Margaret Shorey, the “Rosita” in “Pepito and Rosita”
Margaret Shorey, also known as Peggy Shorey, was “Rosita,” the first stage partner and female foil for Pepito the Spanish Clown after hi arrival in the United States, circa 1923-1927.
She sang, played the guitar like a Spanish senorita, did a “snake-charmer” number with her trumpet, and assisted Pepito with the clown routines. Margaret quit “Pepito and Rosita” in late 1927.
Margaret Shorey’s stage costume was inspired by the “Spanish craze” of the 1920s, inspired by the motion pictures of the dashingly handsome actor, Rudolf Valentino. In 1923, actress Mary Pickford, known as “America’s Sweetheart” had been a sensation as a mandolin-playing waif from Spain in her motion picture “Rosita,” and doubtless this made an impression on the Barcelona-born Pepito, who named their act “Pepito and Rosita.” As “Rosita,” Margaret Shorey dressed as a classic Spanish señorita and served as the straight-woman and foil to Pepito’s clown antics. A talented singer and musician, she also provided musical entertainment on coronet and saxophone during short interludes to allow Pepito time to change costumes, scenery or props.
Last year, I unearthed a little gem: a 1925 newspaper feature article about Pepito the Spanish Clown and “Peggy” Shorey.
Pepito and “Peggy” appear to have had a torrid personal relationship, but were never married. After Margaret Shorey and Pepito parted ways in late 1927, she went on to marry in 1929 the prolific movie actor Frank Mayo, Jr. It was a third (?) marriage for the many-times-married Mayo, who had recently been granted an annulment from notorius actress Dagmar Godowsky.
In my research, I have not yet found out very much about Margaret’s life after she married Frank Mayo and became Margaret Louise Mayo. The 1930 Census shows her living in Beverly Hills with her husband Frank Mayo and their manservant.
Margaret Shorey died in 1957 under the name Margaret Louise Swails, in Orange, California, apparently divorced from Frank Mayo. The years from 1929 to 1957 are still a bit of a mystery.
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 (see link 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.
Many thanks to Lee Shorey, great-nephew of Margaret Shorey, and his wife Kathy Shorey, for their contributions and allowing me to interview them on the telephone in 2010.
And many thanks to CarlaJean Beers and her husband Jeff Beers for tracking me down in 2020 through the magic of the internet and search engines. They shared with me many photos and clippings from Margaret Shorey’s own long-lost vaudeville scrapbook and shoebox, found inside a long-locked trunk. With their assistance, I am finally able to fill the mysterious gap in Pepito’s own memorabilia for the years 1922-1927. This story is so amazing, it will get its own separate blog post.
If YOU have any information about Margaret Shorey, please contact me using the “Email Me” link at the bottom of this page.