Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sally Rand

Sally Rand (April 3, 1904 – August 31, 1979) was a burlesque dancer and actress, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance and balloon bubble dance. She also performed under the name Billie Beck. Helen Harriet Beck was born in Hickory County, Missouri, attending Greenwood Grammar School three years ahead of Robert A. Heinlein. During the 1920s, she acted on stage and appeared in silent films. Cecil B. DeMille gave her the name Sally Rand, inspired by a Rand McNally atlas. She was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1927. After the introduction of sound film, she became a dancer, known for the fan dance, which she popularized starting at the Paramount Club. Her most famous appearance was at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair entitled Century of Progress. She had been arrested four times in a single day during the fair due to perceived indecent exposure while riding a white horse down the streets of Chicago, but the nudity was only an illusion. She also conceived and developed the bubble dance, in part to cope with wind while performing outdoors. She performed the fan dance on film in Bolero, released in 1934.

In 1936, she purchased The Music Box burlesque hall in San Francisco, which would later become the Great American Music Hall. She starred in "Sally Rand's Nude Ranch" at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939 and 1940.

She was arrested twice in succession San Francisco in 1946. While performing at Club Savoy, she was arrested by six police officers in the audience as she danced, seemingly nude, in silhouette behind a large white fan. While on trial, the judge granted her immunity should she be arrested for the same offense while on trial. She was arrested during a night of the trial while performing her act, despite her immunity and the fact that she was wearing long underwear and a note that read "CENSORED. S.F.P.D." while performing that time. In an unusual move, the judge viewed her performance at the Savoy and cleared her of all charges after deeming that "anyone who could find something lewd about the dance as she puts it on has to have a perverted idea of morals".

She appeared on television in 1957, on an episode of To Tell the Truth with host Bud Collyer and panelists Polly Bergen, Ralph Bellamy, Kitty Carlisle, and Carl Reiner. She did not "stump the panel" but was correctly identified by all four panelists. She continued to appear on stage doing her fan dance into the 1970s. Rand once replaced Ann Corio in the stage show, This Was Burlesque, appeared at the Mitchell Brothers club in San Francisco in the early 1970s and toured as one of the stars of the 1972 nostalgia revue "Big Show of 1928," which played major concert venues including New York's Madison Square Garden. Later, she appeared with Tempest Storm and Blaze Starr. She died in 1979 in Glendora, California, aged 75, from undisclosed causes. She was deeply in debt at her death and according to Rand's adopted son, Sammy Davis, Jr. who had been a child performer, stepped in wrote a $10,000 dollar check which took care of Rand's expenses.

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