Providing a community of support for mature dancers.
Jerry Ames, Beloved, Respected Tap Dancer,
The news has come to us that Jerry Ames died on February 7, 2011, in his sleep, following an extended illness. One of the most accomplished and respected tap dancers in the world, his passing is mourned by his family as well as the international dance and theater communities. He performed and conducted master classes throughout the country and across the globe and was a tireless champion for the modern art and practice of tap.
Crandall Diehl - 86
by Gregg Mayer
Crandall with Hope Clarke
We are sad to report the death of this highly-regarded performer, who passed away April 5 at age 86. Diehl came to fame as dance captain of My Fair Lady on Broadway as well as being part of the team that revived the original Hanya Holm work, in Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere. He won great acclaim in recreating the Holm choreography, as well peforming from the 40's through the present, when he was onstage as part of our recent, sold-out Agnes De Mille panel.
He performed in The Golden Apple circa 1954 . And also in sone of the most remarkable works of the very early 1950's, such as: Of Thee I Sing. Not to mention Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Call me Madam. In 1988, Diehl appeared in the documentary on Hanya Holm, Hanya: Portrait of a Pioneer and as recently as 1998, he appeared in the short film, Young Goodman Brown.
by Gregg Mayer
George and Ethel Martin
George Martin, famous for being a Jack Cole dancer from the 40's and for being one half of the George and Ethel Martin team, has died in Atlanta. Struggling for a long time with cancer, Martin was beloved by all his colleagues and is mourned not only by the dancers and actors with whom the couple worked, but by the many students of Theatre Arts who have benefitted (and will continue to benefit) from the Martin papers, left to Marymount Manhattan College in NYC.
The Martins met on the set of the film, "The Yellow Rose of Texas, in LA in 1943. Ethel, who survives her husband (but is ill in a long-term facility), was the niece of a husband-and-wife vaudeville team, and had become a tap dancer. George also was interested in tap dance after seeing "Top Hat", so off he went to a summer course at Jacob's Pillow. From there, the Martins worked with Jack Cole, as some of our DO40 members might recall from our recent Jack Cole event, which may have been the last time most of us saw George Martin. He made his Broadway debut in 1943 in Lady in the Dark, and Ethel joined him in their first joint appearance in 1952 in a revival of Pal Joey. By the 1960's, they had moved offstage, working as choreographers and production stage managers on Broadway, as well as at theatres across the country. In the 50's he was in various films, as a dancer, including On the Riviera and of course with Ethel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1966.
In 2004, the Martins retired and arranged for their papers to be in collection at Marymount. The Martin Papers consist of six series, arranged by genre: wrapped papers, oversize items, papers, videotape, photos and jackets. Many huge theatre posters, floor plans and other oversize items are wrapped carefully and fill many acid-free boxes. Scripts, sheets of music and videotape series also comprise the collection. The video series consists of one item, a 1976 American Dance Machine performance of Cole's choreography for Kismet, in which the Martins danced in its original run in the mid-50's.
For those interested in knowing more about the collection, we have the complete inventory at DO40. They are available for research but may not be photocopied other than for classroom/research purposes.
James Alex - 82
by Gregg Mayer
The versatile and popular James Alex died on January 28. A successful business-man and entrepreneur, he was a skater, dancer, choreographer and producer, who went from being a multiple National Junior Figure Skating champion to choreographing and dancing in such Broadway productions as "Guys and Dolls," "The Boyfriend," "West Story," "Curtain Going Up," and "Carnival in Flanders." Discovered by Gwen Verdon (after his stint in the navy during the war), he was trained by Jack Cole and went on to work with theatre companies from Broadway throughout the country to summer stock, musical theatre and television. His work included such popular shows as the Ed Sullivan Show, The Frank Sinatra Show, the Perry Como Show and the unforgettable Your Show of Shows.
As an entrepreneur, Mr. Alex moved into several real estate-related ventures and was a consultant to Bob Hope Enterprises. In recent years, he moved into work as a motion picture producer, including work with the Carradine brothers, Mickey roney, Martin Landau and Rita Morena. Most recently, he completed "The Amati Girls," starring Mercedes Reuhl, Mark Harmon, Paul Sorvino and Cloris Leachman. The film won Best Picture Award at the Marco Island Film Festival and the cherished Award of Excellence at the Heartland Film Festival.
A renowned and popular teacher, Mr. Alex taught his Jack Cole style of modern jazz dance at his own studio, along with Ethel Martin, for many years.He is survived by his son, John Alex who has told us that his father's appearance in the Ed Sullivan Show, performing a trio dance number with Matt Maddox and George Martin (from
Betty Garrett, Film, TV and Broadway darling - 91
by Gregg Mayer
The energetic, perky and lovable Betty Garrett has died in Los Angeles, according to her son, Garrett Parks. Best known as the flirtatious girl in love with the shy Frank Sinatra in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "On the Town" (both from 1949), Garrett went on to become a popular sitcom actress in the 70's in "All in the Family" and "Laverne and Shirley." Married to actor Larry Parks, she suffered during the black-listing period of the early 50's along with her husband, whose career came to an early end from the testifying and accusations.
Moving along from that dark period, Garrett came into her own with the show-stopping "South America, Take it Away," in "Call Me Madam" and then her non-stop work with MGM musicals, of which "On the Town" was probably one of the most popular. Along with comedian Red Skelton, Garrett also rose to fame in "Neptune's Daughter," where they sang the Oscar-winning song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." She also co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Janet Leigh in the 1955 musical version of "My Sister Eileen." Parks' career ended soon after the blacklisting, and he became a home-builder, dying in 1975.
Betty Garrett was born in 1919 in St.Joseph, Missouri. Her father was a traveling salesman, who moved his family to Seattle and died soon after of alcoholism when Betty was only two. She attended Roman Catholic schools even though she wasn't Catholic. But she had demonstrated a talent for dance and theatre, so her ambitious mother took her to New York where she won a scholarship at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse when she was 17.
Her stage debut came with "Danton's Death" at Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in 1938, followed by appearances in several other shows, including "Bells Are Ringing," with Judy Holliday. She actually (and unbeknownst to me, as a dancer and dance historian), danced with Martha Graham's company. She then moved onto working summers with several Borscht Belt theater troupes, which included some of the most talented performers of the immediate post-war era.
In addition to Garrett Parks, a composer, Betty Garrett is survived by her younger son Andrew, an actor. A memorial service is planned later in the month.
Over the years, Garrett maintained a busy career in theater and television, garnering an emmy nomination in 2003 for an appearance on the Ted Danson sitcom, "Becker." She also appeared on Broadway in "Spoon River Anthology" and "Meet Me in St.Louis," and later in a revival of Sondheim's "Follies."
More recently, Garrett published her autobiography, "Betty Garrett and Other songs," which was the title of her solo show. She also taught and appeared in plays at Workshop Wsest, which he helped found, in the late 50's. Around the time of her published autobiography, 1998, she was asked if she retained biterness that he and Parks were blacklisted, she replied, "It's not my nature to be bitter. What I feel is deep sorrow. We both, I think, were just on the verge of becoming really big stars, particularly Larry. And it just went crashing down."
Tom O'Steen - 74
It is sad to report the death of one of Broadway and TV's well-respected dancers, Tom O'Steen. The cause of death was lung cancer.
O'Steen was a dancer on Broadway in "Silk Stockings," and also performed as Joey, and one of the original dancers, in "Bells Are Ringing." A Jack Cole dancer, he was married to Nora Reho, with whom he had several children, two of whom, Michael and Michele O'Steen, went on to follow in their father's footsteps, to become professional dancers on Broadway.
Known for his work as dancer on The Perry Como Show, he went on to open a dance school when he brought his family to Pittsburgh. He kept on teaching there for close to fifty years, as well as traveling to many dance conventions, teaching other dance teachers. According to DO40 member and Membership Coordinator Judy Mc Grath, Tom was not only a dear friend, but "one of the best dancers" she ever saw. She also wanted us to know that when DO40 presented its tribute to Jack Cole, "Tommy was the blond dancer on Jack's right, in Sing,Sing, Sing," which was shown at that event. Next time you see that segment, raise a glass to Tom O'Steen.
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