. He'd swim out beyond the surf line when there was a decent crowd on the boardwalk and very histrionically thrash about like a drowning man. With commensurate drama, a lifeguard or two would perform an exciting rescue, to the "ooohs" and applause of the tourists.

[Another version of that story can be found here.]

Someone who claimed to have known Fields once told me that after one such performance, as the future comedian was being borne on a stretcher off the beach, he heard a woman remark, "My God, Mabel! That man must be a hopeless drunkard. It's the third time they've had to rescue him today."

Reflecting on W.C.'s distinctive features, it's clear that he was a poor choice to play a succession of non-descript victims. But he survived to conquer vaudeville, then talking pictures, and leave a legacy that persists until this day, so in a small way we have publicity-hungry Jersey hoteliers to thank for that.

Check out the original post at one of the better stops on the internet ... Shorpy. Your personal time machine to your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and maybe even further back.

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