NOVEMBER 22: Lillian Russell debuts

lillian_russell_marilynON THIS DATE in 1880, eighteen-year-old LILLIANRUSSELL made her stage debut at Tony Pastor’s Theater in New York.

Formerly Helen Leonard, she took the stage name Lillian Russell on Pastor’s suggestion and earned $40 a week singing ballads. A year later she made a splash in a comic opera called The Snake Charmer.

A much-admired soprano, Russell specialized in light opera and musical revues. According to, she “represented the feminine ideal of her generation” and “was as famous for her flamboyant personal life as for her beauty and voice.”

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