Mugshot Poetry

The infamous Flowers Act,
high-steppers of vaudeville fame.
Two performances a day
forty-two weeks a year,
those days before the movies talked.

Flunkie acts started shows,
as rows began to fill.
Maybelle and her off-key dogs?
Surefire way to empty the house.
The best was always in-between.

Operatic divas with mighty breasts
Mr. Visser and his singing duck
acrobats performing impossible knots
and in the midst of all this prime time,
René strutted onto the stage.

Deflowered early in her career
she’d made the best of it.
Twirled baby Rosebud overhead
tapping away to the newest tune,
audience clapping with glee.

Child-stars grow as years move on,
mamas trying to keep them young.
Highlight move of the Flowers act
dancing with Rosey held overhead,
harder and harder to do with a smile.

Teenage angst festered full-bloom.
Rosie kicked higher and higher still,
belligerantly balked at precarious lifts.
Brass played louder, drummer too
covering angry words that flew.

And then . . .

The nefarious night of 1929.
Outdoor billboards proclaimed,
See Our Flowers Tap To Delight.
Spotlights cued, the band played
and curtains rose to a barren stage.

As talkies came
and vaudeville disappeared,
their billboard photo gathered dust.
Missing persons,
never found.

Advance the reel please,
to 1932, in the Big Apple.
Crowds waited raucously.
til Radio City Music Hall
flung open her art deco doors.

The organ played and the audience cheered.
High steppers fanned across the stage,
kicking their way into Billboard fame.
Including one with a rosey attitude,
because her time had finally come.


It’s Tuesday’s Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today I’m hosting, asking folks to write a poem motivated by mugshots from the 1920s (all in public domain). Folks can use their imagination and take their post anywhere the photo inspires, as long as they include one of the photos, all of which can be found here. I did some research on vaudeville and Radio City Music Hall. Vaudeville acts were arranged as mentioned in stanza two. There actually was a very popular vaudeville act, Gus Visser and his singing duck! Radio City Music Hall did open in 1932. All else….your guess is as good as mine! Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time.  Come on over and enjoy a mug!

37 thoughts on “Mugshot Poetry

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 3:28 pm

      Really was fun to extrapolate from the mug shot. I had a hard time choosing one 🙂 But…the dancer in me won out. 🙂


  1. kim881 June 13, 2017 / 4:00 pm

    I so enjoyed the story of the ‘infamous Flowers’, Lillian! Especially the lines:

    ‘Operatic divas with mighty breasts
    Mr. Visser and his singing duck’;

    ‘…René strutted onto the stage.

    Deflowered early in her career
    she’d made the best of it.
    Twirled baby Rosebud overhead
    tapping away to the newest tune’.

    I’m so pleased Rosey’s time finally came.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 4:02 pm

      And so is she… the real question remains…where is Rene Flowers??? Did Rosey do away with her???? Fun to weave stories around these strange photos!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. alisonhankinson June 13, 2017 / 4:16 pm

    I love the story. It is intriguing….the kind of thing that probably happened all the time.I liked the off-key dogs…I think you did these ladies justice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 4:22 pm

      It was fun to just let the imagination wander! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Seana June 13, 2017 / 4:35 pm

    “Operatic divas with mighty breasts” … That is a seriously hilarious line.

    I love the stanza that begins with:
    “Deflowered early in her career
    she’d made the best of it.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 4:36 pm

      So glad to make you chuckle! 🙂 Having fun with these mug shots! 🙂


  4. Waltermarks June 13, 2017 / 5:52 pm

    Quite a tale here. What happened to Rosey? Did her teen years see her gaining more than just large breasts? Did Rene throw a disk? You made us to wonder largely. But at last she reappeared at Radio City Music Hall. But at last she threw off her mom, lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 5:55 pm

      Or her mom couldn’t take the weight anymore…..or Rosie put her mother out of her weight-bearing misery permanently? So many questions? And was that really Rosie third from left in the newly minted Rockette line? Are the redheads now in the Rockettes related to Rosie the ungrateful girl who didn’t appreciate her mum’s muscles? Sooooo many questions! A movie in the making! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bev June 13, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    What a fun story you weaved for Rosey. Glad she finally made the “big time”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 8:08 pm

      Oh yeah….just wonder what happened to her mom????


  6. nosaintaugustine June 13, 2017 / 6:17 pm

    Fantastically creative story! I bow down to your imagination and I love the way you pulled in all of the acts which really added color. Maybelle and her off-key dogs made me laugh out loud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 8:09 pm

      So glad you enjoyed. A fun one to write!


  7. Charley June 13, 2017 / 6:49 pm

    Bravo! Who knows… it might all be true. Great job, no lie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 8:10 pm

      Thanks! Fun to weave a tale…..and yep….they never did find Renee so who knows????

      Liked by 1 person

  8. hypercryptical June 13, 2017 / 7:25 pm

    Love your wonderful tale and how alive you made it!
    “Operatic divas with mighty breasts” – this line so reminds me of my music teacher at middle school! As she conducted the singing at morning assembly her breasts bounced up and down and her suspenders made a snapping noise. (I can’t remember if she was nice, but probably was or I would have remembered otherwise.)
    Anna :o]

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 13, 2017 / 8:11 pm

      hmmmmm maybe your teacher has a vaudevillian diva in her family tree! 🙂


  9. Sumana Roy June 14, 2017 / 12:23 am

    A very entertaining read!…”Child-stars grow as years move on, / mamas trying to keep them young.” The legacy lives, methinks 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 14, 2017 / 7:11 am

      Oh yes…..backstage mamas….tv shows like Dance Moms…and all the beauty pageants for little girls. The legacy still lives. Glad you enjoyed this one. It’s been fun to see life written in to all these mugshots! 🙂


  10. Jane Dougherty June 14, 2017 / 10:32 am

    She looks like the kind of girl who was destined to go her own way. Glad technology kept up with her 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. jerennazuto June 14, 2017 / 1:15 pm

    Feel like watching a show! That duck did grab my attention, after all he is singing! The ending was nice and felt good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 14, 2017 / 7:37 pm

      Used to watch the Ed Sullivan show on tv when I was young. My favorite act was the guy who kept running up and down the long table, putting plates on top of long poles and spinning them, going back to keep them going, until he had every one spinning on the long table. My guess is, that would have been a vaudeville act in the 20s. Never did see a singing duck! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • jerennazuto June 14, 2017 / 9:10 pm

        Ah! It sounds amazing and funny. I could imagine it in my head, the guy running crazy making some funny actions at the audience. I have never seen it by the way. Maybe I could find it on Internet. Yes it definitely could have been a act. Still I doubt if he could beat the singing duck! It’s a singing duck!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. colorfulpen June 14, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    Wow! Really enjoyed this tale. I had a hard time picking any of the photos at first. I couldn’t give up on it though. Thanks for the fun prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jade M. Wong June 15, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    Wow, what a tale! Extremely entertaining, and it was like watching a movie unfold before me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian June 15, 2017 / 3:19 pm

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed. A number of the posts for this prompt would be interesting as movies!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. zaroffblog July 23, 2017 / 12:38 pm

    so strange and fantastic. cool imagery and vintage subject, well penned.keep’em coming.


  15. Robert Kirkendall June 12, 2020 / 12:58 pm

    Brilliant! This really transported me into the long gone world of Vaudeville, and reminded me of the musical Gypsy. Many of the great 20th century American entertainers started in Vaudeville as legitimate acts. WC Fields was a juggler, Jack Benny was a violinist, and the Marx Brothers were a singing act, including Harpo.


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