Sally Rand

Author: 

Sally Rand was arrested four times for indecent exposure on the first day she appeared at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago because she appeared to be dancing nude behind feather fans. Actually, it was an illusion; she wore a flesh colored body suit that only made her look nude. The arrest and publicity gained her lasting fame as a ‘fan dancer’.

In 1904, Rand was born Helen Gould Beck. Her family moved to Kansas City from Hickory County, Missouri, when she was four years old. At the age of six she saw the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, dance and convinced her parents to pay for ballet lessons. When she was 13 and a freshman at Central High School, she was dancing in the chorus line at the Empress Theater in downtown Kansas City.

After high school, she attended the Christian Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, briefly before joining a touring vaudeville troupe. While appearing in Los Angeles, Rand caught the eye of the famous Keystone Cops director, Max Sennett, who gave her a role in one of his films. She also worked for Cecil B. deMille in the biblical film "King of Kings." Rand made several more movies but her voice was not good enough for a sound track.

Rand used her dancing talent and flamboyant style appearing as an exotic dancer in burlesque houses across the country. After her appearance at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, her name became a household word.

Rand appeared many times in Kansas City and continued dancing with her fans into her 70s, using skillfully placed dark lights and wearing a body suit. Her last appearance in Kansas City was April 14, 1978, at a benefit for Historic Kansas City at the Midland Theater. She died in California in 1979.

Acknowledgement: 

A previous version of this article appears on kchistory.org: http://www.kchistory.org/content/biography-sally-rand-1904-1979-actress-...

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