Monday, April 03, 2006

Fan Dance


"I haven't been out of work since the day I took my pants off." -- Sally Rand.

Exotic dancer Sally Rand was born Harriet Beck on this day in 1904 in Hickory County, Missouri.

Once a teenage circus follower, the petite blonde Rand tried her hand at legitimate theater (starring as "Sadie Thompson" opposite a young Humphrey Bogart in Maxwell Anderson's Rain) and movies (as a member of Cecil B. DeMille's company of stock players) before performing her first adagio "fan dance," using two 7-foot pink ostrich feathers to conceal and coyly and fleetingly reveal her thickly-powdered nude body (5'-1", 35-22-35) at Chicago's Paramount Club in 1932.

She became an overnight sensation when she performed the fan dance at the Chicago World's Fair on May 30, 1933. Mayor Ed Kelly blushed at the sight of her, and Rand soon found herself in court on a charge of public lewdness. The judge dismissed her case, however, stating that "there is no harm and certainly no injury to public morals when the human body is exposed," and adding that "some people would want to put pants on a horse."

After her nationwide publicity, although she occasionally appeared in a burlesque club setting, Rand's higher calling was as a charming, living cultural exhibit at fairs, festivals and expositions, occasionally using a large translucent bubble instead of her trademark ostrich plumes, and usually performing to a selection of classical music, which set her apart from the seedy bump-and-grind acts of burlesque strippers.

Outspoken and disarmingly urbane, as comfortable discussing Shakespeare or lecturing on the evils of Communism as dancing in the buff, Rand settled in Las Vegas in the 1950s where she continued to perform the fan dance into her late 60s. By all accounts, she was still quite an attractive specimen. Married 3 times, her second husband was rodeo star Turk Greenough. She died on August 31, 1979 in Glendora, California.

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