Het is ook al veertig jaar geleden dat de legendarische Amerikaanse burlesque-danseres Sally Rand (foto Pinterest) is overleden. Zij verkreeg vooral bekendheid als Sally the fan dancer (de danseres met de struisvogelpluimen).

Sally Rand werd geboren als Helen Gould Beck in the village of ElktonHickory County, Missouri. She got her start on the stage quite early, working as a chorus girl at Kansas City’s Empress Theater when she was only 13. After studying ballet and drama in Kansas City, the teenage Helen decided her future lay in Hollywood. For a short time as she worked her way to the west coast, she was employed as an acrobat in the Ringling Brothers Circus. She also performed in summer stock and traveling theater, including working with a then-unknown Humphrey Bogart.

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. After the introduction of sound films, she became a dancer, known for the fan dance, which she popularized starting at the Paramount Club in Chicago. Her most famous appearance was at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, accompanied by her backing orchestra, directed by Art Frasik. She would play peek-a-boo with her body by manipulating her fans in front and behind her, like a winged bird as she swooped and twirled on the stage, usually to Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”. She was arrested three times in a single day during the fair due to perceived indecent exposure after a fan dance performance and while riding a white horse down the streets of Chicago in Lady Godiva style, although the nudity was only an illusion, and again after being bodypainted by Max Factor, Sr. with his new makeup formulated for Hollywood films

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. She performed the bubble dance in the film Sunset Murder Case (1938) available for watching on YouTube.

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 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. The judge, Daniel R. Shoemaker, granted her immunity should she be arrested for the same offense while on trial. However 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”. 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”.

Sally continued to appear on stage doing her fan dance into the 1970s. Describing her 40-year career, Rand said, “I haven’t been out of work since the day I took my pants off.”

Rand died on August 31, 1979, at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital, in Glendora, California, aged 75, from congestive heart failure. She was deeply in debt at her death. Rand’s adopted son told an interviewer that Sammy Davis Jr. stepped in and wrote a $10,000 check which took care of Rand’s expenses. [Wikipedia]

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