Would you please tell me about Sophie Tucker?
—Marilyn G., Illinois
Born Sophia Kalish in Russia in 1884, Tucker was one of the best-loved entertainers of the early 20th century. A comedic vaudeville and stage singer (I'm the Last of the Red Hot Mamas), Tucker demonstrated a brassy flair that influenced scores of later female entertainers, including Bette Midler, Joan Rivers and Roseanne. She said her secret was knowing that "an audience enjoys hearing you make fun of yourself." Tucker alternated stage appearances with occasional films (Broadway Melody of 1938) but spent her last years performing in nightclubs. She died in 1966, three years after the debut of the biographical musical Sophie.