A heavenly dancer?

The next few days might be a let down for readers, but a bonus for me. Why, you ask? Because apart from Sunday, if you’re lucky, one blog will cover both versions! Tonight, because of the event, and next week, because of the holiday. But for now…

113 years ago today, in a small part of Pottawatomie county, Oklahoma Territory (as it was then, only became a state in 1907), a baby girl was born, to, I assume, a Mr and Mrs Johnson. They seemingly named her Clara Elaine, and the rest, in terms of Hollywood Chorus girl duties, and the like, are history.

Maybe one day, I’ll do more of a dig on Ancestry.com, and discover what her parents names were, and if there were any more brothers and sisters, as well as her. The only tentative suggestion (apart from the lack of birth control back then) that there was more than 1 child, was one of her actual film credits, when there was also a Peter Johnson listed in the cast. Of course, that might simply be a name coincidence, though her 1930 Los Angeles census record did mention 1 brother, so I am inclined to suspect it was probably him.

All I know of the early history is that she moved to LA from Texas in 1925, but when the move there, from Oklahoma, no idea. I need a long enough period of time to really work on Ancestry.com to dig into that sort of matter, and also I need the funds to buy a subscription for a few months at least, that I can get to really use to dig for info. So probably wont happen until I’ve finished working, whenever that is, but then… Even then, I suspect I’m only going to have the 1910, and 1920 census details, so unlikely to find exactly when the Texas moved happened is still going to be vague.

The other thing that needs a major digging through, is a list of marriages in the LA area in the late 30’s (most likely, as her work career seems to stop around 37/38), or perhaps the beginning of the 40’s, because for now, thats where my trail goes cold, with the lack of her married name. Given that her daughter she mentioned would now be in her 70’s, if still alive, it might be fascinating to follow the family tree from there. Probably grand children, and great grand children by now! I wonder if any know, or wonder what Grandma/Great Grandma did?

As I say, if I survive to retirement, and I’m mobile enough to still do it, I suspect it might be my post retirement challenge to try and find out more. I guess that nowadays, I could do a lot from the comfort of a computer at home, anyway?

I must admit, one thing I’d love to do, just once, especially at my age, is do the whole chorus girl thing. My dancing wouldnt be great, I’d probably look less than graceful in one of those flimsy outfits, but my attitude is, just once, I dont care, I want to do the whole Clara Johnson thing! I have 2 lovely friends who are trying to work on making that happen, so who knows, but I hope so?

Anyway, given this was the first year I actually have known her birthday, before the big day, I wasnt going to miss this chance. Its funny to think though, she had all the glamour of working in Hollywood, without any of the fame!

So, happy heavenly birthday, Clara Elaine Johnson, and hopefully, maybe one day, we can get to actually meet, though not in this world.

OK, video time. I have seen her dancing in numerous musicals of the late 20’s, and through the 30’s, including many of the famous ones. For all that, back then, unless they went on to make it, chorus dancers didnt normally get credits. One that Clara did, was a film named Strike Me Pink, though seemingly she was working under her middle name at the time, probably because Clara was a little ‘old fashioned’ name by 1936? Its also the best sighting of her, because she fills the screen between 4:13, and 4:17 in this clip

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Let me be my fantasy?

In truth, I dont seem to get to writing long pieces nowadays. Probably burnt myself out, given I’ve written nearly a century of them, but there is also, generally, the issue of time as well. Maybe I need a new challenge, and who knows, I might get to that some day sooner, or later?

What I have started doing recently though, over at one of the forums, is getting involved in what is termed a 55 word challenge. Basically, you write a short piece, of exactly 55 words, based on the prompt left by the previous person, and then leave one for the next person at the end. Its fun, or is when I have a prompt I can work with, and it doesnt take long, because its only 55 words. Probably spend as long checking I’ve got the word count right, as writing it!

So yes, here’s a treat for you, a short piece I’ve written, that beyond a few dozen people, no one has seen, or is likely to see. Yes, its playing to my kinks, but anyway, here it is…

“So Harlean, what would you like to be?” asked her Fairy Godmother, “Choice is entirely yours, just remember one thing, only one choice is permitted, then you have to live with outcome?”

Stay Yourself?
Shiny Robot?
Cute young flapper?
Fine Edwardian Lady?
Alien, with her own spacecraft?
Sweet Thirties chorus dancer?

“I’ve decided, I’ll be…?”

Yes, I deliberately didnt take the choice in the story, so that people could decide on my choice for themselves. So what do you reckon my decision would/should be?

Stay Yourself?

No, you’re right, wouldnt be me to take this choice, even if I have to live with the decision for the rest of my life, lets face it, I’m going to go for one of those transformations!

Shiny Robot?

Lets face it, not so long ago, this would have been an absolute no contest, this would have been my pick. But now… Yes, it would probably still rank as favorite, but plenty of the others would be very tempting, I must admit.

Cute young flapper?

There probably is a critical factor on this one, to live, and have fun as a flapper, I would need to be cute, and young. Oh, and allowed to drink hooch, lol! Lets just say one thing, I’d make sure my investments in 1929 werent in stocks and shares! πŸ˜›

Fine Edwardian Lady?

I probably only included this because of my latest work in Blackpool, to be honest. Not that I would mind, as long as I was a fine lady, ideally with someone to tie me tightly into a corset! But no, I’d pass on that Transatlantic trip on the Titanic, lol!

Alien, with her own spacecraft?

Oh fine, this would be so much fun! Whizzing around, either in space, or around the Earth would just be so great. Especially as it seems humans quite enjoy aliens being a bit careless about being sighted, lol!

Sweet Thirties chorus dancer?

Yes, again this is subject to be given suitable dancing skills, as well as youth! I guess this one pretty much comes down to just wanting to know what Clara Johnson’s life was like, I guess?

So, given a free choice, but a one off, you have to live with your decision call, which do you think I should choose? I’m pretty sure I’d want to try something new, given the chance, so staying myself isnt going to happen. I dont think the Edwardian Lady would top the list, but if offered the chance, as the only choice, I probably would! Of the others, absolutely no idea which I’d pick! If anyone wants to suggest here, on Facebook, or on Twitter, wherever you see this, give me a shout out!

Of course, I could always become a fine, French lady of the past, or the present, but thats a whole different story! πŸ˜‰

Right, video time. I dont often put up this sort of music, but the title sort of fitted, so I rolled with it.

Respectable clothing at 60?

Recently on Amazon, I saw a silk skirt that was described as long length, 20’s style, in silver. Fine, for me, that ticks all boxes, lets face it. And on receipt, I have to agree with everything but one tiny matter, the length! Maybe knee length (barely) was long for those daring young Flapper Girls in the 1920’s, but for me, at 60, when I see long length, I’m expecting at least calf, if not ankle, but anyway… Yes, as you’ve gathered, this long length skirt just about covers my knees when I’m standing up, and struggles to do so when sat down!

No, I’m not sending it back, as I say, its gorgeous, and a young cheerleader, or even a young Flapper would love it. But me, at 60, where it out, doing the flapper look, absolutely no chance! My legs may well be better than I believe they are (several have told me they are), but my knees arent a pretty sight due to surgical issues, so something this short, in public, no chance!

But what I was wondering, is what length do people regard as respectable for a woman of my age? Is flashing my knees, as a Flapper would, fine, or just the biggest no-no of all time? But what is OK? Just below the knee? Calf length? Ankle length? Is it just me being too modest, or am I wise not to wish like mutton dressed as lamb?

Before you ask, yes, I do wear dresses out that show some leg, from time to time. But I do make sure they’re safely below the knee, but now I’m wondering, is that just because I’m aware of the state of my knees, or is it just because I dont think its suitable for a 60 year old to wear? If anyone wants to advise before I pack for Seattle, feel free! Funnily enough, last year, I bought a dress on line that claimed to be calf length, but again, barely covered my knees, so never worn since. Yes, its pink, yes its gorgeously flapper, but for a woman of my age, wearing it out, my view is no!

But should it be that way?

Mind, thats not the only style of dress I love that i’m not brave enough to wear now. Lets ignore my crazy ‘leather’ skirt purchases, they are too short to wear out, but fine, I picked them up for virtually nothing, and they were fun to wear indoors once, but probably never again. But my leather trousers, should I really be avoiding them, just because of my age…?

And no, much though the idea of wearing latex clothing, especially a catsuit, might appeal to me, in my eyes, there is no way that a 60 year old should ever wear anything like that, so now I guess I never will. But is that the right attitude?

To be fair, there is one dear friend (Yes, Adriana, I mean you), who would happily convince me to dress up showgirl style, a la Clara Johnson without any thought whatsoever. And fine, maybe she’s right? Oh, and agreed, if I was talked into it, and no one else beyond close friends saw, I agree, it would be fun. But I can see her wanting me to go out, in showgirl mode, and have fun for an evening, but…is it the done thing?

So tell me, should I lighten up, and flash my knees (and maybe some body?), come what may, and just enjoy it, or am I wise keeping it at least relatively modest in look? What do you see as apt for a 60 year old? And no, as much as I would love to wear a Burqua just once, for the experience (and Muslim support), I hope you dont want me to go quite that far in cover up lol!

Right, video time. Being honest, these outfits are about as revealing as many that Clara had to wear, but these were seen on TV when children would have been watching! Oh those wild 70’s lol! But me, like Clara Johnson, dressed as a dancing queen, hmm?

We’re in the money!

No, seriously, I’m not, so if anyone has got a spare thousand, or two, I’d really appreciate it. But on a more serious note… Back to the 1930’s, and…Inspired by this article, handily linked by a lovely friend

http://filmsinreview.com/2010/09/24/the-gold-diggers-in-hollywood/2/

One reason I’ve noticed for numerous retirements among chorus line dancers, was the fact that after a couple of years (maybe more, maybe less?), they didnt get worn out by the non stop nature of their work, but they went off and got married. The thing thats significant about that fact, is that they werent tending to be marrying their boyhood sweetheart, or anyone like that, a large number of them got married to wealthy men, a number of whom seem to have been a ‘little bit more mature’ than their new young wives.

Of course, the burning question I’m wondering is whether these wealthy men were after a trophy, attractive wife, who had an element of fame, in the sense they’d probably seen them dancing in chorus lines in the movies, or did these young ladies, with their moment of fame, go searching for a wealthy husband, as the article suggests, going gold digging?

My suspicion would be there would be six of one, half dozen of the other, but it makes for an intriguing question, especially in the depression era. But were those men hooked by ladies looking for a comfortable life, or did those young girls get influenced by money being waved in front of their eyes? Hmm?

No, before you ask, from as much as I can tell, Clara Johnson was neither gold digging, or gold dug, for want of a better term, but given the limited info she gave up, and the fact that she might have been coy with details, who knows? πŸ˜‰

But fine, I guess if I’m young, pretty and talented, and some slightly older man waves a lot of money in your face, to go off and be his wife, I might not have turned him down either!

Right, video time. If anyone hasnt guessed the song, I’m shocked. Its Ginger Rogers at her best, pre Astaire days. Some pig latin thrown in for good measure, and yes, a certain Miss Johnson is among the dancing chorus line here! Song actually starts at 1:02 if you want to jump straight to it.

You know you’re getting old, when…

Up until now, when booking holidays and stuff, I’ve always tried to save every penny, by taking the lowest price possible. Well, except for when I’ve traveled by Premium Economy, for the extra room and stuff, but in the sense of the option which is non cancellable, but is just that bit cheaper than the more flexible deal, mainly with hotel bookings, I’ve always plunged for the non cancellable deal. In truth, of course, until last year, I was generally ‘young and healthy’ enough (thats a video hint, btw) not to need to worry about it. Well, healthy enough, anyway! πŸ˜›

I cant remember the difference for the Seattle hotel next month, but I know it was enough for me to be taking my chances with the cheaper rate! I just left the booking to a bit later, to see how the back was, and then just went for it!

However, when I looked at the trip to Scotland in September for a few days, I noticed that the difference between the cheap, non cancel rate was only about Β£20 less than the more flexible one, allowing the opportunity to cancel up to the day before, should I, or the person going with me, not feel up to the challenge. Fine, there will be a point where I need to sort out the rail tickets, so last minute will not be practical, but that much, to give the 2 of us (other is older than me) the opportunity not to panic if we dont feel up to it at the time, well…

So yes, for the first time in forever, I’ll be paying that little bit extra, just to be sure. Ah, the delights of getting old, lol! Sadly, unlike rail fares, hotels dont do senior discount cards lol!

Right, video time. One of those occasions when you dont believe the claim on You Tube. No, this isnt rare, colored film from 1932 as it claims. This is actually a Turner Movies colorization jobs from the 1980’s. Considering that, its not great, and I have no idea why audio is missing, unless Turner Movies really messed that up? So no, its not real color film of Clara Johnson (at 2:17 or so), but probably the best I can get!

The lady dances

(Clue, do not take this too seriously!)

Not that any of you would have noticed it, because I only ever type the blogs up in the evening, UK time, but I was actually offline for the first half of the day today. Officially the reason was that my laptop had a corruption issue with my user profile log in, and therefore I couldnt get on here. So yes, today, I’m miles behind pace. I did think about passing on the blog tonight, and try to catch up, but what the hell…?

Right, as I said, thats the official reason. Only because you wouldnt believe the actual one, OK? πŸ˜‰

So, in truth, I’ve been in contact with some crazy scientist guy, who claimed he could make me look like a young Clara Johnson, with all her dancing skills, so that when I fly into Las Vegas next month, and a friend of a friend offers me a contract as a showgirl dancer, I can take him up onΒ  his offer, and make my fortune in skimpy outfits, dancing like a dream, and getting to marry a millionaire at the end of it.

No, I didnt believe him, but I thought I’d call his bluff, so…

Fine, its a bit weird only being about 5 ft 4 tall, and only weighing about 125, but I’ll get used to it, I guess? And hey, its lovely being young, free from arthritic, and back pain, and having amazing dancing skills. But yeah, I guess I’ll get used to it? Who me, dancing in heels, seriously? Fine, I miss the boobs, but hey, nothings perfect, giggle! Now, all I have to do is convince my friend that I really do want her to arrange a producer to meet me at the airport, with said contract, and then wait for men to fall into my lap! Or something close to my lap, anyway, giggle!

OK, fine, it didnt really happen, but it would have been a lot more fun than the real reason I was offline all morning, is that my poor old laptop (its about 10 years old, to be fair) is just getting as old, and moody as its owner!

Mind, if anyone reads this, and wants to arrange for that show dancer makeover for me, just give me a call, OK? πŸ˜‰

Right, video time. Here, you get the honor of a real rare event, a decent movie close up of Miss Clara Johnson (though she was working as Elaine, her middle name at the time). Yes, if you freeze the film, about 4 minutes 13 seconds, thats her! Its one of two actual credits she got as a chorus line dancer, ooh! Watch the rest, entirely up to you, but if you want to know ‘how I look’, this would be it!

Take me dancing?

Actually, before anyone gets any ideas from that title, in truth, the answer is no, you really dont want to do that! Despite the fact that my past life self was a chorus line dancer in numerous musicals, it fair to say that she used up all our allowance of dancing skills, and left me with 2 left feet! Well, maybe she didnt, maybe its just the physical issues with my knees that held me back as a dancer, but in truth, after that, I couldnt get my legs to feel the rhythm, so like Doris Day, that was the end of my dancing career, if I ever had one! And maybe I did have the talents before the legs went bad, as I certainly won a couple of small contests before the accident, so who knows?

But in truth, however reasonable a dancer I might have grown up to be, I suspect I would never have been able to match Clara Johnson, and some of the routines she did. For example…

How they ever danced like that, let alone how it was ever choreographed, I have no idea, other than to say Berkeley must have been a genius. And just remember, this isnt your very top dancers, these are the ones just below that level doing this! But fine, he couldnt have done any of that if the dancers couldnt have performed it. Mind, there were times allegedly when the routines were just too complex, but of course, we would have no record of those. But even this is amazing to me!

Of course, I’ll never know if I inherited any dancing skills or not, now, due to the accident that wrecked my knees. Who knows, me as a dancer, or a showgirl, now wouldnt that have been fun? Then again, I probably wouldnt be posting this if that had happened.

But yes, there are times when this ‘old actress’ does wonder what her life might have been like if she could have danced too? Not that I will ever know, unless I can time travel back, to before that accident, and not get on that pony, and then see what happened…? I wonder how different my life would have been if that could be done?

Right, video time. A little bit of Carpenters. A lesser known, and pretty minor hit, but it works for this. Mind, unless someone mind controlled me to be the perfect dancer, this isnt going to happen now!