because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sally Rand

It's hard to imagine what Hattie Beck's Army colonel father and school teacher mother must have thought of her becoming a chorus girl in Missouri at thirteen years of age in 1917, but they either didn't -- or couldn't -- stop her.  Proceeding to work her way to Hollywood, Beck's in-your-face ambition (and long shapely legs, we can assume) soon got her noticed by Cecil B. DeMille, who put her in a few silent movies after changing her name to Sally Rand.

When the talkies came on the scene, any actor with a voice that didn't satisfy producers' criteria was pushed out or switched over in some way. So Rand became a dancer, but not just any kind of dancer. Rand became an in-your-face, over the top, looks-like-she's-naked dancer. And was promptly arrested four times in one day at the Chicago World Fair for riding down Chicago streets on horseback dressed only in feathers. In fact, from then on, she was routinely and often arrested for appearing to be naked.

It wasn't that people didn't know she wasn't naked. Au contraire! One judge, for example, even gave her immunity in advance in case she was arrested again for indecent exposure while she was out on bail after the current indecent exposure arrest. People (including judges, apparently) loved Rand's fan dancing. And Rand was getting so much attention -- and making so much money -- there was no way she was going to modify her costumes or her techniques.

It ultimately became so much fun for everybody that Rand was even arrested once wearing long underwear and a "censored by the SFPD" sign -- despite the judge's immunity ruling. "I haven't been out of work," Rand told reporters, "since the day I took my pants off!" Was that just an observation? Or was that an in-your-face woman's advice to the rest of us?

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