Lottie Collins

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Lottie Collins
Lottie Collins 8bgs.jpg
Born Charlotte Louisa Collins
(1865-08-16)16 August 1865
East End, London
Died 1 May 1910(1910-05-01) (aged 44)
St Pancras, London
Cause of death Heart disease and bronchitis
Resting place Saint Pancras and Islington Cemetery, East Finchley, London
Occupation Singer and dancer
Spouse(s) Samuel Patrick Cooney
James W. Tate
Children Jose Collins (1887-1958)

Lottie Collins (16 August 1865 – 1 May 1910) was an English singer and dancer, most famous for introducing the song "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!" in England.

Early life[edit]

She was born Charlotte Louisa Collins in the East End of London in 1865.[1] Her father was a woodworker and music hall entertainer.[2] She started out in music hall at the age of 11 or 12 in 1877 in a skipping rope dance act with her younger sisters, Eliza (Lizzie) and Mary Ann (Marie) as The Three Sisters Collins.[3][4]


In 1886, Collins became a solo act in music hall. She also played in theatre, appearing the same year as Mariette in the Gaiety Theatre's burlesque, Monte Cristo Jr.[5] She first toured America in 1889[6][7] with the Howard Atheneum Company, during which she accepted the proposal of Samuel P. Cooney[8] whom she married in St. Louis.[9] According to her obituary in the New York Times she and Cooney had three children.[10]

While touring in vaudeville in the United States she heard the song "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!"[11] After she sang it at the Tivoli Music Hall in London in November 1891, it became her signature piece. She would sing the first verse demurely and then launch into the chorus and an uninhibited and exhausting skirt dance with high kicks (especially on the word "BOOM") that exposed her stockings held up by sparkling garters, and bare thighs. She sang the song at performances of the Gaiety Theatre's burlesque Cinder Ellen up-too-late beginning on 14 March 1892[12] and according to her obituary, at the height of the craze was performing it five times nightly at different venues in London.[13]

She returned to America in September 1892 to perform "Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay" as an entr'acte at the Standard Theatre, New York, but received a bad review from the critic of the New York Times, who described her as 'a mature woman', referred to her as 'Charlotte Collins' and mentioned she had been detained in quarantine when arriving 'on an infected ship'.[14] Another of Collins's dance sketches in the 1890s was The Little Widow, and she also had a hit with the song Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me A Bow-wow.[15] On 29 November 1897 she opened in New York again at the Garden Theatre, part of a triple bill with two short plays.[16] She became an icon of the "Naughty Nineties" and her risqué style led to some criticism, against which she defended herself.[17] A century later, her garters were sold by auction at Sotheby's.[3]


Her daughter by her first husband was the musical comedy star Jose Collins.[2] In 1902 she married her second husband, the composer-producer James W. Tate.[18]

In 1898 she apparently attempted suicide by cutting her wrists and neck with a penknife,[9] but her wounds were minor and she was discharged from hospital the same day.[19]


She died on 1 May 1910[20] at St Pancras of heart disease[10] and is buried at St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, East Finchley, London.[21]


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: September 1865 1c 424 St GEO East - Charlotte Louisa Collins
  2. ^ a b Jewish Virtual Library
  3. ^ a b Lottie Collins profile, PeoplePlayUK Theatre website
  4. ^ 1881 census: RG11/1003 f.11 p. 16, at 29 York Street, Dover, Kent - Charlotte Collins aged 15 singer and dancer, with sisters Eliza (11) and Mary A. (9)
  5. ^ The Times, Wednesday, 29 Dec 1886; pg. 6
  6. ^ New York Times, 20 September 1892: '...she made her first appearance here at the Bijou Opera House 7 October 1889, as a member of the Howard Athenæum Company.'
  7. ^ A theatre column in the New York paper The Evening World, 5 October 1889, p.3 refers to her forthcoming appearance at the Bijou with the Boston Howard Star Specialty Company. She is described as a "skirt dancer". George Thatcher, whose minstrel company later appeared in Tuxedo, is a member of the same company.
  8. ^ "S.P. Cooney" is named as manager of the Howard Athenæum Company in the New York paper The Sun, 23 January 1890.
  9. ^ a b New York Times, 10 November 1898: "Lottie Collins Tries Suicide"
  10. ^ a b New York Times, 3 May 1910:'Lottie Collins Dead'
  11. ^ According to a report in The New York Times, the song was given to her husband and manager Samuel P. Cooney by theatrical impresario William Harris when Cooney arrived in America to manage a play for him. See The New York Times, 10 November 1898: 'Lottie Collins Tries Suicide'
  12. ^ The Times, Saturday, 12 Mar 1892:'SPECIAL ENGAGEMENT of Miss LOTTIE COLLINS, the originator of the celebrated song Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay, which she will sing nightly on and after Monday next - GAIETY THEATRE'
  13. ^ New York Times, 3 May 1910:'Lottie Collins Dead:...Lottie Collins found herself driving round to four music halls a night at a salary of $100 for each hall just to sing "Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay" with her rhythmic dance. In addition George Edwardes engaged her at $300 a week to give the song in one of the scenes of a musical comedy he was running at the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand. That made five performances nightly.'
  14. ^ New York Times, 20 September 1892: 'More London Gayety'
  15. ^ New York Times, 3 May 1910:'Lottie Collins Dead'
  16. ^ New York Times, 28 November 1897:'...She has some new songs, including "The Little Widow", "The Girl on the Ran Dan Dan" and "A Leader of Society".'
  17. ^ New York Times, 17 July 1897:'Lottie Collins Gets £25 Damages'. The report, from London, refers to a successful legal action against the newspaper Society which 'had published an article accusing her of singing vulgar songs'.
  18. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: September 1902 7b 538 Nottingham - James William Tate = Charlotte Louise Cooney
  19. ^ The Times, 10 November 1898, p.9
  20. ^ Headstone, St Pancras and Islington Cemetery
  21. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: June 1910 1b 7 PANCRAS - Charlotte Louisa Tate aged 43

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