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The Death of Vaudeville

Spantsa is a small town in southwestern Manitoba. At it’s most it had a population of seven hundred and fifty-two people. That was in 1938. The people of Spantsa did not copulate to populate.

Spantsa was the end of the line for many vaudeville comics. When an unwanted comic was on his last legs the MCA Agency would send him to Spantsa and forget about him. The unwanted comics could not make the transition to the movies. They were Hollywood flops before they flopped. And no one would ever miss them. Any who had family were abandoned by their families years ago.

A couple of historians of vaudeville posited theories that abandoning the unwanted comics in Spantsa was a gag of their agents, but the comics were not laughing. How could they? They were in Spantsa.

Four or five hundred unwanted comics piled up in Spantsa like nitrate film piled up nitrate in Dawson City, nearly doubling the population of Spantsa. Nitrate was easier to dispose of and Spantsa was stuck with five hundred unwanted comics. And they, too, like the citizens of Spantsa, did not copulate to populate.

The people of Spantsa, to put it simply, all like sex. Each citizen was given a birth name but lived their juvenile and adult lives with sexual nicknames that complimented their personality or their habits.

In Spantsa the unwanted comics lived out their remaining years, embedding themselves in Spantsa like a tick on a dog or gonorrhea on a politician.

But Spantsa was not the end for the unwanted comics. It was not the free flow of sex that kept the unwanted comics in Spantsa. Sex they could buy in New York or Toronto like a lollipop. Spantsa was a new beginning for the unwanted comics.

The old comics were dragged out at the annual Christmas pageant, Canada Day celebrations and wedding socials held at the Spantsa Community Hall, an unattractive hall with wooden paneling. There they perform their old routines. The citizens of Spantsa don’t mind. They laugh at the old jokes like they were hearing them for the first time. A tourist from Gallop, New Mexico, said it reminded him of the annual screening of Cheyenne Autumn at the old drive-in movie. The Navaho busted their guts.

The unwanted comics over the years had become a tourist attraction for visitors from around the world who came to Spantsa to experience the fountain of free love. It was just like the Golden Age of Vaudeville, and the unwanted comics did not have to travel to Ignace, Neepawa, Broadview and Ponoka.

Between holiday performances the unwanted comics could be found hanging out at Don’s Ford Lincoln Dealership, Kheiler’s Farm Mutual or behind the butcher counter at Spantsa Valley Coop.

They were always ready with a joke!


Bio: Grant Guy is a Winnipeg, Canada, poet, writer and playwright. Former artistic director of Adhere + Deny. His writings have been published in Canada, the United States, Wales, India and England. He has three books published. He was the 2004 recipient of the MAC’s 2004 Award of Distinction and the 2017 recipient of the WAC’s Making A Difference Award.

BUS STOP BUS STOP is a rolling confessional of prose poems and written portraits of human compassion and human intolerance seen through the eyes of a singular transcontinental bus passenger. The prose poems cross borders. They are sad rising up into joyful song. They possess love of the human existence and the men and women who reside in that beauty. They possess a rage against the foes of our existence. These are exquisite, achy, whimsical songs to the heartbroken and ever hopeful, the gritty bus-riding world citizens of North America. Pitch perfect. —Di Brandt, author of Walking to Moj‭á‬car

Red Dashboard LLC Publications presents a blend of fiction and poetry–On The Bright Side of Down by Grant Guy. He takes us on a road trip across the changing landscapes of time, styles and form. Grant takes us to the last stand of Johnny Ringo, to the back-road circuses and sideshows that pulled their wagons across the Great Plains and Prairies of the United States and Canada, and growing up in a small town where hopes are big, temptation out of reach and outcomes undetermined. The living, the dead and the inanimate get a chance to say their piece, sometimes deadpan and sometimes tongue- in-cheek, in this collection of writings of truths, half truths and lies. Reality. Legend. Myth.


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Published inHumorous

One Comment

  1. I enjoyed this tale, Grant. I should probably look up in my old Canada Atlas to see if such a town exists, but that would spoil clever fantasy of the whole piece. At least, I hope it’s a made up place or at the very least, the town’s main street isn’t full of aging vaudvillians drinking cold Tim Horton’s coffee and comparing notes on where to get the best Senior’s Breakfast special in the town. I enjoyed your story. don

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