That’s how many Gilded Age New Yorkers described Lillian Russell—actress, singer, and arguably one of the world’s first celebrities ever in the 1880s and 1890s.
Born Helen Louise Leonard in 1861, she moved to New York at 18 and immediately found success, making her Broadway debut in 1877 at Tony Pastor’s Casino Theater near Union Square.
Now a star and noted for her gorgeous “peaches and cream” complexion, she performed at other Broadway theaters, like Weber and Fields Music Hall at 29th Street and Abbey’s Theatre at 38th Street.
There was no paparazzi to document her social life, but the public was fascinated by her comings and goings—she was the companion of superrich financier Diamond Jim Brady.
The two dined together in the new Times Square lobster palaces and took up the new sport of bicycling in Central Park, according to Upper West Side Story by Peter Salwen.
Once she retired from the stage in 1919, she did what many of today’s celebrities do: She pursued political and social causes.
She was a big proponent of women’s suffrage, and before her death in 1922, she investigated immigration reform for President Harding (she recommended a five-year moratorium on it).