Nationally Syndicated Feature: “How the Clown Won Back the Beauty From the King” (1925)

Monday, December 7, 1925

This is a real gem:  a 1925 newspaper feature article about Pepito the Spanish Clown, aka Jose Escobar Perez, and his first stage partner, Peggy Shorey, aka Margaret Shorey, who performed together from 1924-1928.  

Margaret Shorey’s specialty was playing the guitar and singing songs like a Spanish senorita, even though she was actually born in Wisconsin and raised in California.  In 1923, Mary Pickford had been a sensation as a mandolin-playing waif from Spain in the movie “Rosita,” and doubtless this made an impression on the Barcelona-born Pepito, who named their act “Pepito and Rosita.”  As “Rosita,” Margaret Shorey served as the straight-woman and foil to Pepito’s clown antics, and also provided musical entertainment while he changed scenes or props.  

Pepito and “Peggy” were never married.  After Margaret Shorey and Pepito parted ways by January, 1928, she went on to marry in 1929 the prolific movie actor Frank Mayo, Jr.  It was a second marriage for Mayo, who had recently been granted an annulment from notorius actress Dagmar Godowsky.

In my research, I have not yet found out what became of Margaret Shorey, aka Margaret Louise Mayo, after the 1930 Census which shows her living in Beverly Hills with her husband Frank Mayo.  I have reason to suspect that Margaret Shorey died  in 1957 under the name Margaret Louise Swails, in Orange, California, and am working hard to find her living descendants.

After Margaret Shorey and Pepito parted ways in early January, 1928, Pepito was booked to perform as a clown in the live circus-themed stage “Ballyhoo” which preceded each showing of Charlie Chaplin’s new movie “The Circus” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

It was at Grauman’s that Pepito first performed with his future wife Joanne, who went by the stage name Joan Falcy.  Pepito and Joanne were hired by Sid Grauman separately, but it was Charlie Chaplin who paired them up as a “clown and ballerina” act.  Joanne was always proud to say that Charlie Chaplin was their matchmaker.

The article below smacks of melodramatic sensationalization of what may have been an actual event, for the purposes of promoting vaudeville ticket sales.   Margaret Shorey’s father was a prominent Los Angeles newspaperman named Frederick North Shorey, and he may have played a hand in placing this feature article in several newspapers around the country.  

 — Melani Carty

How the Clown Won Back the Beauty From the King


Syndicated Feature Article

The Evening Independent

December 7, 1925

“Laugh, Pagliaccio, for the love that is ended, Laugh for the love that is breaking thy heart!”

Thus sang Pagliaccio of the Opera, the most famous clown qf literature and art.  Thus other clowns have sung and spoken throughout all time. For story writers and tellers of tradition love to picture the dramatic paradox; the figure of merriment with a heart broken by betrayed love!  Thus, too, might have sung Pepito, famous Spanish clown. But he didn’t. When he saw his sweetheart, the lovely Peggy Shorey, slipping away, he did not speed her going with mocking, hollow laughter. He shed no tears over ended love.  Instead he turned about and won her back; — won her back from the King himself! — so changing the entire course of the story and creating a new role for clowns !

Pepito probably is one of the most laughed at and the most adored clowns in vaudeville. All over America thousands have whooped with glee at sight of his grotesque antics. Like the Pagliaccio of the Opera, he is a personage in the mimic world; an outstanding figure among smile makers.

Peggy Shorey was his partner. Her radiant feminine beauty was a part of his act on the stage. And it was part of his life off stage. For Pepito loved Peggy deeply and sincerely. He loved her as Pagliaccio loved Nedda, perhaps more. For he loved her enough to fight for her.  And Peggy loved Pepito!

And the King — well, he had left his kingdom, for the time being at least, and it wasn’t so much of a kingdom at that.  His glory, furthermore, was built upon the thinnest and most evanescent, of foundations— publicity.  Yet they called him “King” and as King he reigns in the little world of vaudeville of which he, too, was a member, most of his subjects being impressionable feminine hearts.

You have read of him. Beside great spreads of exotic photographs in the newspapers you have read of Ray Dean. Ray Dean, once a vaudeville actor with his wife, Emma. A thin little insignificant looking fellow who wore shell-rimmed spectacles and colored hat hands.  

Dean, a product of Broadway and the Chicago Loop, who was a South Sea Island fan.  Who read Stevenson and O’Brien’s ”White Shadows of the South Seas” back stage — and who filled his pockets with schedules of steamers that ply between far ports.  

He went to the South Seas, finally.  He threw up his nightly turn and left his wife and sailed for Tahiti. He landed on one of those atolls that rise from the tropic waves as the coral rises from a cameo.

And there he found Queen Matta. A dusky Queen she was, given to decking herself with strings of beads and little grass fringes instead of skirts. Given to violent tempers and equally violent affections. Like the dusky Queens he had read about back stage. And she made him king.

She gave him three dusky but beautiful slave girls for his own, and named them “Ace,” “Tana,” and “Deuces Wild.”  And he, too, took to wearing a grass apron and a garland on his head.

It was a great life— the life of King Ray. Until Emma, his wife, showed up.  Emma edged into the mud-and-thatch royal palace and set up housekeeping.

She threw out the poker hand, including “Tana,” and told the Queen to go and get dressed.

The lotus diet was not so good from then on.  King Ray began to look around for a way out.  Finally he made an agreement with Emma. They would return to the States and he would get a job in vaudeville. When he had made a certain amount of money, which he would settle upon her, she would divorce him and he would come back to his island, his Queen and his pleasant occupation of kinging.

They came hack to America. Ray Dean appeared on the boards. Their plans went through and Emma divorced him. But he didn’t return to the island.  Queen Matta and the coral strand seemed far away, and the lights of Broadway and the Loop were near and bright.  Besides, the newspapers had taken up the story of King Ray. Column after column had been printed about his adventures in the South Seas.

His never too-stable ego had swollen to enormous proportions. He saw himself as an adventurer, a figure of romance— a king, in fact.  It was as “King Ray” that he moved about among the stage people and everybody he met.  They called him “King,” and if there was a laugh in it, he never knew.  It is true that a large number of women made a hero of him.  He began to believe himself invincible as a superlover.  And his exaggerated belief in himself carried him a certain distance.  This was the man who cast his eyes upon Peggy Shorey, the sweetheart of Pepito.  He admired Peggy.  And Peggy was flattered, by the attentions of the Romeo who was constantly appearing upon the same bills with the act in which she played with the Clown.

The Clown watched and wondered.  He saw Peggy giving more and more time to the King.  They jumped from city to city. And everywhere Pepito found his rival waiting.  Pagliaccio would have wept tunefully, no doubt.  Other clowns, those clowns of story and tradition, would have smiled at the world more broadly than ever to hide aching’ hearts. But Pepito only grew very thoughtful. He frolicked neither more nor less gaily than had been his wont. When Peggy left him to sit across the table from his rival for after-theatre suppers, he showed no anger. When she received his customary little attentions absent-mindedly, he did not seem disappointed.  The stage people marveled.  “Perhaps it only is a great friendliness he feels for her,” they said. “Perhaps it isn’t love at all, and so he cannot feel jealousy. Still, the King had better take care.  Spanish blood runs warm, and the Jester may have claws under his humor!”

Thus matters went on. And finally the trio found themselves in Texas, and all playing on the same bill at a theatre there.  What happened to upset the equilibrium of the curious situation? Who shall say? A chance word, perhaps, or a look. All there is to be known is what their friends said afterward. They said that pretty Peggy and the King departed from the theatre after the performance for a nearby restaurant. And the Clown followed them. He found them in a private dining room.  

“You may imagine the figure of the King leaning toward the girl across the table, her face aglow with the wonder of the tales he was telling her; tales of his adventures in the South Seas.  Perhaps he was holding her hand across the shining napery.  Perhaps he was picturing for Peggy— as it is said he pictured for other romantically inclined young women — a new throne in Tahiti. A throne upon which he again might sit in his grass apron and his garlands. A throne to be shared with a new and lovelier queen than dusky Matta — a queen none other than herself. Queen Peggy!  

Queen Peggy, decked out with strings of beads, her hair floating like a shining veil over white shoulders.  Queen Peggy, under the tropic moon, lying like a mermaid in the black pool where once he swam with Matta.  

No doubt it was a sightly vision and one scintillating with color that King Ray conjured for the clown’s sweetheart as they sat at the table after the show. An extravagant vision, but one likely to interest a girl more accustomed to a kitchen chair in a theatre dressing room than she was even to talk of a throne.

You may imagine the door opening softly and the tall, slim Pepito stepping inside, his eyes boring. Fancy the two starting backward, frightened by a premonition of trouble.  Then Pepito moving forward. The King rises, trembling.  The Clown comes on, and the woman screams. And then —

Well, then the King dives under the table in a most unkingly manner. The other man hurls the table backward. Whereupon the little fellow leaps over a chair. He jumps around like a grasshopper, under furniture and over it. For in the hand of his pursuer gleams a long knife. He edges toward the door, finally, and flees down the hall, while Pepito hurls the knife after him. Then the Clown turns and faces the lady.

“Well?” says he.

“Oh, Pepito! Oh! Oh!”

“Do you love him?”

She’d been weeping, but now she looks up with flashing eyes. “Love him!  He ran away! And they call him ‘King’!”

“Well, then?”

“Oh, Pepito, I love only you!”

And that was all of the story of how Pepito the Clown won back his Nedda, the beautiful Peggy Shorey — won her back from the King himself — and how he changed the entire course of the tale of the laughing clown with the broken heart when he refused to sing the song about love that is ended.

Early vaudeville publicity photo of Ray Dean with his wife and stage partner, Emma Dean.
Back of photo is inscribed “Ray and Emma Dean, ‘Oh, You Leave Me Alone!’  Picquantly presenting their own songs and wrinkle-erasing chatter.”

If you are researching any of the people in this blog entry, please contact me.

Jose Escobar Perez 

Jose Escobar “Pepito”

Pepito the Spanish Clown

Pepito the Clown

Pepito Perez

Pepito and Rosita

Pepito & Rosita

Pepito and Joanne

Pepito & Joanne

Margaret Shorey

Margaret Louise Shorey

Peggy Shorey

Frederick North Shorey

Frederick N. Shorey

Frederick Shorey

Louise Shorey

Louise Struthers

Louise Strothers

Margaret Mayo

Margaret Louise Mayo

Peggy Mayo

Margaret Swails

Margaret Louise Swails

Peggy Swails

Margaret Zettler

Margaret Janet Zettler

Joan Falcy

Joanne Perez

Ray Dean

Emma Dean

Ray and Emma Dean

Ray & Emma Dean


The Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica, Page 63, and nationally syndicated by Newspaper Feature Service, in many U.S. newspapers .

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