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Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements

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Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements David Nasaw (BasicBooks, $25) This lively social history traces the development in the first half of the 20th century of vaudeville, nickelodeons, movies, sports, amusement parks, and world’s fairs, including Alan Freed’s controversial (because he invited blacks) rock & roll shows of the ’50s. A professor of history and American studies at the City University of New York, Nasaw documents the economic and cultural forces-and the entertainment triumphs and excesses-that often drew crowds larger than those at today’s live attractions, even Disneyland. (”Over twenty million men, women, and children visited Coney Island alone during the 1909 season.”) And he casts a hard eye on the once-stubborn refusal to welcome blacks in the audience or offer fare that didn’t insult them. Sadly, Nasaw’s publisher spoiled the splendid pictures by settling for shoddy reproductions. But in every other way, Going Out is superb. Give a copy to anyone interested in the world of entertainment. A -D.A. Ball

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