Jump ahead to 3:33 in Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal video, and you’ll see him leaning at impossible angles, using an exclusive system he claimed to have invented— and patented!– himself.
But in this excerpt from Bob Hope’s autobiography Have Tux, Will Tavel, Hope describes using the exact same system in 1936:
In the same show, Jimmy (Durante) and I had a scene in which we leaned out over the orchestra pit at an impossible angle without falling. This gimmick is especially effective for drunk acts. You wear a cleat in your heel with a slot in it. There’s a screw in the stage, you slip the slot over the head over the screw, and after that you can lean at any angle you like.
I suppose he just considered it a marketing ploy, but I wish he had just admitted he resurrected a forgotten vaudeville trick. That’s pretty cool, too.