Follies Theater’s 1927 ‘Hot Mamma’ Show Led Court to Overturn Law on ‘Indecent Shows’

A EBay vendor posted this photo of a woman named Aline or Alene Carberry, and I could not resist unleashing the hounds of research.

Bidding on the “Hot Mamma” photo is currently at $34.50.

I’m sure all the photo archivists in the Brain Trust noticed the studio credit:


Chateau Art Studio, L.A. According to the 1923 Los Angeles city directory (online via the Los Angeles Public Library), Chateau Art Studios was at 213 S. Broadway, Room 328.

The 1923 date is important, because we find this date on the back: 6-6-27.

Follies Theater, Via EBay

Follies Theater, Via EBay
And the notation “Sat. Preview, P. 2.” Also notice the date in red grease pencil on the photo: 6-4-27. And we find that June 4 fell on a Saturday in 1927.

By now, you must be saying “well just Google Aline/Alene Carberry.” And there’s nothing in any of the online archives I searched. But this is worth pursuing because 1927 is quite early for any sort of ephemera from the Follies, 337 S. Main St.

Here we have it: On Oct. 27, 1927, a campaign to “sweep Main Street clear of questionable shows” resulted in the arrest of 27 women of the “Hot Mamma” show. Police also arrested “12 chorus men, four tattooed women wearing their working clothes and last, but not least, Ill Ill, an untamed tree-climbing South African pygmy” on charges of advertising on the street outside the Dreamland Palace, 539 S. Main. Police charged the “Hot Mamma’s” leading woman, Dorothy Walton, and the manager, T.B. (Tom V.) Dalton. The cast also included Mrs. Robert Whalen, a soubrette, and Dorothy Reeves, an ingenue.

L.A. Times, 1927

A Nov. 6, 1927, item in The Times noted a new show at the Follies, “Sugar Babies, “a performance of melody and mirth,” with comics Bud Dameron and Harry Graves, and a trio of Dorothy Walton, Miss Reeves and Rexina Dare performing “snappy song and dance numbers.”

“Reb Spike’s jazz colored orchestra will add materially to the program as usual, with Helena Justa, Struggin’ Gus Jones and Charlie Hart,” The Times said.

Meanwhile, the trial of the cast bogged down during jury selection, when each prospective juror was asked “Are you a member of any church?” Several Los Angeles ministers, including “Fighting” Bob Shuler, were called to testify. Shuler, who took notes during the performance, said it was “the most lewd and indecent performance he had ever witnessed.”

Dec. 3, 1927, L.A. Times

On Dec. 9, 1927, the Judge Frederickson sentenced four “Hot Papas” to 150 days in jail and $500 fines over the show. The women in the chorus were found not guilty.

Sentencing Tom V. Dalton, Robert Whalen, Charles B. Dameron and Harry Graves, Frederickson said: “It is my clearly defined duty to impose the severest sentence possible upon these defendants in order that such performances will not continue in this city. Certainly the dances staged with their help were not artistic as claimed by them. The defendants have had a fair and unbiased trial and convicted of a most serious offense to society.” The defense said it would seek an appeal of the men’s sentences.

On Dec. 16, 1927, The Times reported that the prosecution asked that vagrancy charges be dropped against the women because pursuing the case would be a waste of money.

And in May 1928, a panel of Superior Court judges declared the city ordinance against “obscene, indecent and lewd plays” unconstitutional.

L.A. Times, May 1928

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1927, Crime and Courts, Found on EBay, Photography, Stage and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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