February 2 – Happy Birthday “Big Joe” Roberts


Joe-Roberts-1922So Kirk Douglas was not the first male Amsterdam-born Hollywood movie star after all. That honor belonged to Joseph Henry Roberts, who was born in Amsterdam, NY on February 2, 1871. By 1900, he had grown into a giant six foot three inch mountain of a man and was well on his way to becoming one of America’s most popular Vaudeville performers. By then he was known as “Big Joe” Roberts. He, his wife Lillian and their partner Ed Hays called their stage act “the Big Three” and they were promoted as the ‘best dressed act in vaudeville. Their signature skit was called “the Infant” in which Big Joe dressed himself up in a giant little boy’s outfit. Roberts Hays and Roberts became a headlining act on the national vaudeville circuit. Their success earned them an invitation to join a summer actor’s colony which was started by fellow vaudevillian Joe Keaton near Muskegon Lake in Michigan. It was there that Big Joe met and became friends with Keaton’s son, Buster. Ten year’s later, Roberts was a regular co-star in Keaton’s hugely successful silent movies…

I’ve already started work on the second volume of “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays” and Big Joe Roberts’ complete story will be featured in it. I will be sharing the complete posts of some of the Volume II birthday celebrants in future issues of the Amsterdam Birthday Blog Newsletter. If you are not yet a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up for free here.

Also born on this date is the greatest competitive weightlifter in Amsterdam history. Plus this remembrance of Marty Harrington.

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