Sally Rand

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The MidAtlantic Nostalgia Convention took place this past weekend at Hunt Valley, MD. This is an annual event; one that draws participants from around the country. This year, it also drew me.

You can find, in the vendor room, autographs, VHS tapes and DVDs of movies and TV shows. Scarce compilations of old time radio series (“You Bet Your Life”; “Johnny Dollar”). T-Shirts. Blooper reels and out-takes from the likes of Hogan’s Heros, Star Trek and Star Wars. And lots and lots of interesting collectibles (Tarzan trading cards, older Halloween costumes, obscure 1950s science fiction toys and action figures). And all kinds of stuff (anyone who knows me, knows that I do, very much, like stuff).

It brings celebrities and near-celebrities too. Two of the actors from My Three Sons were there (Barry and Stanley Livingston, real-life brothers who played, respectively, Ernie and Chip Douglas from the show). As was Tempest Storm (1950s-1960s exotic dancer and reputed paramour of both Elvis and JFK), Angela Cartwright (of Make Room for Daddy, Lost In Space and Sound of Music). Ms. Storm (yes, that is her real name) is getting up there in years and doesn’t much look like her photos from back in the day. But Ms. Cartwright is actually younger than I. When I bumped into her in a hallway, away from the line of autograph seekers, I kissed her hand (“I’ve been waiting all my life to do this,” I said as she scurried off to the ladies’ room).

I will admit that it was a bit of a rush to be standing in line for coffee one morning only to discover that Barry Livingston was next in line.
(Black; no sugar, for him.)

But, for me, the real find of the weekend (aside from the Ronald Reagan mask and the cthulhu statue) was on display in a little booth off the main vendor’s room: an autographed picture of Sally Rand. I grabbed it, and considered it a real steal at only $20.

Few remember Sally Rand anymore. But that’s understandable since her film career spanned a number of deservedly forgotten films from 1925 through 1938. randShe made her mark on the world as a fan dancer at the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago. 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”.

The nudity was all an illusion, of course, since she actually wore a form-fitting body suit during her performances. Exotic lighting, silhouettes and wild imaginings did the trick. It was all pretty heady stuff for 1934.  Still, she was arrested for public indecency four times in a single day during the Fair. Later, in San Francisco, she was arrested twice in a single day for the same offense. (The second time, in addition to her body suit, she has a note slapped on her behind that read: “CENSORED. S.F.P.D.”). Ms. Rand (her real name was Helen Gould Beck) died in 1979.

So that was my weekend: coffee with Barry; kissing Angela; imaginings with Sally. Oh, and if my wife asks, I also managed to sell a few books.

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