Russell, Lillian (real name, Helen Louise Leonard)

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Russell, Lillian (real name, Helen Louise Leonard)

Russell, Lillian (real name, Helen Louise Leonard) , colorful American soprano and actress; b. Clinton, Iowa, Dec. 4, 1861; d. Pittsburgh, June 6, 1922. She studied with L. Damrosch in N.Y., where she sang in the chorus for a production of H.M.S. Pinafore in 1879. In the following year she was engaged by the entertainer and manager Tony Pastor for the vaudeville circuit, assuming the stage name of Lillian Russell. Her first success came in 1881, when she starred in The Grand Mogul (also known as The Snake Charmer) in N.Y.; she subsequently starred in Polly, or The Pet of the Regiment (1885), Pepita, or The Girl with the Glass Eyes (1886), The Queen’s Mate (1888), Poor Jonathan (1890), La Cigale (1891), Princess Nicotine (1893), An American Beauty (1896), and Whirl-i-gig (1899). She toured England and the U.S. in a burlesque company with Joe Weber and Lew Fields (1899–1904); after her last stage appearance, in Hokey-pokey (1912), she remained in the limelight by writing a syndicated newspaper column and lecturing on the vaudeville circuit.


P. Morell, L. R.: The Era of Plush (N.Y., 1940); J. Burke, Duet in Diamonds: The Flamboyant Saga of L. R. and Diamond Jim Brady in America’s Gilded Age (N.Y., 1972).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Russell, Lillian (real name, Helen Louise Leonard)

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