Little Bits of History

Fan Club

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2011

Sally Rand and her fans

May 30, 1933: Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition or Chicago’s Worlds Fair was the venue for Sally Rand’s fan dance. Harriet Helen Gould Beck, stage name Sally Rand or Billy Beck, was born in Hickory County, Missouri in 1904. By the 1920s she was performing on stage and in silent films. She had a rather prominent lisp and when the films went to talkies, she needed another way to earn a living.

Ms. Rand purchased two used 7-foot pink ostrich feather fans and danced behind them at the World’s Fair. She became the featured performer at the “Streets of Paris” concession. Fan dancers may or may not be nude behind the fans. The idea is more of a suggestion than actual revelation of excess flesh. Eyes are misdirected by the fans and less rather than more is shown. Regardless of this, the local authorities were flummoxed by the diminutive dancer.Randstood only 5’1″ (155 cm) and hid a curvaceous 35-22-35 inch (89-56-89 cm) figure behind those fans.

She was brought to the attention of the law and when taken to court she stood in front of Superior Judge Joseph B. David who showed a stunning amount of common sense and dismissed the charges saying, “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.”

Rand continued to dance for the rest of her life. She noticed troubles with wayward winds ruffling her feathers and she wanted to present something new, so she developed a bubble dance. Balloons at the time were not large enough for her needs and so she used her own money to develop what she needed, a 60-inch clear balloon. She was not just a dancer, but was able to discuss and lecture on Shakespeare, politics, books, and other topics.

“I have never retired – I have averaged 40 working weeks a year since 1933.”

“I haven’t been out of work since the day I took my pants off.”

“When I first came out with my fans and the wind hit me, I almost took off.”

“What in heaven’s name is strange about a grandmother dancing nude? I’ll bet lots of grandmothers do it.”

“Beauty comes from within; a greedy, avaricious, gossipy woman cannot be beautiful.” – all from Sally Rand

Also on this day:
Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Chinese Democracy – In 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled

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One Response

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  1. GYSC said, on May 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Very provocative post! Good stuff.

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