cover image Barefoot to the Chin: The Fantastic Life of Sally Rand

Barefoot to the Chin: The Fantastic Life of Sally Rand

Jim Lowe. Sentry Press, $39.95 (820p) ISBN 978-1-889574-45-5

Lowe delivers an exhaustive and entertaining debut biography of actress and burlesque dancer Sally Rand, whose risque fan dance at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair made her a national sensation. Drawing on Rand’s personal letters and scrapbooks as well as on archival research (including nearly 100 photos, many of which are included), Lowe details the dancer’s rise from her youth in the “rolling Ozark country” of Missouri to her discovery in 1924 by Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille, who called her “the most beautiful girl in America.” He describes her years as a vaudeville dancer and the creation of the fan dance, which led to her arrest and conviction in Chicago for nudity (she’d actually cover herself with thick white body makeup or a sheer body stocking while performing), and continues through her subsequent years of touring as a dancer—including stints on Broadway and in Las Vegas—which she did until her death in 1979 at age 75. Lowe excellently captures how Rand’s success was due to her “irrepressible personality” and her business savvy as her own manager. This enlightening book just might rescue from obscurity an entertainer whose career included encounters with Franklin D. Roosevelt and a young Bill Clinton. (Self-published.)