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Random Balboa Geek Discovery: new information (and possibly misinformation) on the Venice Beach Clip

February 8, 2011


I have a new fancy post coming today or tomorrow, but I was so excited because today I stumbled upon something that perhaps only a dozen people in this world would really care about, but we really, really care about it. I thought I’d share. (If you’re not a Balboa history fan, though, it probably won’t mean that much to you.)

[UPDATE: A follow up post on Genevieve Grazis is here: Genevieve Grazis, the lost follower (AKA Jenny Gray)]

Sometimes my life is working on routines, practicing the same step over and over a hundred times, teaching classes or privates, or social dancing. Other days, I feel like a detective. Usually this is the boring kind of detective, pouring over footage over and over again or looking through a copy of Norma Miller’sSwinging at the Savoy for that one damn sentence I swore I had read three years ago. (Thank God Frankie’s biography has an index.)

Occasionally, however, things happen like a movie detective. The great mastermind Sherlock Holmes, searching for a burglar he knows has been bitten in the leg by a dog, comes across a man with a limp. And that limping man happens to be the ex-husband’s mistress’es brother and wears a trench coat with pockets bulging from the large amounts of priceless vases stuffed in them. Thus saving him too much of a mental strain to pinpoint the culprit.

This sort of happened to me today when I ran across a few pictures in a stock picture website. First, though, a little background.

There’s not a lot of footage of what we would call LA Swing (Bal-Swing in it’s early stages in the mid to late 30s). One of our greatest sources is what we call the Venice Beach Clip.

Venice Beach AKA “The Beach Clip”

We’ve known for a few years now that Hal Takeir is in the black pants, and his partner is Betty Takier. The couple doing collegiate shag is Connie Wydell and [UPDATED: possibly Barbara Plum, perhaps not Marion Goldie.] We’ve also known the guy in the striped sweater is Dick Landry, and the guy in the all-white outfit is Jack Helwig (a hero of mine). But, we didn’t have their follower’s names.

Another mystery surrounding the clip is that we’ve never known what the story was behind it, or the date it happened. After all, it’s four random couples on the beach dancing without music. And, there’s several different versions of the clip: some of which are filmed from below as the dancers dance on a pane of glass.

Some people have said it was practicing for a competition, but this doesn’t entirely make sense when you see the parts of the clip filmed from below, which seems a lot more planned than people simply practicing before a comp.

At some point 1940 was mentioned, and it stuck as a rough estimate of the date.

Today, while looking for photographs for another Swungover article, I came across this. (And then I searched their archives and came across a lot of other pictures, which will surely be making their way onto Swungover articles in the future, as our loyal readers know there’s almost nothing we like better than old black-and-white swing dance pictures. Except perhaps starting a new series.)

As I read the accompanying text, it slowly sunk in that I had found a documented, archived photo from the event that filmed the Venice Beach Clip. (Don’t worry if you’re not that excited—I’m more than excited enough for the both of us.)

Since the caption of the photograph has so much specific information, it’s probably safe to assume this is the actual information the photographer/reporter gave on the occasion of the filming. (I also found two others from the Venice Beach clip, including the one at the top of the post, that weren’t near as specific in their details.)

The obvious things this clarifies are the date (This picture was from September, 1938), and, which is really exciting, the documentation gives us his follower’s name, and brings her spirit back from the Land of Forgotten Followers. “Genevie Grazis”[sic] is the name of Jack Helwig’s partner, and it’s also neat because she happens to be my favorite in the clip. A search on IMDB shows that, hey, a Genevieve Grazis was an uncredited jitterbug in four films involving SoCal dancers. I think we have the makings of another Incredible-Follower-No-One-Knows-About post.

Also, given the information on this photo and the other Beach Clip Photos in the collection, I think we can come up with a possible scenario of what happened the day the venice Beach clip was filmed….or should I say, days. . . (DA–DA–DUMMMMM!!!!!!!).

First, let’s take a look at the other captions. The caption on the photo at the very top of this post read:

9/1938-FLINGERS IN FLIGHT… Strenuous preparations for all Jitterbugs interested in the West Coast championships to be held at Venice, California, inspire these swageroos to do their swingingest for the swingaree, and the photographer caught this shot of it.

And then there’s the caption on the other one:

Original caption: 9/8/1938- Venice, CA: Swinging in the sandtime...on the sandy beach of Venice, CA, the jitterbugs have foregathered to put on one of the world's greatest swing jamborees. Some of the best in the country have entered in the California championships for all classes of jittery jitterbugs.

Okay, so there WAS a contest. (Note, also, the photograph above was dated Sept. 8, 1938.) Possibly a big one, since it was called the West coast championships or California Championships, but it’s also possible they just threw fancy sounding names onto any old random contest, and the fact that its names are different in the two captions shows it might not have been entirely clear what the name of the contest was. The event was probably announced, and reporters and news film-makers probably showed up to film and take photographs of these dancers who were preparing for the contest.

One possibility is that the picture marked Sept 13 (which was a Tuesday, apparently) was just archived at a later date, and the event actually did take place September 8 (a Thursday, apparently.) Or one was simply mislabeled. (We at least hope one of them got it right.)

Another possibility, however, is that the original film was taken September 8, and some of the dancers were asked to return for more shooting, where the trick “under the glass” photographs were taken a few days later. It’s a stretch, but a possibility. (And, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter that much. I’m just happy to pin it down to September 1938 and have some good evidence that it was a gathering of contest dancers.)

[Updated: Peter Loggins thinks they were weren’t just practicing for a contest, they were actually doing promotional dancing for it. This makes sense to me, and would explain why (1) they are “practicing” on a beach, and (2) they happen to have a window pane around for dancers to dance on, which is very promotional-ly.

Also, my “filmed on a different day conspiracy theory” is pretty shallow, in hindsite. It makes much more sense that one of the photos is mislabeled. I really just wanted to say “Da–Da–Dummmmm!” in a post, I’ll admit it.]

Here’s the not-so-obvious, subtle thing about this clip information: You remember how, from 9th grade world history, it was apparently really hard to find the source of the Nile? And you were like “Why’s that so hard? It’s a big f–cking river?” (My, my, you had quite a mouth.) And then your teacher explained that it was hard because the Nile had a ton of different sources including lakes, feeder streams, and heavy rain storms?

Well, we have been trying to track down the origins of LA Swing, and some of us have come to a Nile-like conclusion: it was, in many ways, a collection of a lot of different, and sometimes random, dance steps. After all, these kids didn’t have a Savoy ballroom that had been doing Lindy Hop for almost a decade lying around when the national swing craze hit; they had to make there swing dancing up from scratch. So it makes sense that they threw together whatever ingredients mom had in the kitchen. (I think I’ve reached critical analogy mass.)

If you didn’t read the caption at the clip already, check it out again:

9/13/1938-Venice, CA- Eckies and jitterbugs danced the “Yam,” “Flying Dutchman,” “Corrigan Hop (which is the “Lindy Hop” done backwards), “Twerly Q,” Chinese Puzzle,” “Jam” and the “Hollywood Shuffle” on the beach at Venice, California and discussed such killer diller numbers in terms of jive, dog-house, push-pipe and agony-pipe.

This probably raises more questions than it answers, such as “What the hell is an ‘agony pipe’?” [recently-discovered answer: a clarinet] But, it also provides compelling evidence to support the “LA Swing = River Nile origins” theory. The dancers are all dancing what we notice as Bal-Swing at an early stage, with a unifying theme of rotation-fueled turns (toss-outs and texas-tommy and other fancy turns) and some out-and-in style dancing (mostly from Hal/Betty, but a little from the other two couples as well.)

Yet, IF the laundry list of steps the captions mention is what they were showing us in the Venice Beach Clip footage, then it’s possible they really did think of their dancing as just a collection of steps, and not realized they were well on their way to unifying it into a whole.

They might have thought they were still floating in a bunch of small creeks, and just didn’t realize they were now entering a giant river, the pyramids on the horizon.

Now, this is all supposition (with a lot of additional small bits of evidence I didn’t go into) at this point, but it’s interesting to think about.

Note: When a scientist makes a new discovery, they are torn: they are so excited they want to get it out immediately. But yet they have to test their discoveries, research it, and make sure that it all holds up. I blatantly disregarded this custom and published it immediately. To be fair, I trusted the information enough to do it, but I still have to look at it and conduct speed tests and see what happens when the airbags don’t inflate. I will make sure to update the information as I learn it, and mention updates in my future “Junk Drawer” posts.

UPDATE: (Sept. 28, 2011) Even more proof it’s September 7, 1938:

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675022391_Jitterbug-dance-variations_Yam_Shag_Lindy-Pop
—————————————————————————————————–

UPDATE: After searching a bit, here were some easy-enough answers to track down regarding the laundry list of moves in the caption:

Agony-Pipe = Clarinet.

Thus, “push pipe” is probably a Trombone (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1937/04/17/alligators-idol)

Dog House = Bass Fiddle

Jive = slang, such as the kind this caption is loaded with

Now, the moves:

“Yam” a walking step,
see Fred and Ginger

This film came out the same year as the beach clip. That said, none of the moves in the beach clip appear to be the Yam as shown by Fred and Ginger. Could have happened off-camera, could have been added by caption writer, could have looked totally different when the “young kids” did it.

“Flying Dutchman” probably = http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics40/00039781.jpg

Today more commonly known as Candlestick. This is, at least, the traditional old school SoCal name for the step. However, the names thing is tricky—many dancers had their own moves with their very own names that other people might have no idea what it was. If the caption is Jack and Genevieve’s move list, for instance, it might include names known only to them in 1938.

I will keep searching for the Holy Grail of moves, though, “the Chinese Puzzle.”

46 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2011 3:22 pm

    Super super exciting!!!! OMG!!!
    I printed out your article so that I can read it in detail at my lunch break. Thanks for not waiting to publish!

  2. Heidi Rosenau permalink
    February 8, 2011 4:12 pm

    woooooowww! This is very exciting and meaningful, which means that I’m a bal geek too. I really enjoyed reading this, and thank you, good sir!

  3. Lynelle permalink
    February 8, 2011 4:31 pm

    Bobby, wow! This is really exciting! I spent the afternoon in the British Library, but /this/ is the most interesting and groovy thing I’ve read all day — thanks for publishing it without waiting for airbag testing.

  4. Steve G. permalink
    February 9, 2011 12:17 am

    In fact, Genevieve was also Vana White’s mother, the same Vana White that was flipping the letters on the American game show Wheel of Fortune. Btw, publishers and writers would regularly make up names of dance steps that had no name, just to spice up articles.

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      February 9, 2011 12:37 am

      Hey Steve,

      Thanks for replying. That’s cool, but I checked up on Wikipedia (not the best source, albeit) and Vanna White was born to Joan Marie Rosich of South Carolina. Is it possible we’re dealing with a “crazy old timer’s story” here?

      As for the publishers and writers making up steps, I could see that. We do know that some of the names equal steps we know of, like the “Flying Dutchman” — wasn’t that a Ray Hirsch step?

      Bobby

    • Gino Vella permalink
      July 1, 2014 1:41 am

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vJc5AnMb4k <<<<

  5. February 9, 2011 1:46 am

    I bet Genevieve was glad she wore cute undies that day. ;)

    Looking at all those pics on Corbis, I only saw the one dated 9/13/38, and all the others (including pics from the contest itself) are 9/8. I think 9/13 is a mistake.

    Ran a bunch of searches, but couldn’t figure out what contest happened on 9/8…maybe there’s a mention in a local newspaper archive. One more thing on the to-do list. ;)

    Chris has mentioned hearing the Vanna White connection too, but I found the same thing as Bobby when I tried to look it up. Hmm. Maybe Chris and Steve were sitting at the same table when the story got told…I’ll ask Chris about it again, but I don’t think he remembers who told him.

    I’ve always heard the Flying Dutchman referred to as the move where the girl more or less does a handstand on the guy’s shoulders. Any other ideas?

    I looked up Genevieve’s 4 movies on IMDB and put a couple in my Netflix queue. I tried to find her in Ghost Catchers, but haven’t spotted her yet – but that’s so heavily edited, it’s hard to see anyone. I haven’t spotted her in Campus Rhythm yet either, but I did discover Johnny & Jenny Duncan – how cute are they?! I recognized them as the same dancers in Sensations of 1945, and I guess they were also in Swing Fever and The Gang’s All Here. So here’s the funny thing – Johnny went on to play Robin in early Batman movies. (Here’s an interesting interview – and he says Jenny’s last name was Gray. Why can’t people just use their right names? http://www.grouchoreviews.com/interviews/63 ) The thing I really like about the clip in Campus Rhythm is how they seem to blend Balboa and Lindy elements – they have a labored, bouncy bal basic, piked LA style lindy posture with sharp swivels, and Jenny’s spins are quick little perfect Balboa spins. They obviously knew both Lindy and Balboa, and danced in and out of them. It’s not like there wasn’t any crossover between the dances.

    I think there’s something to your theory of Balboa being in its infancy in this period, and having a wide range of influences. When you look at the clips, there’s so much variation between dancers sometimes it’s hard to know whether or not they’re doing the same dance – which isn’t a problem when you look at their contemporaries in the Lindy world, no matter which coast.

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      February 9, 2011 1:56 am

      Hey Beth,

      Thanks for the additional info. I ordered Call of the Canyon and “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” on Amazon this afternoon.

      Regarding Ghost Catachers: we too were looking for her in that clip today. The problem: it’s four years later and she’s obviously learned Lindy and is not doing Bal Swing in the clip. So far, I think she’s the main brown-haired girl (not blonde or brunette like almost all the others) but perhaps a look at her other films will clarify it. I hope so, at least.

      Regarding Lindy Hop and Bal—David, Kate and I talked about that this morning. We think many of the LA swing dancers at first thought of the Lindy as just another step to add to the bunch. If you look at Maharaja, for instance, Hal does swing outs and tandem Charlestons just as if they were just another one of the ten dance steps he throws at the camera, without really using Lindy Hop as a dance unto itself.

      Bobby

      • February 9, 2011 2:34 am

        Makes sense to me – if you’re just calling your dance “swing”, you might as well just throw everything in the pot!

    • Jeffrey Sliakis permalink
      July 1, 2014 2:31 am

      Genevieve Grazis AKA Jenny Gray was my mother…She was as wonderful a person as was her dancing..There is now a you tube video my friend created for you to see..And by the way..Whoever wrote Vanna White was my mom’s daughter is mistaken..God Bless..Jeffrey

  6. Laurel permalink
    February 9, 2011 8:00 am

    THIS IS SO COOL!!

    Anyway, you’re not being a scientist, you’re being a historian, and I have no idea what their conventions are. But I think you’re right in posting this amazing connection! Maybe now several of us can sniff out more clues in parallel :D

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      February 9, 2011 9:44 am

      Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of that before, but now that I think about it, I believe the scientific method is the way a person should study history. Especially in dancing, since applying the history we know is part of what classic swing dancing is about. (I guess it makes senses in all history, though, since both scientists and historians are people who try to figure out the true nature of something based on the pieces of data they have.)

      You’re right in that people aren’t going to die if I release wrong information. (Well, my soul might. And the dance scene’s might, a little.)

      But all too often in the swing scene we’ve passed on bad information simply because we didn’t question the original sources, or think of the logic of the answer, or approach the question in a more scientific way to see how those theories hold up and what greater “truths” they point to.

      I’m also personally probably over-sensative about it because I don’t want to take advantage of my position as an instructor. I want to make sure people understand that there is a possibility that I might totally rethink things two weeks from now and come to a different conclusion, or find out the evidence is bogus (As Steve pointed out, for instance, reporters might have had a habit of just making up steps or beefing up their captions with inaccurate information, which weakens the argument I made about it being evidence of one kind of the origins of Bal Swing a little).

      Oh, and it may appear I was particularly sensitive (AKA covering-my-ass) about it on this post because I found the first photograph, wrote a rough draft of the post and had that the final disclaimer in it, then found the other pictures, thought about it for three more hours, solidified the post, and then never took it out. The post is actually a LOT more solid fact-and-thought wise than it would have been originally when I felt the need for that disclaimer.

      By the way, I’m really just a big theater/english dork, and science wasn’t really a tool I used a lot until I started dancing and trying to figure out the old timer’s way of doing things; then physics and the scientific method all suddenly became very important to me.

      • jackthevampire permalink*
        February 9, 2011 9:49 am

        Oh yeah, and thanks for reading and responding! :) I’m thrilled so many people are enthusiastic about this stuff and want to research more. I was wrong in thinking only a dozen or so people cared, and that’s exciting.

        It’s also neat to know we have one more follower left and then we’ll have the names of all the Venice Beach Clip dancers!

      • Laurel permalink
        February 9, 2011 5:50 pm

        OK yeah, because these are totally solid leads, and I think this is a perfectly responsible way to present them. Also, we scientists definitely do things like this as well, just chit-chat about theories and hypotheses, compare unpublished and unprofessional pilot experiments, etc. We just don’t put the information anywhere that the public can get confused and cite it as scientific proof, and reserve the published work for when we do have solid evidence.

        BTW has Skye found this post yet? Isn’t he a historian?

  7. jackthevampire permalink*
    February 9, 2011 10:09 am

    OKAY GANG!!!!

    Quick update:

    Agony-Pipe = Clarinet.

    Thus, push pipe is probably a Trombone (though I can’t find info on it)

    Dog House = Bass Fiddle

    Jive = slang, such as the kind this caption is loaded with

    Now, the moves:

    “Yam” a walking step, see Fred and Ginger:

    This film came out the same year as the beach clip. That said, none of the moves in the beach clip appear to be the Yam as shown by Fred and Ginger. Could have happened off-camera, could have been added by caption writer, could have looked totally different when the “young kids” did it.

    “Flying Dutchman” probably = http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics40/00039781.jpg

    Today more commonly known as Candlestick. This is, at least, the traditional old school SoCal name for the step. However, the names thing is tricky—many dancers had their own moves with their very own names that other people might have no idea what it was. If the caption is Jack and Genevieve’s move list, for instance, it might include names known only to them in 1938.

    Can’t find info on the others yet, but also haven’t looked very hard yet.

  8. February 9, 2011 10:24 am

    Fantastic article, Bobby. I did some more research on Genevieve. I’m fairly certain I’ve found the right person, and sadly it appears that she just passed away less than two years ago. This is a matter of public record, so I think it’s okay to share here:

    SLIAKIS, GENEVIEVE TERESA
    Born 14 Jun 1919
    Died 07 Mar 2009 (P)
    Age 89
    Last recorded address:
    91505 (Burbank, Los Angeles, CA)

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      February 9, 2011 10:34 am

      NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

      Damnit. I’m curious, what lead you to think this was our Genevieve?

      BTW, loyal readers, you’d be surprised how often we in the swing scene come up with old timer’s names and simply, well, forget to try to track them down. I’ve been in contact with Joel Plys trying to figure out if we’ve contacted Genevieve in the past, and if we ever found her. At one point around ten years ago, a lot of SoCal dancers tried to track down every name an Old Timer or film credit mentioned, but that was before the internet was as good as it is, and before IMDB had all the names of the uncredited dancers. It was rough, and people like Joel, Sylvia Sykes, Nick Williams, Peter Loggins, David Rehm, Steve Garrett, and a bunch of other people I’m forgetting (or don’t know) deserve a TON of credit for finding and/or drilling the SoCal old timers.

      • jackthevampire permalink*
        February 9, 2011 10:36 am

        Also, is there any chance her husband is still around?

        • jackthevampire permalink*
          February 9, 2011 10:37 am

          Or had kids that might have old pictures or a photo album?

      • jackthevampire permalink*
        February 9, 2011 10:57 am

        Hmmm…Tracked down a Genevieve Grazis Sliakis at Mercy High School, Omaha Nebraska, class of 1937 — did you find this in your hunt? She could have moved to California from Nebraska following graduation and learned Bal in 38, later marrying a Sliakis.

      • February 9, 2011 11:01 am

        Well, first I saw this http://sarpymarriages.wordpress.com/k-l/
        which lists her marrying a Victor Karhan in September 1937, in Nebraska. I figured it was not her, until I also found this http://www.mercyhigh.org/Newsletters/Document0_46fc87da31a59.pdf with her maiden as well as a second married name, and upon searching the social security death index found out that the Omaha-raised Genevieve Grazis Sliakis last lived in Burbank and passed away in 2009. Her first husband Victor died in March of 2002, although I have to wonder if they were together for very long.

        I guess I am making an assumption that there were not multiple Genevieve Grazises born around the same time in Nebraska, and that there wasn’t some other Genevieve Grazis of about the same age in L.A. other than the one that passed away two years ago, but I think those are fairly safe assumptions.

        It’s possible whoever she married with a last name of Sliakis might still be alive. You could probably check Burbank obituaries.

        • Bonny permalink
          April 11, 2011 8:24 pm

          Yikes! I just bumped into your blog while doing a google search of my father, Victor Karhan.

          • jackthevampire permalink*
            April 16, 2011 2:24 pm

            Hi! Are you any relation to something mentioned on this blog post?

            Bobby (the blog’s author)

            • Bonny permalink
              July 14, 2011 3:33 am

              Bobby,
              I am Victor Karhan’s eldest of three daughters. One of the replies from Mike in your blog says my father married to Genevieve Grazis in September 1937, something neither of my sisters nor I was ever aware of until I read this blog. My father was born in Omaha in 1917, which makes him 20 years old at the time of his marriage to Genevieve and a year younger than the Sarpy Country record states. Genevieve, according to the birthdate provided in your blog, would have been 18 years old, which is two years younger than the age in the county records. My father died in 2002 as Mike says. In the late 1930s, he taught ballroom dancing at Edward Fish Dance Studio in Omaha, which is where he met my mother, Mary Newby. He married her in 1941. I have some old dance programs from the Fish Studio. I’ll be retrieving them from storage later this summer and will look for the name Genevieve Grazis. This sounds to me, however, like a high school romance, an elopement, and an annulment, but that’s purely speculation. I certainly would like to know more facts about their marriage.
              Best regards, Bonny (nee Karhan) Davidson

      • jackthevampire permalink*
        February 9, 2011 11:05 am

        Yeah, I think Genevieve Grazis is a pretty rare name. Thanks for looking!

      • February 9, 2011 11:17 am

        It appears she may have also gone by the first name of Jean, that might help in searching for her.

    • February 9, 2011 11:38 am

      91505? That means she was living practically around the corner from me. Dang it. If anyone finds info about family members, let me know if they’re local to SoCal – Bobby’s idea about contacting them is great.

      • jackthevampire permalink*
        February 9, 2011 4:14 pm

        Woo hoo. This is great info to go on. Time to track down some leads.

  9. Shona permalink
    February 9, 2011 12:52 pm

    That is fantastic fact finding. Thanks for sharing.

  10. peter loggins permalink
    February 9, 2011 6:45 pm

    sorry to come in so late, but a link to the discussion was sent to me to help clarify, some of this information.

    i believe the mislabeled 1940 date is because the first “discovery” of this clip, came from a Lady was was doing a documentary on the swing scene. I can’t remember her name but she lived in Venice, and was going to Satin Ballroom with a film crew as well as Swing Pit, Derby…She got this clip along with many others on a reel, and the archive house in which she got it from had it mislabeled. I got it from her….and even though the mistake had been discovered a few years later,the info is already out there, along with clips that all remain with miss dates…

    yes, the dancing in the beach clip was to promoted the upcoming National Jitterbug championships, which took place Nov 18th 1938. The contest was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Colosseum, and was in part sponsored by the Palomar Ballroom.

    These same couples, as well as others did other promotion dances as well, which took place around the city (one being an invasion of city hall).

    Connie never claims to have danced with Marion Goldy.

    I’ve got some good photo’s of Genevieve Grazis, check out the Vanna White documentary for more information on her. She danced into the swing era. but like most stopped when the trend died.

    the “Dutchman” is what we all knew it as in Los Angeles during the 90’s, because that’s what those old timers all called it.

    The “Hollywood Shuffle”, is probably just “the shuffle”, and you can ask Ernie Reuben about that, being he is one of the only ones alive to know what you’ll be talking about.

    it’s what dancers call “single time” balboa today. back in the 30’s they called it Fox trot (stepping down on 3 and 7, not holding it). same as the box step, and done in place it was just called “the shuffle”, and not just in Los Angeles. This was also the basic for slicker dancing…which is what the owner of the Rendezvous Ballroom did.

    hope that helps…peter

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      February 10, 2011 9:49 am

      Dear Readers,

      Following receiving this reply, I chatted with Peter about various things, one of which was pointing out to him that the clip listed in the text is labeled “Beach Clip 1940,” which he put up on the internet as Twobarbreak at YouTube.

      He explained why he can’t change it, and posted a reply which is below. (Thanks, Peter!)

      I followed up my sources on the text where I said “Connie Wydell is dancing with Marion Goldie (the shag couple)” And it turns out the historians who told me that can’t remember how they got that information. This was followed by the explanation that five years ago, names were flying around back and forth and often with just an Old Timer saying something, and they aren’t as reliable as you’d hope. We do know Marion Goldie danced with another SoCal dancer in Jitterbug contests around that time.

      The shag follower in the beach clip is PROBABLY actually a woman named Barbara Plum. How do we know this? There is a picture of Connie and a girl who looks just like the girl in the Beach Clip, dancing in the same outfit, same height (as far as we can see) and the photo has a signature of Connie Wydell on it. On the back of the picture, in ink, it says “Connie Wydell and Barbara Plum.” See the lengths these guys go to to get information?

      Peter and I talked about this, and he mentioned that Connie just called her by her nickname, “Amazon.”

      As far as the Vanna White story goes, however, I still think it smells of BS. Peter mentioned it floating around at the time, and that it started floating around after a documentary about her came out. I’m thinking perhaps a Biography episode? I’m interested enough to try to track it down, just because a dozen dancers have told me that story now.

      I can’t find any information on the “National Jitterbug Championships of November 1938,” but do think the “promotional dancers” totally makes sense. That would explain why they would have a glass plane lying around for dancers to dance on, a very promotional-ly thing to do.

      Thanks Peter, for all your information. Bal Historians: with our forces combined….

      –Bobby

  11. peter loggins permalink
    February 9, 2011 8:49 pm

    clarification up on my miss labeled clip…

    the Majority of twobarbreak clips were created for “film presentations” before youtube existed. eventually doing film presentations became obsolete with the focus on lectures, and i just sat on this collection….

    finally, it became obvious the internet was important for sharing clips, and i started uploading video’s without fixing,over looking, mistakes…worst of all, i’m locked out of that account..to do anything.

    I knew Connie quite well, as well as Venna Archer who was there that day, and of course Hal for many years, and none remembered the date.

  12. andrew permalink
    February 9, 2011 9:21 pm

    This is so cool, I had seen those pictures on corbis before but never realized they were the same ppl in the clip! Too bad she passed away, I definitely would have wanted to meet her, considering she was so close-by!!! crappppp

  13. Twan van Beers permalink
    February 10, 2011 2:30 am

    Fantastic Bobby! great work!

    I did find this in reference to a push pipe… not sure if it was also used for a trombone though

    http://chestofbooks.com/home-improvement/woodworking/Handicraft-For-Boys/The-Musical-Push-Pipe.html

    I also found reference to a 1932 movie called The Chinese Puzzle, but again nothing conclusive linking it to the above

  14. February 10, 2011 9:36 am

    Great find. Thanks for looking and then sharing!

  15. February 10, 2011 2:13 pm

    More posts like this please. The story of the sleuthing behind the information/photos is just as entertaining as the information itself. :)

    Bobby, we should definitely talk at the Experiment. I have been doing some sleuthing of my own…

  16. Jamie permalink
    February 17, 2011 3:00 pm

    I’m sure someone has found this before, but i had never seen the clip with the Universal Newsreel and title in it? Any insight.

    http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675022391_Jitterbug-dance-variations_Yam_Shag_Lindy-Pop

    • Jamie permalink
      February 17, 2011 4:05 pm

      After searching, i have seen more of the clips with the opening title. With that info, would this not signify that the clip was definitely promotional material?

      Universal Newsreels:
      In the pre-TV era, people saw the news every week in their neighborhood movie theaters. Newsreels were shown before every feature film and in dedicated newsreel theaters located in large cities. Universal Newsreel, produced from 1929 to 1967, was released twice a week. Each issue contained six or seven short stories, usually one to two minutes in length, covering world events, politics, sports, fashion, and whatever else might entertain the movie audience.

      I also found this from Dancetime Publications. They list the date of the newsreel as being from 1930.
      http://www.dancetimepublications.com/film-from-1900-1930-s.html
      Jitterbug/Beach Resort has New Slant on Jitterbug 1930 Universal Newsreel, Library of Congress

  17. March 23, 2011 1:46 am

    Just a quick “Chinese Puzzle” theory: I was at the Museum of Chinese in America in NYC recently and they had a room dedicated to Chinese Puzzles. Many of them were to do with interlocking metal rings, which makes we think this elusive move is something to do with being tangled up with the arms. Just a thought…

  18. jackthevampire permalink*
    September 28, 2011 10:53 pm

    Even more proof it’s September 7th, 1938.

    http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675022391_Jitterbug-dance-variations_Yam_Shag_Lindy-Pop

  19. May 23, 2016 7:29 pm

    Great post. I noticed the reference to the ‘Corrigan Hop’ and I like the fact that the name for this helps to cement the Lindburgh inspiration for the naming of the Lindy Hop. Douglas Corrigan was a pilot who earned the name ‘wrong way’ because he undertook a hop flight from New York to Ireland, despite being denied permission top make the journey. He claimed that it was a navigational error which caused him to fly to Ireland, instead of Long Beach. This was in 1938.

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