Document: dbr070 [view transcript]
Letter: Nashville, Tennessee to Ben Stein, Macon, Georgia, 1928 Feb. 4
author: Starr, Milton
extent:  p.
date: February 4, 1928
summary: Letter from Milton Starr, president of Theatre Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.), a Tennessee-based booking agency from 1920 to the 1930s for African American vaudeville acts, to Ben Stein, owner and manager of the Douglass Theatre, dated February 4, 1928, responding to Stein's refusal to pay sixty percent to Irvin Miller's show, Desires, for an engagement at the Douglass Theatre. Informed of Stein's counteroffer by Mr. Reevin, probably Sam E. Reevin, manager and treasurer of T.O.B.A., Starr questions Stein's decision. He explains that arrangements have already been made for Miller to produce a show every month for T.O.B.A., and that they will all play at the Douglass Theatre according to the route that he has laid out. Starr assures Stein of the quality of the shows. He adds that Miller's shows will not play for less than sixty percent unless they get a one thousand dollar guarantee on the week, in which case they will take fifty-five percent. Starr tempts Stein with the promise of shows to come, including Blue Baby and Tokio. Starr mentions that dates for Augusta and Columbia are at sixty percent and complains that it has taken him considerable trouble to arrange the route and that Stein will wreck the route unless he agrees to the same percentage. Starr notes that these shows mean money for him and he is anxious to retain the original route. He deems impossible Stein's offer of fifty-five percent with less than a six hundred dollar guarantee. Starr assures Stein that he will make good with the shows as they are hits in the rest of the country. He hopes Stein will reconsider his decision and asks him to wire his answer. Irvin C. Miller was a pioneer producer for black vaudeville during the 1910s to the 1950s. He wrote several shows, the most well-known of which was the annual review, the Brownskin Models, Miller's answer to Ziegfeld's Follies.
repository: Middle Georgia Archives
collection: Charles Henry Douglass business records
Page:  [view image]
[Note: This document contains typewritten, handwritten, and printed text.]
[typewritten text: Feb. [February] 4, 1928.
Mr. Ben Stein
Macon, Ga. [Georgia]
Dear Mr. Stein:
Mr. Reevin has just informed me that you have refused to pay 60 per cent [percent] to Irvin Miller's Desires of 1928 for an engagement at your theatre.
I dont know what you did with the Models when you played them, but if you did as well as all other houses, you broke all house records...
Arrangements have been made for Irvin Miller to produce a show every month for the T.O.B.A. [Theatre Owners Booking Association] and according to the route that I have laid out for these shows, they will all play your house. These shows are in a class by themselves, and this week playing Desires here I had the best week of the season.
The straight facts about the Miller shows are as follows: They will positively not play any date in the country for less than 60 per cent [percent], unless they get a $1000 guarantee on the week, and then they get 55 per cent [percent]... For a three day stand they would have to get a guarantee of $600 in order to play at 55 per cent [percent]......If you can play these shows at 60 per cent [percent], you will get Desires in a few weeks, which is the best show I have had this year.... Two weeks later you will get Blue Baby another great Miller hit, a few weeks later, you will get Tokio another Miller hit...In other words you can depend on the highest calibre show in your house every four weeks.....
After your house these shows do two days in Augusta in my house and 1/day in Columbia also in my house.. Then they play Winston Salem with a guarantee for the week of $1250... All these dates and all other unguaranteed dates that these shows play, are at 60 per cent [percent]..... At the cost of considerable trouble I have gotten this route arranged so that the shows can get in and out of the South, and unless you agree to the 60 per cent [percent], you will simply wreck the route of the shows.... I am frank to
Page:  [view image]
say that these shows mean money to me when they play Nashville, Augusta, Columbia and Winston Salem, and that I am anxious not to have this route busted up.
If you ask to play these shows at 55 per cent [percent] with less than a $600 guarantee, you are simply asking what is impossible. I don't see how you can fail to make good with these shows when they are the hit of the rest of the country. I do hope that you will reconsider your decision in the matter and let Desires play for you at 60 per cent [percent].
I will greatly appreciate if you will agree to this 60 per cent [percent] and wire me to this effect at once at my expense.
Thanking you in advance for your kindness in this matter, I remain,
Yours very truly,]
[Signed] [written text: Milton Starr]