Sally Rand Bio!

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Sex-Kitten Salutes Sally Rand!

Sally Rand, Feather Dancer

Sally Rand is an American icon, best known for her famous "fan dances" and her appearance at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Born Harriet Helen Gould Beck, on Easter Sunday, April 3rd, 1904, in the Ozark Mountain town of Elkton, Missouri, she was the daughter of Nettie Grove, a Pennsylvania Dutch Quaker, and Corporal William Beck, a veteran of the Spanish-American War.

Sally was interested in dance from an early age. As a teenager, she literally up & ran away with a carnival and later became a night club cigarette girl, an artist's model, and a cafe dancer. Her experience with the carnival led to work with the Adoplh Bohm Chicago Ballet Company and the Ringling Brothers Circus. From there, the path led to an association Gus Edwards, Eddie Cantor, Walter Winchell, and George Jessel, and then on to work with the Seabury's Repertory Theatre Company.

You see, Sally knew that a serious stage career was in her future. So, she studied Chekov and Ibsen, and actually played Sadie Thompson in a production of "Rain" opposite, the then unknown, Humphrey Bogart.

Once the theater company reached California, Sally, then using the stage name of "Billy Beck" used her carnival and circus background to land spots in comedy shorts produced by Mack Sennett and Hal Roach. Eventually, she was named 'Sally Rand' by Cecil B. deMille, and had many featured roles in silent films.

When silent films gave way to "talkies," her prominent lisp ruined any chance of her being accepted as a major star of the silver screen. So Sally was off to find another career.

While she was not the first to see the use of making money off displaying her charms, Sally soon accepted a position at the Paramount Club, in response to an advertisement for "exotic acts and dancers." It was at the Paramount Club that she first performed the "fan dance," using two large ostrich feather fans purchased at a second-hand shop.

Sally & Swan

Soon after this, Sally appeared in what was called the "Lady Godiva" inspired stunt at the gates of the 1933 "Century of Progress" World's Fair. Sally became a featured performer in the "Streets of Paris" concession and catapulted into stardom on May 30, 1933.

While most 'remember' her as being nude, Sally was probably not. Her "nudity" was actually a body stocking or, a coat of white theatrical cream. But the illusion was wonderful as she manipulated two pink seven-foot ostrich fans to conceal and reveal... The natural blonde, with her 5' 1" frame, with a 35-22-35 figure, began packing them in by the thousands.

So naturally, this would cause Rand to have to show up in court.

Charged with "lewd, lascivious, and degrading to public morals" Sally found herself in front of a judge. To his credit, the judge was a 'real' man:

"There is no harm and certainly no injury to public morals when the human body is exposed, some people probably would want to put pants on a horse. . . .When I go to the fair, I go to see the exhibits and perhaps to enjoy a little beer. As far as I'm concerned, all these charges are just a lot of old stuff to me. Case dismissed for want of equity." (Superior Judge Joseph B. David - July 19, 1933)

When the Chicago fair reopened in 1934, Sally "had to find a new twist."

She decided on 'the bubble dance.' "I wanted a balloon sixty inches in diameter, which is my height, made of a translucent or transparent material." The only trouble was that the biggest balloons available were a mere 30" in diameter. They were heavy red target balloons used by the War Department. Since no one knew how to make the required equipment, Sally fronted the funds for necessary experimentation herself. After numerous tests, the super-dooper, see-through bubble was born. Once again, she was a smash hit ~ heading a big show of 24 dancers and 16 showgirls.

Sally Rand, The Bubble

After the Chicago exposition finally closed, Sally hit the road. In 1936, she opened a "nude show" at the Frontier Exposition in Fort Worth, Dallas. In 1939, she hosted Sally Rand's Nude Ranch at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. It featured women wearing cowboy hats, gun belts and boots, and little else.

Nude Ranch

Between the World Wars, Sally Rand took hold of the club, now called The Music Box where a bevy of skimpily dressed girls danced. She became famous for her finale, a fan-twirling dance, which she rendered in the buff. But, when challenged in court, she claimed that her audience never saw a thing because "the Rand is faster than the eye."

Rand's Music Box Poster

Sally continued to pose for various "men's magazines" and dance. An intellect, she took time off from her dancing to appear on a stage with Gene Tunney, to appear before 1,300 Harvard freshmen to lecture on the evils of communism, and in 1954, while appearing at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas, she conducted a weekly television program.

In 1953, in her 50's, Sally played the Dallas Fair and took in $14,000 in one day. She was still strutting her stuff in 1967 at the age of 63, and was still wearing miniskirts and turning heads in 1974. Pressed on the subject of continuing her act into a 7th decade, she replied "What in heaven's name is strange about a grandmother dancing nude? I'll bet lots of grandmothers do it."

Sally did marry, three times. And passed away at age 76.

I prefer to remember her dancing...

 

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