H. Vernon Watson
Coming from a rural background near Peterborough, H. Vernon Watson (1886–1952) showed a leaning towards things theatrical and it was evident that he had a rare talent for mimicry. In 1911, he turned professional, using his real name, doing impressions of the leading comedians of the day. Then, when Frank Tinney, the American black-faced comedian, came to the UK, Watson added an impression of him to his repertoire. He noticed that this impression gained him great applause, and when Tinney returned to the United States, Watson gave thought to a different style of act based on a black-faced personality. Those stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrels played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes, and perceptions worldwide.
The name of this black face personality, Nosmo King, came from the moment the British stage comedian went on stage through double doors on the left and right halves of which was a notice: NO SMOKING, five letters on the left door, four on the right.
Room, A. (1981), ‘Name Stories’, Naming Names, p.111
previous A–Z next