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Helen (Bingo) Bingler

Helen (Bingo) Bingler

Contributed by her daughter, Helen M. (Webber) Imburgia, HMWEBBER@aol.com

Here is some info on my mother who was a dancer/acrobate at the Seven Sea's in Chester:

This is the letter I sent to Ron PALUMBO of A&C Quarterly:

    I'm writing to you, for direction and guidance in doing research on the Vaudeville-Burlesque time period between 1931-1938 in the New York City to Washington, DC area.

      My mother Helen BINGLER, (Bingo), c1931, started working in Burlesque, at the Irving Palace Theater on 42nd St., New York City.  This was Mr. Allen GILBERT'S No. 1 show, Ed WHITE was the stage director. She was a Show girl/Chorus girl and was an Acrobat, (she was known for doing the back bend over a chair and drinking a glass of water). She was born on the 23 Jan 1916, (her mother died in childbirth), at 622 Courtland Ave., Bronx, NY and she was raised at 448 East 78th St., NYC, NY.   Running away from home, about the age of 15, to get away from the wicked stepmother, my mother was following her dream to become a dancer. She admired her aunt (can't remember her first name but her surname was SCHMIDT or MEHNER), who danced on table tops, in saloons, in the "Silent Movies."  With her own mother being a piano teacher, I guess, "the song and dance" was in the genes!
    My mother told me she performed at the Apollo Theater on 42nd St., and at other theaters off & on Broadway.  She traveled with the show to Cleveland, Ohio; Annapolis, MD; Ford Theater, Washington D. C.; Phila., PA; NJ & other cities.  

    Mother worked with Bud ABBOTT & Lou COSTELLO, Sally RAND, Ann CORIO and Gypsy Rose LEE, to name a few.  She was nicknamed "BINGO" by ABBOTT & COSTELLO! Was this because of her maiden name being BINGLER or because ABBOTT & COSTELLO had a chimpanzee named "BINGO?"  "Who's on first here?"   Who was named after who? Interesting!

    Walter WINSHAL, the news reporter, had gotten her a small part in a movie but mother did not want to leave the show she was touring with. Hence, she did not take the part. 

    Mother was the Girl-in-the Goldfish Bowl at a fair. We think it was the 1936 World's Fair in Cleveland, Ohio but it very well could have been a New York State Fair in the above time period mentioned. 

    Upon marring my father in 1938 my mother retired from Show Business. She discarded, all her write-ups, news articles, press releases and pictures!  My father was very upset with her for throwing all this material out.  A few years later, in a local bookstore, he did recover ONLY ONE article! That article was from the Fortune Magazine, c1934, pg. 69-70. It has pictures of Flo GARBO, Ed WHITE & Flo HANLEY, stagehands Irving & Eddie, & chorus girl EDWARDS and two pictures of my mother.  In the article Helen BINGLER is referred to as "BINGO!" Is this Flo related to "Greta GARBO?"

    I also, have a copy of a picture given to my mother, that is signed: To "Bingle" Wishing you lots of success from Ann. I think this is Ann CORIO!

    Could you please give me some references & direction on how to do research on my mother's career?  Who would house a collection on the Vaudeville-Burlesque time period that I am looking for?  I have made many phone calls to New York, libraries and other trying to get information over the years.  I have been in contact with the Billy ROSE Collection--nothing! Is there anyone you could put me in contact with that would have knowledge on this subject--maybe a private collector?

                                Happy hunting, Helen

Responses from ABBOTT & COSTELLO Quarterly,
Ron Palumbo in N.Y.


Dear Helen,

Wow, what a great story about your mother! It is so sad that she discarded all that wonderful material!

My first thought was to call the Billy Rose Theater Collection at the New York Public Library, which has extensive clipping files on performers from that era. Reading further down your letter, however, I saw that you already tried that library, without success.

Unfortunately, that is the only repository of its kind. The task ahead of you is much harder. You'll probably have to literally sift through old issues of Variety and The Billboard. They reviewed virtually every burlesque and vaudeville show of the era. These back issues are available on microfilm at the Billy Rose Theater Collection. There are also books on vaudeville there that you may want to check.

While you're at it, however, you might call Variety; they supposedly have or had clipping files on every performer. Sounds like your mom was quite well-known. Perhaps they'll have some leads for you. You may want to start checking the auctions on e-bay, searching under "vaudeville." Very often they have old theater programs and photographs. You can e-mail the sellers and ask specifically about cast members, etc.

Have you tried Joe Franklin? He has a vast knowledge of that era, too.

There's also an old actor's retirement home in Englewood, New Jersey. Perhaps there are some performers there who knew your mom.

I will check some of my reference materials for you. I have a few books on burlesque, and many old reviews of A&C in burlesque shows. I'll look for references to your mother and get back to you as soon as I can.

I hope this has helped, Helen. (I was born and raised in the Bronx, too, and want to help out!)


Another e-mail from Ron Palumbo in N.Y.:

Helen, this "Bingo" tie-in with the chimp will be fascinating to A&CQ fans. May I publish our correspondence in our club magazine, with the pictures of your mom? I'll be sure to send you a copy.

Yes, for course I would be delighted for you to publish it & I will be very happy to receive a copy of it from you.
                        Helen M. (Webber) Imburgia


Fortune Magazine Article, Feb 1935, pg. 69-70.

ABBOTT & COSTELLO Quarterly, (A&CQ) No. 28 (May 2000)
Article: In search of the first "Bingo,"  Pg. 5 & 11

From my notes:

     Mom was a tireless volunteer worker for St. Luke's Episcopal Church making many crocheted alter pieces, working at fund raisers, Strawberry Festivals, Calendar Parties & church dinners.

     Upon moving to 911 Market St., Marcus Hook, PA about 1970, (after my father's death in 1968), Mom became a member of the Marcus Hook Fire Company where she was active until her death in 1995.

        Mom enjoyed arts & crafts, crocheting beautiful baby outfits & afghans. She loved beautiful flowers but her greatest love of all was playing B-I-N-G-O !!!






If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about individuals in Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

2000 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07