She would have turned 82 on Sunday, had she lived, and I can only imagine that she would still, at that age, be a woman of beauty and grace. Several of my fondest memories of her include our dancing together. When I was preparing to play George M. Cohan, she taught me my first triple time-step; as I grew more frustrated with trying to learn the steps, she gave some great advice regarding tap dancing: "Stop worrying about the steps. Listen to the sound." I've forgotten just about every other tap combination I learned, but the triple timestep, taught to me by my mother on our kitchen linoleum floor, remains with me.
But we didn't just tap together. I took three years of ballroom dance, and she used to help me practice. She was so proud when I won a Charleston contest, though she would have preferred that honor have been bestowed in a ballroom rather than the local bar. But hey, I won 75 bucks and a t-shirt!
She enjoyed more contemporary dances, too, and was pretty swift with the twist. As a special Friday Dance Party, here is an old home movie of my mother and me, with some groovy 60s moves:
All right, you caught me. That wasn't the twist. Mom was doing the frug, and I was doing the jerk. But these days, no one knows the difference.
OK, that really wasn't me. It was Sal Mineo. But don't you see the resemblance?
Yes, I live in my own little world.
And no, that wasn't my mother. It was the celebrity whom my mother greatly resembled, Juliet Prowse. She was a well-known dancer, back when dancers could be well known, who did a bit of singing and a bit of acting, too. She was born in India, raised in South Africa, and, for the younger boomers out there, holds the distinction of being the very first celebrity guest on The Muppet Show. She appeared on film with Frank Sinatra and Elvis (and apparently slept with them both), and did lots and lots and LOTS of summer stock.
I saw her in a Long Beach, CA, production of Follies, in which she played Phyllis, and she wasn't half bad.
Throughout her adult life, my mother was told she resembled Juliet Prowse. I can see it more in black-and-white photos than in color shots (Prowse maintained bright red hair through most of her career), though I think my mother was the prettier.
Hey, don't take my word for it; the Hendersonville, North Carolina Apple Blossom Queen Selection Committee agrees with me (my mother was the first beauty to hold that illustrious title).
I wish I had a video of Mom teaching me to tapdance...now, THAT would be a Friday Dance Party!
But in lieu of that, and because the above clip is downright creepy, here is a better indication of the dancing of Juliet Prowse: