“Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music”
— Jerome Kern
in 1911, Berlin hit upon the musical composition that catapulted him into legend: “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” A jaunty tip of the hat to the ragtime craze (although not technically of the ragtime genre) the song reached the larger public in several stages: first as a vaudeville number premiered in Chicago by Emma Carus; then as a performance by Berlin at the Friars Frolic of 1911; then increasingly “covered” by performers in vaudeville and early gramophone recordings. It set a new record by becoming the fastest selling song of its time, moving a million copies of sheet music within four months; by 1912, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” had sold over two million copies of sheet music and subsequently a million more. It was the most ubiquitous song of its era and had become a cornerstone of the music publishing industry.
Betty visits Bimbo the fortune teller for some advice, but Bimbo is only interested in making time with Betty. Bimbo’s crystal ball predicts that Betty will be shipwrecked on a desert isle (during which time she sings part of the Irving Berlin song All by Myself), and attacked by evil spirits resembling poltergeists, but rescued by Bimbo. When Bimbo reveals himself by removing his fake beard, a happy Betty embraces him. Unfortunately, a group of the ghosts from the vision burst in on this scene, and chase the two to the desert isle. Betty and Bimbo eventually escape from the ghosts by tricking them into going off a cliff into the sea.