The Boobs and Sally Rand (7-18-1933)

In the summer of 1933, the Century of Progress Exposition was drawing huge crowds at Burnham Park.  One of the most popular attractions was a performer named Sally Rand.  She was a nude fan dancer.

Sally RandRand would walk on stage, holding two giant fans made of ostrich feathers in front of her naked body.  A music ensemble would play some classical piece–DeBussy’s Claire de Lune was a favorite–while Rand strutted slowly around, waving the fans in time with the music.

The audience didn’t really see much of Rand’s body.  But the whole premise was pretty daring for 1933.  Now Judge Joseph B. David was hearing a petition to stop the performances.

Attorney Jay J. McCarthy represented the plaintiff.  He called Rand’s act “lewd and lascivious.”  She was a threat to public morality.  Such entertainment didn’t belong at a wholesome, family-friendly place like the World’s Fair.

Judge David didn’t agree.  He refused to summon Rand to his court.  And he wasn’t interested in seeing her act, for any reason.  “I’ve never been down there and I don’t want to go,” he said.  “I go where there’s a good glass of beer.”

McCarthy pleaded that Chicago’s youth were being corrupted.  But Judge David cut him off.  There was no need to over-react.  “Lots of people in this community would like to put pants on horses,” the judge declared.  Rand was dancing–she wasn’t running a house of prostitution.

The petition was denied.  Sally Rand could stay in business.  Her fans could watch her wave her fans.  “If you ask me, they are just a bunch of boobs,” Judge David said.  “But we have the boobs, and we have the right to cater to them.”

"Which way to Sally Rand?"

“Which way to Sally Rand?”

The World’s Fair made Sally Rand famous.  She continued to do her fan dance for another forty years.  Near the end of the movie The Right Stuff, there’s a scene where a 60-year-old Rand performs for the astronauts at a giant Texas party.  That really happened.

As Yakov Smirnoff used to say, “What a country!”

—30—

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1 Response to “The Boobs and Sally Rand (7-18-1933)”


  1. 1 Ralph August 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Then there was the famous Bettie Page next. Wow!


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