How many of our present-day entertainers, or entertainers from the past fifty years or so, will be remembered a century from now? The giants such as The Beatles or Louis Armstrong, perhaps, or the greatest or most popular Hollywood actors from the past couple of generations, Fonda, Crawford, Bogart, Newman, Redford. What about the mid-level artists, who chalked up a hit or two, and then faded? Videotape deteriorates over time, as do on-screen pixels.
Billy West (1853-1902) was a popular singer and comedian on late 19th century vaudeville stages, known as the “Progressive Minstrel.” His cemetery plot, near the Fort Hamilton Parkway entrance, is elaborately decorated with now-verdigris’ed copper comedy masks and tambourines. West himself is shown with a banjo, and there’s a depiction of an elk, as West was a member of the Elks fraternal society. His epitaph reads, “None Knew Him But To Love Him. None Named Him Save in Praise.” It reminded me of Phil Spector, who used his father’s epitaph, “To Know Him Is To Love Him,” as a song title.
Members of the West families, as well as the families of fellow entertainer Peter F. Dailey (1861-1908), are in the same plot. Dailey is eulogized by the phrase, “He Laughed and the World Laughed With Him.”
You may recognize the modern-day Billy West, a voice entertainer who does a spot on Larry Fine (of the Three Stooges), replicates Mel Blanc’s characters from the Warner Brothers cartoons, and was the voice of Stimpy the Cat on “Ren & Stimpy” in the 1990s.
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