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RIP: The Last of the Ziegfeld Girls

RIP: Doris Eaton Travis.

When she was 14, she lied about her age, used pseudonyms to skirt her way around child labor laws, and became a Ziegfeld Girl. The lie was apparently for the authorities only; she was introduced to the Ziegfeld Follies by her older sister, Pearl, who was a dance director for the troupe.

Near the end of April (and at age 106), "Mrs. Travis returned to Broadway to appear again at the annual Easter Bonnet Competition held by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, this time at the Minskoff Theater. She did a few kicks, apologizing that she no longer performed cartwheels."

The full opening number includes her entrance starting at 5:27 into the clip. There's a bit more footage than in the shorter version linked above.

I use the metaphor of dancing through life in "He Preferred to Stroll," my still partially-written memoir about Walter Willis. Doris Travis truly did dance through life. As the NYTimes obit put it, "She was 5 when she made her first public performance, in “The Cupid Dance,” a routine she could replicate a century later."

She was also the first to perform "Singin' in the Rain."

Here are some other clips:

Dancing at 101

Interview with Stuart Lutz at Barnes & Noble on April 29, 2010: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Part 3 includes the audience Q&A, including this absolute charmer:

Mushy, male voice: "Who did you have a crush on, and who were you in love with in the course of your career?"
Doris, quickly and firmly, "You think I'm going to tell you?!"

It brought down the house.

Broadway dimmed its lights in her honor at 8pm Wednesday night.

As for Doris, she went out shining.

My profound thanks to dragonet2 for the initial link.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 13th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
This seems to be my time for encountering terrific showgirls: the documentary "Been Rich All My Life" recently showed on TV here. It's about a group of women, now aged 84-96, who were Harlem showgirls and who now perform as the Silver Belles.
May. 13th, 2010 08:42 am (UTC)
Wow. That looks like a fun documentary!
May. 13th, 2010 09:16 am (UTC)
It's very touching and has some great archival photos and footage.
May. 13th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
I would love to include an article on her in Wellspring. Are you interested in expanding this into one? It needn't be a lot longer than it is.

May. 13th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I can't take on any more fannish commitments until I get my head nearer the water's surface. Right now I'm down in the danger zone for getting the bends.
May. 13th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
sure thing.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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