September 2011

Gennaro Amato: An Italian-American Comic Singer

There isn’t too much information left about Italian-American vaudeville performer Gennaro Amato. There’s a New York Times article about him from 1921, but aside from a few recordings, that’s it to remember the great vaudeville performer. The strange and unaccountable article in the Times identifies Amato as a member of New York City Italian theater troupe and says that his assailant slashed him with a razor from cheek to chin. Amato was identified to his assailant by a woman who pointed at him. He was then attacked.

What a strange way to be remembered. Especially for a man who spent a lifetime on the stage. I was lucky enough to hear some original recordings by Amato, painstakingly culled from estate sales and antique stores, when I worked at Ellis Island Immigration Museum for a summer. I listened to some of Amato’s old tunes and it’s a shame we have forgotten him. Like his Italian-American counterparts, he set the stage for some of America’s earliest stereotypes of Italian-Americans, stereotypes that have entered the popular media culture of today. Here is a bit about some of Amato’s songs: