Frank Van Hoven – Love Found and Lost

To continue the tabloid theme here is a story of love found and lost. There are two players in this drama. The first is Frank Van Hoven (1886-1929) the “Dippy Mad Magician” and one of best comedy magicians of his age. In his burlesque “magic act” everything went wrong and it ended with two boys, a block of ice and belly laughs galore. The other is Annie Kent a talented comedienne, singer, song writer and dancer. Her real name was Annie O’Brien and she grew up in show business family playing the northwest and the gold fields of Alaska. Her father was a wrestler of some note and her mother a world champion boxer. You will see that Annie inherited some of her parents athletic skills and was not one to be trifled with.

Frank and Annie first meet when both were touring the east coast around 1911. Love blossomed, but there was a problem…Annie was married. This barrier soon came down and the September 10, 1912 issue of the Oregonian tells the rest of the story.



Actress is Divorced, Wooed and Won in Same Day.

Annie Kent, Appearing at Orpheum, to Wed “Dippy Magician”- Is Well Known Here.

Three hours after receiving a divorce decree in Spokane last week, Annie Kent was proposed to by telegraph, and she answered “yes” by the same means of communication. Upon arriving in Portland yesterday morning to begin her engagement at the Orpheum she received a diamond bracelet and ring from her fiancé, R. F. Van Hoven, who is known in the theatrical world as “the dippy magician.” Van Hoven appeared at the Orpheum last season.

Miss Kent was Mrs. James Kelly, and appeared with her husband under the billing Kelly and Kent, for several seasons. She was in stage harness with him last year in their appearance at the Spokane Orpheum, and it was then that the actress applied for divorce. Upon returning to Spokane last week the allotted legal time had expired and she was awarded a decree, Kelly not contesting the case. She met Van Hoven in the East last season when gracing the same vaudeville bill with him.

While still young, Miss Kent has a stage recorded in the Northwest that extends back 10 years. She was born O’Brien, and when a mere slip of a girl appeared with her father and mother, who were billed in extensive theatrical tours as O’Brien, Jennings and O’Brien. They were particular favorites in the Klondike, at Dawson, Skagway, Juneau and Nome.

Miss Kent is the author of more than one dozen popular songs, and belongs to the writing staff of a song publishing company of New York.

“The initials of my new husband-to-be  are R. F.” said Miss Kent. “That means rapid fire, and in proposing to me he lived up to his billing. I was divorced at noon, telegraphed to him at 1 o’clock, he proposed to me at 3 o’clock, and I telegraphed ‘yes’ immediately.”

Her fiancé is appearing in Hammerstein’s Theater in New York.

Here is the original article: Oregonian September 9, 1912

They both kept touring and in the spring of 1914 there were reports that Frank and Annie were going to produce a new act and successfully tried it out at the Orpheum in San Francisco. However, there marriage was a rocky one. Frank was a bit of a womanizer and drinker and there was even talk about a separation and divorce in the summer of 1914. They seemed to have overcome their problems and both kept touring, though the new act did not materialize. Then Annie hired a private detective  and the resulting scandal ended up on the front page of the February 18, 1915 issue of the New York Herald. (click on the image for a larger view)

The two were soon granted a divorce. Unfortunately they were touring on the same bill and had to fulfill their contracts. It must have not been a pretty scene backstage.

Annie and Frank both had very successful careers. Frank was a headliner right up until his death in 1929 while touring England.  Annie kept touring as a vaudeville headliner for decades to come. As vaudeville declined she turned to revues, nightclubs, burlesque, radio and the like. During the 1940’s Annie appeared in various variety nostalgia shows and was a cast member of Joe Howard’s Gay 90’s radio show. The last mention I found of her was an interview she did with the sports writer for the Fitchburg Sentinel, which was published on May 17, 1951. At the time she lived in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Hope you enjoyed and good hunting.

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