A friend of mine, inquiring as to the source of the line "So I sign off, wishing I could sing on," received the following reply from the IncreduLit scholarly service:
"So I sign off, wishing I could sing on" is the first line of the notorious "Black Bart" soliloquy from the second of Robert Service's "sestina operas," Klondyke Fannie, as adapted by Helen Trueblood for her famous "Frontier Opera" series, which opened in New York at Radio City Music Hall in, we believe, May of 1934. An interesting note on that production: Trueblood herself trained as a Rockette for six weeks before the show opened, and was in the opening night kick line for the phantasmagorical, pyrotechnical final act in which Black Bart is kicked to death by the entire Rockette troupe, with each dancer costumed as Annie Oakley. Intrigue surrounded the production from that first night on. When Daily Mirror columnist, Walter Winchell, who'd had a brief affair with Trueblood and was furious at having been jilted, raced up the aisle to phone in a vicious pan of the production, he was tripped and sent sprawling by a mysterious "Lady in Black," sustaining a broken ankle and a particularly nasty cut to his upper lip. The "Lady" was never apprehended; insiders at the time claimed "she" was local radio host, Barry Gray, in a black dress and wig. Winchell had carried on a long feud with Gray, excoriating him in his columns, calling him "Borey Pink" and a "disk jerk." In any case, Winchell's bad review never appeared, and Klondyke Fannie was a smash hit for a few months, until the man playing Black Bart--Paul Soldati, an actor with reputed Mob ties--was literally kicked to death during a Sunday matinee performance. The subsequent murder investigation closed the show down; it was never revived. Trueblood, however, didn't give up, and the following spring opened her second opera, Juneau What I Mean, to mixed reviews; it closed after a moderate run. Subsequent entries in the "Frontier" series--What's Your Point, Barrow? and Don't Know Her Name, But Alaska--had similar success before the outbreak of World War II. During the war Trueblood served as a WAC officer until her death in 1943, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she worked as a consultant for the drama troupe stationed at the USO training camp there. Trueblood never recovered consciousness after a mike boom accidentally knocked her off the stage during a dress rehearsal for Juneau What I Mean. The troupe was scheduled to fly out of Fayetteville two days later to perform the opera at a series of American bases in the South Pacific, beginning with Guam. One notable personality connected with this production was Bob Hope, who played the lead character, "Dirk, the Handler." After Trueblood's death, the tour was canceled, and the entire drama troupe was transferred to Chicago to train in sketch comedy.