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Sic Transit

by David Westheimer


Dame Myra Hess
Lillian Briggs
Laverne Baker
Georgia Gibbs
Nanci Crompton
Totie Fields
Beatrice Lillie
Ina Ray Hutton
Connee Boswell
Gertrude Moran
Gertrude Niessen
Gertrude Ederle
Priscilla Lane
Sally Rand
Emily Post
Ruby Helder

Sic Transit is not a reference to the state of airline transportation today. It is from Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. So passes worldly glory.

All the ladies listed above were famous in their day, forty or more years ago, but today are scarcely known to most folk. This is not a quiz. Whenever anyone e-mails me a quiz I usually delete before reading. I do not do quizzes. Maybe you dont, either. So for Sic Transit I am giving all the answers.

Dame Myra Hess: A concert artist. She played the harpsichord and some of her records have been put on CDs..

Lillian Briggs: She played trombone and sang (not simultaneously). My favorite song of hers was All I Want Is All There Is and Then Some.

Laverne Baker: (I met a LaVerne Baker who wasnt the LaVerne Baker at Rice U in Houston. She was secretary for the Naval ROTC there and didnt know who the other LaVerne Baker was. Next day she told me her husband was mad at her for not knowing.) African-American vocalist whose recordings were played almost exclusively on black radio stations (this was in the bad old days) and several of whose hits were done in a whiter version by

Georgia Gibbs: Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs, who broadcast more widely on major radio stations, becoming bigger hits for her than for Miss Baker. Tweedle Dee, for one. An apocryphal story got around that whenever LaVerne flew she took out a big life insurance policy with Georgia as beneficiary because if anything happened to LaVerne, Georgias career would be over.

Nanci Crompton: A ballerina who often appeared on TV variety shows like Ed Sullivans. And all she did was whirl around and around on her toes.

Totie Fields: Comedienne. Her routines had a lot of jokes about being fat and/or Jewish. She was a guest on a talk show and another guest was a British peeress. The host complemented the British lady on the beauty mark on her cheek. And Totie Fields said, "On a duchess its a beauty mark. On a Jewish girl its a liver spot."

Beatrice Lillie: Lady Robert Peel. A preeminent comedienne of her day on the stage and TV. Appeared in several movies, the last in 1967, Thoroughly Modern Millie, with Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing (and I have young friends who dont even know who Carol Channing is.)

Ina Ray Hutton: Dressed in a slinky ball gown, she danced and led her all-girl band. In the words of Damon Runyon, I dearly loved such a spectacle.

Connee Boswell: Jazz singer. Lead singer of the Boswell sisters (Connee, Martha and Helvetia). Concerts, records, and a few movies.

Gertrude Moran: Gorgeous Gussie. She caused a sensation at Wimbledon when she flashed ruffled panties under her tennis skirt.

Gertrude Nielssen: Sultry singer. Sang in cabarets and in Broadway musicals. Dody and I heard her at the Turf Athletic Club in Galveston, Texas, a curious name for a night spot that fronted for an illegal gambling casino. She wore a dress you might expect a performer to wear while out shopping for something suitable for her night club act. Dody asked her why she was wearing such unglamorous clothes. Nielssen said, "I was feeling fat tonight."

Gertrude Ederle: The first woman to swim the English Channel. In 1926.

Priscilla Lane: She and her sisters (Rosemary and Lola) sang with Fred Warings Pennsylvanians. She later appeared in movies.

Sally Rand: She danced with apparently nothing to shield her from the elements but a pair of large fans, which she handled so dexterously that spectators thought they were seeing much more than they did. While playing Houston, she came out to the Polar Wave Ice Palace skating rink at an after-hours session and skated with any boy who asked her. I was one of them. But I never saw her fan dance.

Emily Post: Americas social arbiter. Her etiquette column ran in almost 200 newspapers and her book, Etiquette, published in 1922, sold almost a million copies.

Ruby Helder: Concert artist who sang tenor opera arias. I knew another woman tenor named Ruby. Miss Texas Ruby. She sang with Curly Foxs country-western band, a house band with Houstons NBC TV affiliate.

One more name: Dorothy Dix. Not Dorothea Dix. Dorothea was famous, too, in an earlier era. Im not going to tell you who Dorothy Dix is.

You could look it up if you want.


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