Jan and Cora Gordon: W.B. Feakins, Lecture Manager

On their American journey in 1927 and 1928, Jan and Cora Gordon gave illustrated lectures under the management of William B. Feakins (Wm. B. Feakins, Inc., Times Building, New York).

He is mentioned in "Star-dust in Hollywood": "The lecture-agent in New York had been a little coy of us : so many English lecturers of late had been unsatisfactory ; the big names did not always guarantee an effective presence on the platform or a carrying voice. ....... but after we had enticed the agent to a New York flat and had got him prancing like a bear round the room to the throb of a Spanish farouka we knew that he was won."

When Feakins invited the Gordons to play to his staff, he supplied ice-cream to all. "In the middle of this impromptu feast two of the sternest of club women stalked in." Feakins introduced "his new discovery, ourselves. They inspected us from head to foot with the critical eyes of a housewife examining a fowl on the poulterer's stall" and suggested, "Of course, you do it in costume." The Gordons retorted in the negative, having, without costume, "managed to lecture our way across to California; we had lectured to women's clubs, to musical and art societies, to a university, on a Sunday evening at a Unitarian church, at a Working-man's Institute."

The Gordons enjoyed giving their lectures: "Though the actual giving of lectures is quite an amusing business, containing the pleasures of dominating a crowd, of finding verbal expression for one's thoughts, of shaping, wrapping up, and decorating the subject, and a half-theatrical dramatization of effect, we never could understand the pleasure derived from the other side : the passive, paying audience."

The Gordons remarked on "the enthusiastic willingness to listen to lectures .... as a phenomenon peculiarly American" and noted that "this was combined with an almost equally strong determination not to listen to anything once the lecturer had descended from the platform."

After their return to Europe the Gordons continued to give public lectures, with Cora still making public presentations during WW2 and up until the years before her death in 1950.

Feakins died on the 24th March 1946, age 74. "Educated in Yonkers public school, Mr. Feakins had held about 30 different jobs before he was twenty-four." He was later a "lecture manager for nearly 40 years and president of William B. Feakins, Inc., lecture bureau at 500 Fifth Avenue, New York City."


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