How Variety Started

No doubt you have all heard about Variety in Jersey, but did you know how it all started?

In October 1927 eleven members from various walks of entertainment got together in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a relaxing drink at the end of a day's work to discuss various matters.  One thing they all had in common was their interest to help others less forunate than themselves in show business.  The name 'Variety' was proposed by one of the eleven charter members and adopted because it accurately encompassed all the branches of show business.

Original Variety International Logo

On Christmas Eve 1927, after a matinee performance, the Manager of the Sheidan Square Theatre came across a young baby who had been left abandoned by its mother.  Beside her was a note, which read: "Please take care of my baby.  Her name is Catherine.  I can no longer take care of her, I have eight others.  My husband is out of work.  She was born on Thanksgiving Day.  I have always heard of the goodness of show business and I pray to God that you will look after her.  It was signed: "A Heart-Broken Mother".  Both the police and the press tried to trace the mother but to no avail. 

Message from "A Heart-Broken Mother"

On the 28th December, at a Variety Club meeting, John T. McGreevey suggested that the members of the Club should adopt the baby.  The motion was enthusiastically endorsed and the Variety Club of Pittsburgh voted to act as godfather and to underwrite the infant's support and education.  It was further suggested that she be called Catherine Variety Sheridan, the first being her given name, the second being the name of the Club that adopted her, and the third being the name of the theatre where she was found.  The adoption of Catherine set a definite pattern for Variety and from that day Variety has been known as The Children's Charity.

The Eleven Founding Members

Their first event was held in a full size circus tent, which was obtained from a carnival company.  A local newspaper artist caught the spirit of the occasion and for the front cover of the menu he sketched a typical circus barker, a broad-chested individual wearing a frock coat, a checked waistcoat, winged collar and a top hat.  This barker, with full moustache and mouth wide open as he barked the customary circus jargon, became the official insignia of the organisation and is now recognised throughout the world as the copyright trademark of the Variety Club. Hence, all members are called 'Barkers' and The Variety Clubs around the world are known as 'Tents'.  Word soon travelled around the globe and Variety Club Tents popped up in all four corners of the world.  There are over 50 Tents worldwide, and Jersey is Tent 52.  International President Ralph W. Pries presented the Variety Club of Jersey - Tent 52 with its Charter at an inaugural luncheon held at The Waters Edge Hotel, Bouley Bay on Wednesday 17th July 1968.  Our first Chief Barker was Leonard Matchan and those named in the Jersey Charter were Sir Billy Butlin MBE, Deputy Cyril Tanguy, Jack Harrison, George Evans, Peter Wood, Vincent Cimattai and Maurice Smith.

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If you would like further information or to contact Variety, please email or call the Variety Office on 01534 856937.

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