She's nearing Social Security age, but the most famous exotic dancer of them all hasn't any intention of hanging up her bubble and fans.
Gosh, is SHE still alive?
That's a typical first reaction to the name of Sally Rand.
In fact, Sally Rand is alive and kicking in New York. By tonight she'll be in Coconut Grove, getting ready for a revue called "Anatomy of Burlesque" opening Tuesday at the Playhouse.
Yes, she'll go through the same act that brought down the house--and brought in the law--in 1933 at Chicago's Century of Progress World's Fair.
Sally talks fast, she's gone intellectual, says "beeeen" instead of been, punctuates her conversation with allusions to Greek drama and has forced herself to forget the lean years when she toured state fairs with her girly show troupe. Once her age was secret. Now it's not.
"I was born in April, 1904. I'm 63 years old, and that's the best gimmick I've had since fans."
And if you wonder why theater-goers would pay five bills to see a 63-year-old mother prance around on stage with nothing but ostrich feathers or balloons, you've never seen Sally.
In case you're too young to remember, Sally was frequently arrested at the world's fair. Convicted of Indecency, she publicized herself and the fair, bailing it out of the red and bailing herself out of jail.
The Indecency conviction in Chicago was overturned by a higher state court, but it was always tantalizing to speculate on just how much she revealed. She claims the Rand is quicker than the eye, but most fans doubt it. In any event, when Sally is on stage, the eyes have it.
By 1935 she was drawing 1,800 persons a night at the old Merry-Go Round at Biscayne and 86th St. [Miami] A few years later she danced in The Miami Herald parking lot. Of course, at that time it was the Frolics Club. Later, she was a frequent star at Palm Island's Latin Quarter and the Olympia for $2,500 a week.
In 1944, Sally turned up at a bond rally not far from the Grove Playhouse and visited the Naval Hospital in Key West. She bought a house in Key West, lived there a while and adopted a son, Sean Orion. Arrested in 1946 in California, she danced for the judge in the courtroom and was acquitted. Tax officials closed in on her. She lost her home in Key West to the federal government. Two marriages failed.
The year 1950 found her talking before Lions Clubs and Jaycees. At state fairs the star went through the same old 1933 routine. Fiorello LaGuardia said he didn't want her at the 1939 New York World's Fair and in 1963 Robert Moses said he didn't want her at the 1964 fair.
In 1959 Herald columnist Jack Kofoed compared Sally Rand to Harold Stassen--two people who wouldn't give up.
What almost no one realized was that in the meantime Sally managed to earn a college degree, rear a son and keep her figure, 35-24-35.
Earlier this year she opened at a steak house in Pompano Beach, the Red Carpet, with a show called "Burlesque 1967." It was a smash. "I thought nothing new could ever happen, but it did then."
The show led to the current revue, a creation of comedian Joey Faye that's been touring successfully up north, hopefully en route to Broadway.
Wary-and perhaps weary--of world's fairs, Sally will skip Expo 67. She is one of the few performers with no plans to entertain the troops in Vietnam. Her explanation: "I don't want to get involved in anything controversial."
Sean is the important person in her life. Now 18, he starts college in the fall. When she's not working they live in Glendora, Calif.
"I picked him up after a ball game this spring and overheard him talking with two friends. One of them asked, 'What's it like to have Sally Rand as a mother?' Sean said he liked it, but his other friend paused a minute and then said very slowly, 'Who is Sally Rand?'"
In case anyone else hasn't learned her name, Sally plans to be around for a while longer. "At least until the 21st Century."
And there we'll be, lining up to pay five bills to see a 96-year-old grandmother prance around with feathers and balloons.
Go back to the Sally Rand page.