Sally Rand

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Sally Rand
Sally Rand NYWTS.jpg
Helen Gould Beck

(1904-04-03)April 3, 1904
DiedAugust 31, 1979(1979-08-31) (aged 75)
Other namesBillie Beck, Helen Gould Beck, Hattie Helen Gould Beck
Occupation Burlesque dancer
Years active19251979
Spouse(s)Clarence Robbins (??)
Thurkel Greenough (1941?)
Harry Finkelstein (19491950)
Fred Lalla (19541960) [2]

Sally Rand (April 3, 1904 [3] August 31, 1979) was an American burlesque dancer, vedette and actress, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance and balloon bubble dance. She also performed under the name Billie Beck.

Erotic dance

An erotic dance is a dance that provides erotic entertainment and whose objective is the stimulation of erotic or sexual thoughts or actions in viewers. Erotic dance is one of several major dance categories based on purpose, such as ceremonial dance, competitive dance, participation dance, performance dance and social dance.

Vedette (cabaret) female entertainers with multiple talents for singing, dancing, or acting

A vedette is the main female artist of a show derived from cabaret and its genres.

Fan dance

In the West, a fan dance, may be an erotic dance performance, traditionally by a woman, but not exclusively. It can be as form of musical interpretation. The performer, sometimes entirely nude or apparently so, dances while manipulating two large fans, constructed from many materials including ostrich feathers and organza.


Early life

Helen Gould Beck was born in the village of Elkton, Hickory County, Missouri. [4] Her father, William Beck, was a West Point graduate and retired U.S. Army colonel, while her mother, Nettie (Grove) Beck, was a school teacher and part-time newspaper correspondent. [5] The family moved to Jackson County, Missouri while she was still in grade school. [6]

Elkton is an unincorporated community in Hickory County, in the U.S. state of Missouri.

Hickory County, Missouri county in Missouri, United States

Hickory County is a county located in the U.S. state of Missouri. As of the 2010 census, the population was 9,627. Its county seat is Hermitage. The county was organized February 14, 1845, and named after President Andrew Jackson, whose nickname was "Old Hickory." The Pomme de Terre Dam, a Corps of Engineers facility, is located three miles south of Hermitage and forms Lake Pomme de Terre by damming the Pomme de Terre River and Lindley Creek. The county is also home to Lucas Oil Speedway at Wheatland that includes a major circle dirt racing track, an off-road racing track as well as a large man-made water drag racing facility. Truman Reservoir, also a Corps of Engineers facility, floods the Pomme de Terre Reservoir from the northern border of the county southward to the city limits of Hermitage.

United States Military Academy U.S. Armys federal service academy in West Point, New York

The United States Military Academy (USMA), also known as West Point, Army, Army West Point, The Academy, or simply The Point, is a four-year federal service academy in West Point, New York. It was originally established as a fort that sits on strategic high ground overlooking the Hudson River with a scenic view, 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. It is one of the four U.S. military service academies, and one of the five U.S. service academies.

Helen got her start on the stage quite early, working as a chorus girl at Kansas City's Empress Theater when she was only 13. An early supporter of her talent was Goodman Ace, drama critic for the Kansas City Journal who saw her performing in a Kansas City nightclub and wrote glowing reviews. After studying ballet and drama in Kansas City, the teenage Helen decided her future lay in Hollywood. For a short time as she worked her way to the west coast, she was employed as an acrobat in the Ringling Brothers Circus. [5] She also performed in summer stock and traveling theater, including working with a then-unknown Humphrey Bogart. [7]

Kansas City, Missouri City in western Missouri

Kansas City is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city had an estimated population of 488,943 in 2017, making it the 37th most-populous city in the United States. It is the central city of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles the Kansas–Missouri state line. Kansas City was founded in the 1830s as a Missouri River port at its confluence with the Kansas River coming in from the west. On June 1, 1850 the town of Kansas was incorporated; shortly after came the establishment of the Kansas Territory. Confusion between the two ensued and the name Kansas City was assigned to distinguish them soon after.

Goodman Ace Comedian, television writer and columnist

Goodman Ace, born Goodman Aiskowitz, was an American humourist, radio writer and comedian, television writer, and magazine columnist.

The Kansas City Journal-Post was a newspaper in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1854 to 1942. It was the oldest newspaper in the city when it went out of business.


During the 1920s, she acted on stage and appeared in silent films. Cecil B. DeMille gave her the name Sally Rand, inspired by a Rand McNally atlas. She was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1927.

Cecil B. DeMille American film director

Cecil Blount DeMille was an American filmmaker. Between 1914 and 1958, he made a total of 70 features, both silent and sound films. He is acknowledged as a founding father of the cinema of the United States and the most commercially successful producer-director in film history. His films were distinguished by their epic scale and by his cinematic showmanship. He made silent films of every genre: social dramas, comedies, Westerns, farces, morality plays, and historical pageants.

Rand McNally is an American technology and publishing company that provides mapping, software and hardware for the consumer electronics, commercial transportation and education markets. The company is headquartered in the Chicago, with a distribution center in Richmond, Kentucky.

WAMPAS Baby Stars

The WAMPAS Baby Stars was a promotional campaign sponsored by the United States Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers, which honored 13 young actresses each year whom they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom. The campaign intermittently ran from 1922 to 1934.

After the introduction of sound films, she became a dancer, known for the fan dance, which she popularized starting at the Paramount Club, at 15 E. Huron, in Chicago. [8] Her most famous appearance was at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, known as the Century of Progress, accompanied by her backing orchestra, directed by Art Frasik. She would play peek-a-boo with her body by manipulating her fans in front and behind her, like a winged bird as she swooped and twirled on the stage, usually to "Clair de Lune". [9] She was arrested four times in a single day during the fair due to perceived indecent exposure after a fan dance performance and while riding a white horse down the streets of Chicago, where the nudity was only an illusion, [10] and again after being bodypainted by Max Factor, Sr. with his new makeup formulated for Hollywood films. [11] She also conceived and developed the bubble dance, in part to cope with wind while performing outdoors. She performed the fan dance on film in Bolero , released in 1934. [10] She performed the bubble dance in the film Sunset Murder Case (1938) available for watching on YouTube.

Century of Progress 1933 world exhibition in Chicago, Illinois, USA

A Century of Progress International Exposition was a World's Fair registered under the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), which was held in Chicago, as The Chicago World's Fair, from 1933 to 1934 to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation. The fair's motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts". Its architectural symbol was the Sky Ride, a transporter bridge perpendicular to the shore on which one could ride from one side of the fair to the other.

Cinema of the United States Filmmaking in the USA

The cinema of the United States, often metonymously referred to as Hollywood, has had a large effect on the film industry in general since the early 20th century. The dominant style of American cinema is classical Hollywood cinema, which developed from 1917 to 1960 and characterizes most films made there to this day. While Frenchmen Auguste and Louis Lumière are generally credited with the birth of modern cinema, American cinema soon came to be a dominant force in the industry as it emerged. It produces the third largest number of films of any single-language national cinema, with more than 600 English-language films released on average every year. While the national cinemas of the United Kingdom (299), Canada (206), Australia, and New Zealand also produce films in the same language, they are not considered part of the Hollywood system. Hollywood has also been considered a transnational cinema. Classical Hollywood produced multiple language versions of some titles, often in Spanish or French. Contemporary Hollywood offshores production to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

<i>Bolero</i> (1934 film) 1934 film by Wesley Ruggles

Bolero is a 1934 American pre-Code musical drama film starring George Raft and Carole Lombard, and directed by Wesley Ruggles. The Paramount production was a rare chance for Raft to star and to play a dancer, which had been his profession in New York City, rather than portraying a gangster. The film takes its title from the Maurice Ravel composition Boléro (1928). The supporting cast includes William Frawley, Ray Milland, and Sally Rand.

In 1936, she purchased The Music Box burlesque hall in San Francisco, which would later become the Great American Music Hall. She starred in "Sally Rand's Nude Ranch" at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939 and 1940. [12]

Great American Music Hall San Francisco music venue

The Great American Music Hall is a concert hall in San Francisco, California. It is located on O'Farrell Street in the Tenderloin neighborhood on the same block as the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre. It is known for its decorative balconies, columns, and frescoes and for its history of unique entertainment, which has included burlesque dancing as well as jazz, folk music, and rock and roll concerts. The capacity of the hall is 470 people.

Golden Gate International Exposition International exposition held in San Francisco

The Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE), held at San Francisco's Treasure Island, was a World's Fair celebrating, among other things, the city's two newly built bridges. The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. The exposition opened from February 18, 1939, through October 29, 1939, and from May 25, 1940, through September 29, 1940.

She was arrested twice in San Francisco in 1946; while performing at Club Savoy, [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] she was arrested by six police officers in the audience as she danced, seemingly nude, in silhouette behind a large white fan; the judge, Daniel R. Shoemaker, granted her immunity should she be arrested for the same offense while on trial; however she was arrested during a night of the trial while performing her act, despite her immunity and the fact that she was wearing long underwear and a note that read "CENSORED. S.F.P.D." that time. [19] In an unusual move, the judge viewed her performance at the Savoy and cleared her of all charges after deeming that "anyone who could find something lewd about the dance as she puts it on has to have a perverted idea of morals". [20] [21]

In the early '50s she was traveling with a 17-member troupe around the midwest appearing at state fairs and small theaters. Edith Dahl, accompanied Miss Rand's famous fan dance, the finale of the show, on the violin and "cracked a few jokes." According to local newspaper accounts, Miss Rand's large white feathered fans acted as "a guard to keep too much of mother nature from showing." "Smutty jokes" were at minimum in the afternoon performances." The tour was across Oklahoma and Texas then west toward Washington before returning east. She refused to divulge her age to reporters at the time but was known to be approaching 50. [22]

She appeared on television in March 12, 1957, in episode 13 of the first season of To Tell the Truth with host Bud Collyer and panelists Polly Bergen, Ralph Bellamy, Kitty Carlisle, and Carl Reiner. [23] She did not "stump the panel" but was correctly identified by all four panelists (she was introduced as Helen Beck, her birth name).

She continued to appear on stage doing her fan dance into the 1970s. Rand once replaced Ann Corio in the stage show, This Was Burlesque, appeared at the Mitchell Brothers club in San Francisco in the early 1970s and toured as one of the stars of the 1972 nostalgia revue "Big Show of 1928," which played major concert venues, including New York's Madison Square Garden. Describing her 40-year career, Rand said, "I haven’t been out of work since the day I took my pants off." [24]


Rand died on August 31, 1979, at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital, in Glendora, California, aged 75, from congestive heart failure. [25] She was deeply in debt at her death. Rand's adopted son told an interviewer that Sammy Davis Jr. stepped in and wrote a $10,000 check which took care of Rand's expenses. [26]

Football play

Football coaches at the University of Delaware named a football play after Sally Rand. One explanation is that the play misdirected the defense, or in other words, like the dancer herself, the offense was showing more than they actually had. [27] The name migrated to Canada, where a "naked bootleg" became known as a "Sally Rand" and was used to great effect by the B.C. Lions. [28]

The cartoon "Sally Strand." Hollywood steps out (26).png
The cartoon "Sally Strand."


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  1. Shteir, Rachel (1 November 2004). Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 148. ISBN   978-0-19-512750-8. "Born Harriet Helen Beck in Elkton, Missouri, in 1904...
  2. "Receives Divorce". Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette.
  3. Born April 3, 1904 per SSDI under the name Helen Beck; SS#349-10-3000. According to the 1920 U.S. census, her parents were William F. and Lillie Beck, and she had a younger brother, Harold; the family was then residing in Jackson County, Missouri, not Hickory County.
  4. Gold, Sylviane (27 June 2004). "The Figure Behind the Fan: Celebrating Sally Rand". The New York Times . Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  5. 1 2 Dictionary of Missouri Biography, Lawrence O. Christensen, University of Missouri Press, 1999.
  6. "United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch, Helen H Beck in household of William F Beck, Kansas Ward 13, Jackson, Missouri, United States; citing sheet, family 320, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1374803" . Retrieved 22 Dec 2013.
  7. Weyand, Ken (February 2007). "Sally Rand Museum recalls 'fan-tabulous fan dancer'". Discover Mid-America. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  8. Price, Ryan Lee (2012). Stories of Old Glendora. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press. p. 99. ISBN   978-1-60949-533-6.
  9. Zemeckis, Leslie (2013). Behind The Burly Q. Delaware: Skyhorse. ISBN   978-1-62087-691-6.
  10. 1 2 Ganz, Cheryl R. (2006). The 1933 Chicago World's Fair: A Century of Progress. University of Illinois Press. pp. 16–26, 161–64. ISBN   978-0-252-07852-1.
  11. Basten, Fred E. (2012). Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World. New York: Arcade Publishing. ISBN   978-1-61145-135-1.
  12. "Sally Rand (1904-1979)". Virtual Museum of San Francisco. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  13. Polk's 1945 Crocker-Langley San Francisco City Directory
  14. c1940s Souvenir Photo Club Savoy 168 O'Farrell St. San Francisco
  15. Sides, Josh (19 October 2009). Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-970339-5. In June 1946, exotic dancer Sally Rand entered the stage at the Club Savoy near San Francisco's Union Square ...
  16. 168 O'Farrell
  17. Old DANCE NIGHTCLUB's index - Street Swing
  18. "Show Bar and Rand's Post Bond: Latter's not AGVA Enough". The Billboard . 58 (25). 22 June 1946. Sally Rand's new San Francisco nitery, Club Savoy, has put up $1,750 with AGVA as a bond to cover the Slate Brothers' salaries
  19. "Great American Trials: Sally Rand Trial: 1946". Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  20. "Picture of the case from San Francisco's Club Savoy". Sam Houston State University Newton Gresham Library.
  21. Knappman, Edward W. (1 January 1995). American Trials of the 20th Century. New England Publishing Associates. pp. 201–203. ISBN   978-1578590520.
  22. Shawnee OK News-Star, Oct 20, 1951
  23. "Sally Rand", Internet Movie Database
  24. Vitali, Marc (24 September 2013). "Dance Skin". Chicago Tonight . WTTW . Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  25. "Sally Rand Dies of Heart Failure". The Tuscaloosa News . p. 2. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  26. Behind the Burly Q , a film on some of the history of Burlesque, by Leslie Zemeckis,c.2010 interview with Rand's son
  27. DeAngelo, Dory. "Sally Rand". Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  28. Beamish, Mike (18 July 2013). "Wall of Fame Profile: Damon Allen Ahead of His Time". Vancouver Sun . BC Lions. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  29. Wolfe, Tom (1979), The Right Stuff, 1980 reprint, New York: Bantam, Ch. 13, "The Operational Stuff", p.300, ISBN   0-553-13828-6.