Frankie suggested the name of Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs because they were crazy, but over the years all the groups came to be referred to under the umbrella of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers ( would have attracted quite some attention in Dublin, which was not as racially diverse then as nowadays.
Although Irish audiences would have been familiar with African American performers from films and touring shows.
The only surviving element is the grand marble staircase from the Theatre Royal’s Regal Rooms, now located in the Marks and Spencer’s store on Grafton Street, which is open to the public if you wish to literally follow in Frankie’s steps.
Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs were Whitey’s top group and comprised three teams on the European tour: Naomi Waller and Frankie Manning, Lucille Middleton and Jerome Williams, Mildred Cruse and Billy Williams.
The show gathered enthusiastic reviews in its European tour.
Playing at the Moulin Rouge in Paris it attracted Django Rheinhardt and Hugues Panassié, the famous French jazz critic, (the former went to see them perform every night according to Frankie, and Panassié went to see them fifteen or twenty times).
As Norma Miller explains in her memoirs, Joe Louis was an important hero for the African American community (, Tuesday 31 August 1937). Frankie Manning, easily recognizable sitting centre-left looking at the camera, with Dizzy Gillespie just in front of him waving his hat, and other unidentified cast members, possibly including, left to right, Naomi, Mildred and Lucille, to be confirmed.
cast looking at the Gas Company Building window display.
I was amazed at what I discovered in just a few days at the library and trawling through online Irish newspaper archives.
An ambitious modernist entertainment venue opened in 1935, it was the largest theatre in Ireland, and one of the largest in Europe, with seating for 3,850 people.
It included the luxury Regal Rooms (dining room and ballroom) and a cinema.
Jazz music, and dancing in particular, were seen as a pagan threat to Catholic morality and Ireland’s newly independent national identity, claiming that jazz dancing was ‘suggestive and demoralizing’, ‘a menace to their very civilization as well as religion’.
To give foreign readers an idea of the sway of the Catholic Church at the time, just about a quarter of Ireland’s population (i.e.
was at the Theatre Royal in a cine-variety format, including local artists and two short films; the Theatre Royal had been especially designed for this type of entertainment, which was very popular before the advent of TV.