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Doris E. Travis, Last of the Ziegfeld Girls

May 14, 2010

The New York Times reports that the last of the chorus girls from the one-time American entertainment institution, the Ziegfeld Follies, has died:

“For a quarter century, Florenz Ziegfeld auditioned hundreds of thousands of young women vying to become chorus girls, the Ziegfeld Girls, those lace and chiffon visions of glamour who were as much a part of the Jazz Age as Stutz Bearcats, the Charleston and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In all, from 1907 to 1931, he picked about 3,000, and on Tuesday the last Ziegfeld Girl died. She was Doris Eaton Travis, and she was 106.”

She had quite a story:

Mrs. Travis may have been the youngest Ziegfeld Girl ever, having lied about her age to begin dancing at 14. She was part of a celebrated family of American stage performers known as “the seven little Eatons.” George Gershwin played on her family’s piano, and Charles Lindbergh dropped by for “tea,” Prohibition cocktails.

And she kept on dancing until she was 104, and even appeared at a charity event just two weeks ago.

• Here’s a book that was written about Mrs. Travis in 2006, Century Girl:

Similar in approach to a graphic novel, this biography-in-collage tackles the life of Ziegfeld Follies star Doris Eaton. Each page offers a wild mix of illustrations, doodles, photos and memorabilia from Eaton’s archives, accompanied by handwritten text outlining her fascinating life, which comes across like something out of the musical Gypsy.

• Here’s video of Doris dancing—when she was 104:

• And an interview, from 2009.

• So long Doris, Uncle John salutes a life well lived.

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