Trav S.D.
By: Adam McGovern | Categories: HiLo Heroes

The media moguls of antiquity — and maybe the immediate future — did not command an empire from on high but carried it in a trunk, going straight to the people to sing for their sovereignty. TRAV S.D. (Donald Travis Stewart, born 1965) is a one-man empire of hands-on entertainment, but like all true leaders he doesn’t do it alone. A participant-impresario of neo-Vaudeville, in-person radio plays, exhumed Victorian music-hall, opera-house oration and dime-museum hoodwinkery, “Travesty” takes on his punky burlesque-queen-like alias to absorb the scorn that might be heaped on his master performers in obsolete artforms and creates a secure, expanding home for them in the three-ring tent of his outrageous standup, fabulist storytelling, golden-eared tinpan-alley songwriting and assured but buffoonish thespian personae. The man who wrote The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous and has had, if not a single hand, then a divine one in un-killing it, who connects dots that would leave other scholars Twistered in knots with lectures (and another forthcoming book) on silent-movie shorts and the social-media vids that carry their mantle, this man, I say, walks the talk and treads the boards gracefully as both audacious humorist, inspired scenarist and focused performer in his own right, and presenter of the rafter-shaking crooners, untireable hoofers and daredevil crowd-pleasers — tumblers, jugglers, contortionists — who burned the circuitry for the spectacles of today, and did it in the talent-stage settings that have retaken most of primetime programming. Fluent in the period dialect of every pop subculture from pre-Civil War variety-show to backwoods fable to flower-power psychofarce to atomic-age kitsch, and indulgent of all the eccentricities that make it worth not being someone else, Trav is the heir to the old weird America and the father of a misfit nation that will endure, and where anyone can belong.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Dorothy Day and Parker Posey.

READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–73).



Adam McGovern blogs on power and superpower at, LA Review of Books and elsewhere. His own blog is at Fanchild and his Image Comic Nightworld debuted August 2014.