Before introducing the mysterious Sally to you, let me explain the circumstances leading up to our encounter. Ironically, though we had another name picked out and used, during the infanticipation of our first born, we referred to her as Sally until the early morning of her birth. The Sally in my mind definitely sallied forth.
When our family was young, we sacrificed once a month for a monthly outing. Living half way between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio one of them was commonly our destination.
Friends suggested that we try the Aku Aku in Toledo for a superb dinner with free entertainment. Usually that was a live band back in the days when they really dressed up. It was common to dress semi-formally to go out for dinner.
One time, we had just been served our salads when a photographer approached us. We gave our permission to be photographed for the Toledo Events magazine. Another time we went there for our monthly outing and there was only one available table. It wasn’t the best location—we sat just to the right of the stage/dance floor. It was more private, however. We were there for the food and ambience. Entertainment was a nice touch. On entering we hadn’t noticed the big sign advertising tonight’s show.
Image our surprise when right in the middle of a bite, an aged woman walked past our table with enormous feathered fans and stood next to us awaiting her introduction. They really built her up but neither of us had a clue as to who she was.
When the emcee announced her name, cheers went up all over the large dining room. We shrugged and kept eating because it meant nothing to us.
She wore only a flimsy, filmy gossamer dress and began her performance with those enormous fans, gracefully and nimbly. It impressed me that a woman of her obvious age was in such good physical shape and able to dance with such agility and finesse.
Suddenly, without missing a beat, she grabbed the dress (attached with something like a large plastic headband under her arms) and tossed it right behind my hubby’s chair.
Holy Cow! She had our attention then! Our mouths hung open and we actually began to watch what she was doing. I
Our waiter filled us in a bit. She was 66 years old at that performance in 1970.
In her unfinished autobiography and her biography written posthumously, she stated that she “danced with two white ostrich feather fans. They’re about six feet long and weight twenty pounds apiece.
“I wore a white flowing gown and danced to classical music. It’s very graceful and ethereal. Then, at the right moment, I drop the gown and . . . “
As it turned out she was a burlesque dancer and silent movie actress most noted for her fan dance inaugurated at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
Let me explain burlesque. The word itself means to mock. Originally it was a family type revue and parody. As times change the audience shifted to adults only as more and more vulgarity and nudity were merged into performances. It certainly didn’t have a good reputation during my earlier years.
Born in 1903, Sally died in 1979 just nine years after we saw her performance as unexpected as it was. I recall she signed a photo for us but to be honest I wasn’t terribly impressed with her style of entertainment, especially at her age. Apparently she had few options as her lifetime was spent having a great deal of money and losing it all repeatedly.
She still performed just a few months prior to her death.
"Barefoot to the Chin: The Fantastic Life of Sally Rand" by Jim Lowe, is the title of her biography.
Mr. Lowe said, “You had to be there, in the period from the early 1930s up through the mid-70s, to appreciate the impact that Sally Rand and her brand of sex appeal had on American popular culture.
“She is one of two strippers (the other is Gypsy Rose Lee) who became true cultural icons. So great was the clamor to see her perform her famous “fan dance” that she saved the Chicago World’s Fair from bankruptcy.”
Impressed? Sort of after learning who she was. Fan? Not so much. In my lifetime several have asked, “Who is the most famous person you ever met?” she has never come to mind. Hmm, perhaps she popped into my memory now because of the time spent reminiscing of late. Nonetheless, she was The Real Sally Rand. It made for an unforgettable date night, too.
— Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.