Jadin Wong: as scanned from the cover of a vintage program from Charlie Low’s Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco, CA.
Jadin was born 24 May 1913 in Marysville, CA. As a teenager she ran away from home to study dance and pursue a career in show business. She made her debut as a feature dancer in the early 1930s at Charlie Low’s Asian-themed nightclub Forbidden City, in San Francisco, CA. During WWII, Jadin travelled Europe extensively, entertaining American troops and once even had to parachute to safety from a crashing helicopter. Always the show business professional, before jumping from the helicopter, Jadin requested a solider hand her her make-up bag…as there would be reporters on the ground. In the 1970s Ms. Wong took on a new career and opened Jadin Wong Management, a NYC agency specializing in representing Asian-american talent. Jadin was honored by President Reagan for her service entertaining troops during WWII and in 2002 was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Lincoln Center. Ms. Wong died at the age of 96 on 30 May 2010.
Zorita: vintage 8x10 photo
At nine months old, Zorita was adopted from a Youngstown, Ohio orphanage. When only four, her adoptive father died and her adoptive mother soon remarried, and her new step-father abused Zorita from the very beginning. Hence, to escape a tumultuous home-life, Zorita married when she was only 15 years old. The marriage did not last, and Zorita worked odd jobs to support herself. While working as a cigarette girl at the New York State Fair, she saw her first burlesque style show and became captivated by the dancer. Shortly thereafter, she made herself a costume and waltzed into a local club claiming to be the dancer from the fair, and landed her first burlesque job.
Zorita’s trademark name and dancing companion did not come until a little later in her career (mid-1930s). At that time she was working as a dancer at the San Diego California Pacific International Exposition. It was there that she befriended another Expo employee, who was a snake handler. At the end of the Exposition, he gifted her with a large indigo snake named Elmer, and she and Elmer moved to San Francisco. A theater owned in San Franciso hired her to do a veil dance and gave her the name Zorita, but after learning of her unique pet, he convinced her to work Elmer into her act….they rest, as they say, is history.
Chorus Girls - Jean Kennelly, Ronnie Haigh and Virginia Jennings: vintage 8x10 photo dated 16 September 1936
These lovely ladies were chorus girls at the State Lake Theater, located at 190 North State Street, Chicago, IL. The State Lake Theater was part of the Orpheum burlesque circuit.
Nanette Carmen: vintage 8x10 photo
Recently a seller on eBay has been listing photos of Nanette Carmen, but using the incorrect name of Vivian Lee. When asked, the seller did not know the background on the photos and was listing them under the name Vivian Lee because one of the photos in the group s/he purchased had that name on it — but it was a photo of a different dancer. I actually own a large portion of Nannette’s scrapbook from her career, and according to the clippings and flyers she saved, she only ever danced under the name Nanette. Also, many of the photos from the collection the person was listing were signed to ‘Nannette’ or ‘Nanny’, and some of the ones I purchased are actually stamped ‘Nanette Carmen’ on the back — though they were listed as Vivian Lee. Nanette is frequently billed as being of hispanic/latin descent, but I do have a newspaper clipping for her appearing with the ‘Asian Cuties’ dance troupe. Again, she was billed as Nanette Carmen, so it was not a case of her using a different stage name when dancing with a troupe.
Lois DeFee: vintage 7x9 news service photo dated 15 May 1936
Lois strikes a pose to show off her 6’4” muscled frame. At the time of the photo, Lois was working as a bouncer in New York city at the Dizzy Club, and said that she had the most trouble dealing with drunken female patrons. Lois would also work as a bouncer at the famous New York night-spot Leon & Eddie’s, before being approached by Harold Minsky to perform in burlesque. Under the tag-lines “Queen of the Amazons” or “Superwoman”, Lois went on to have a long and successful career in burlesque.
Della & Joan Grey: vintage 8x10 news service photo dated 14 September 1936
Della and Joan were just two of the showgirls to appear in the revue style show put on at the Municipal Railway Employee’s Benevolent and Protective Association Grand Ball — what a mouthful!!!!
Rozell Rowland, with Baron Empain (her husband): vintage 7x9 news service photo from 1936
Rozell was born in Columbus, Ohio to Ida and Alva Rowland. She had 3 sisters, two of which - Dian (Thelma) and Betty, would also become burlesque dancers. As children, Rozell and Betty performed in vaudeville as a dancing sister act. Eventually, in her teens, Rozell was asked to fill in for a dancer that did not make it into work, and so began her burlesque career. The dancer that Rozell stepped in for was to appear on stage painted silver. Rozell changed the paint color to gold and became “The Golden Girl of Burlesque”. While appearing at the Dorchester House in London, Rozell caught the eye of Baron Jean Empain, one of the wealthiest men in all of Europe, and they soon became lovers. Supposedly, when Rozell became pregnant Baron Empain told her if he gave him a son and heir he would marry her, if it was a daughter he would support them both. Rozell gave birth to a son while the couple were in Budapest, and they were married in the same nursing facility where she gave birth. The child born in Budapest was Edouard-Jean Empain, who would be famously kidnapped outside his home in Paris on 23 January 1978. The kidnappers asked for 80 million francs in ransom, but when that was not paid they decreased it to 40 million francs and cut off one of his fingers to try and pressure the family to comply. He was eventually released and his kidnappers caught and tried.
Rozell’s name is spelled several different ways, including: Rosezell, Roszelle, Rose-zelle. I went with the spelling used in Liz Goldwyn’s Book Pretty Things, because Liz interviewed Rozell’s sister Betty Rowland, and I figured she knew BEST!!
Georgia Lang: vintage 8x10 news service photo dated 3 September 1939
At the time of this photo, Georgia was one of 30 women performing as the “Oomph Girls” (chorus girls) at the Oriental Theater in Chicago, IL.
Louise Stewart: vintage 8x10 news service photo dated 7 September 1937
This photo was used to promote Louise appearing at Minsky’s Rialto Theater in Chicago, IL. The article mentioned that traveling shows are now the norm, but local favorite Louise Stewart will still be appearing at the theater.