Friday, May 14, 2010

No More Cartwheels

She was one of 3000 Ziegfeld girls, and, most likely, at 14, the youngest ever to debut on a Ziegfeld stage. She became the last of those 3000 to survive. Wearing a shining red costume, she won notoriety as the gleaming paprika in the Follies' legendary salad dance. She claimed to be the first person to warble "Singin' in the Rain," co-written by her lover at the time, while 8 chorus boys surrounded her. She described her experience as a member of the Ziegfeld Follies as a time of "beauty, elegance, loveliness."

As part of a famous performing family, she danced in public for the first time at the age of 5. George Gershwin played the piano in her family's parlor and Lucky Lindy, not long after his triumphant solo flight across the Atlantic, once dropped in to chat over tea. When the Depression hit and show business jobs became scarce, she opened up a series of dance studios where she taught Henry Ford II, among many others, how to dance. After many years as a dance teacher, she returned to school and earned her BA in history and a Phi Beta Kappa key from the University of Oklahoma. Only a few weeks ago, at the age of 106, she displayed her high kick technique for the audience at the Minskoff Theater, assembled to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. She apologized for not feeling well enough to contribute a few of her signature cartwheels. Her name was Doris Eaton Travis and a few days ago she died in Commerce, Michigan, 10 months shy of her 107th birthday

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