- In the slang of the 1880s, "to mash" was to excite the admiration of one of the opposite sex. Thus an attractive actor might have numerous female fans who were "mashed" on him. The usually unwelcome attentions could range from "mash notes" delivered at the stage door to more aggressive pursuits like an incident in New York City that was reported in the Kansas City Times (15 April 1888): "The proud position of being a 'mash actor,' though envied by a brainless few, has its drawbacks. The sight last week of Bob Hilliard rapidly transporting his Apollo-like form across Twenty-sixth street, while a discarded female acquaintance made frantic efforts to detain him by means of a firm grip upon his coat-tails, was both inspiriting and educational, and has been the talk of the town. By Hilliard's seeking the refuge of a china shop, and enlisting the sympathies of its proprietor and staff of clerks, the petticoated Lochinvar was despoiled of her prey."To be "mashed" on an actor or actress went significantly beyond the passive admiration expressed by stage-door Johnnies and matinee girls. "Mashed on Rhéa" was the headline on a front-page story (Kansas City Evening Star, 12 September 1883) during the Kansas City engagement of Hortense Rhéa, reporting that "a Boston merchant of considerable means" had been following the actress from town to town, never missing a performance, repeatedly sending up his card at the stage door, but never receiving any encouragement from her after an initial interview granted in response to his claim to have crossed from Europe on the same steamship with her.Theatre audiences particularly attracted mashers, youths who would hang around in public places in hopes of attaining some physical contact with a girl or woman. Local mashers did not necessarily seek the attention of any particular actress, but mooned over the fair sex opportunistically. The Kansas City Evening Star (29 November 1880) ran a four-paragraph commentary on "Opera House Mashers," teens who could be seen under the street light, wearing "natty hand-me-downs," as the audience came out after the performance. "He don't go inside and mash the fascinated darlings, like the famous professional matinee mashers of Chicago. . . . He was never known to make a mash. He does not possess the necessary nerve to follow up a mash. He simply exhibits himself, and expects some poor stricken thing to kiss him. He is no good."
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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