Barry Buchanan papers at CMU

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Wed Jun 14 21:53:13 UTC 2000

   This is like some Don MacLean song about the "day the music died."  Well, anyway, today I went through Barry Buchanan's shoeboxes, and it's a major collection here at Carnegie Mellon University.
  There are 24 shoeboxes for Carnival, Circus, Theater, Vaudeville, Motion Picture, and Acrobatics terminology.  I was able to copy just one shoebox of index cards in a few hours (1-5 p.m.).  However, I'll probably hire some students to help.
  It's way too much to put on ADS-L, although it probably deserves to be online.  I'll probably copy the copies for the OED, the RHHDAS, Jerry Cohen, and anyone else who wants to look at this .
  "A Brief Resume" of Barry Buchanan shows various things, the last positions being 1962-1964 General Manager for Top of the Fair, New York World's Fair, and 1965 to date, Consultant.  It also has:

AUTHOR:  ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SHOW BUSINESS--The first encyclopedia-dictionary of the equipment, technical terminology, language, patois and slang of all phases of the entertainment business from the Greek and Roman theatre through Television.  Currently in the final stage of editing.

  Barry Buchanan died on November 15, 1977.  On pages 2-3 of his will, he mentions the work and authorizes several members of VARIETY (Leonard Traube, Abel Green, Sid Silverman) to posthumously publish it for him.  He also bequeaths papers to Carnegie Mellon University.
  This 9-11-83 letter from Bonnie Johns of the CMU West Coast Drama Alumni Clan reads in part:

  So many people have been disinterested in Barry's (I feel I know him on a first-name basis) papers they've become low-priority.  The enclosed flier shows Barry was putting together an encyclopedia.  Maybe Charlie Willard can find out if it was ever published.  Tho', if so, why would he have saved all his boxes of indexed terms?  At any rate, Jane and I tossed what we felt could easily be found in any current text or library.  We saved the "goodies"--boxes of theatre, circus and vaudeville slang, terms and colloquialisms (though they'll need some sorting out too).  We also included well-kept brochures on old film equipment, etc., circus programs (he travelled with several companies), playbills and theatre memorabilia.  He certainly was organized and with quite an historical bent.
   (...) I'm glad you called me to look through Barry's papers.  He obviously felt he'd left something of worth and I felt, especially after so much rejection, that someone should take a friendly open-eye look to it.  (...) Whithin those hours we delighted in exciting finds, apologized aloud to Barry for what we threw out as he was quite consumed with his research, and laughed over vaudeville (and other ) terms which helped maintain our level of humor with the warehouse people who just wanted us to get the stuff out of there.  We're anxious to find out more about him; from what we've glimpsed he seems quite a caring man whose dreams were never quite realized.

  There are some etymologies on the indexed cards, but no citations to other material, unfortunately.  Although  Buchanan was always working on this project, it appears that all of the cards date from about 1938-1939, when he described his boxes of cards in that newspaper article I previously posted.
  Here's an example in the "Motion Picture" shoebox:

THE BIG APPLE  Slang for New York City. (from negro patois)

  This is exactly what we would expect for the late 1930s.
  Some other index cards and terms, at random:

LOVE-SICK LOUIE  Amusement park slang for any young man who seems to be very much in love with the girl who is accompanying him.

LEMONADER  Slang for confidence man; a grifter (see both).  So-called, because the subject of his activities is "handed a lemon", i.e., cheated.

KEISTER  Slang for a pitchman's case, in which he carries his stock, and which he places on a tripod when selling.  The combination is called tripes and keister.  Cf. tripes.  Also, a suitcase of bag; also, a safe; also, sometimes used in synonymous with jail; also, the buttocks; also, a cheapshot.  The term stems from an obsolete use of a similar slang term keyster, i.e., anything that is locked with a key.

FUZZ Slang for a policeman; the police.  The term is derived from an incident in which a female detective with fuzzy hair caused the arrest of a grifter.

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