Chorus Beauties in Ranks of Toil

Westbrook Pegler

Atlanta Constitution/June 19, 1921

Recent Prima Donna Now Luring Public to Buy Soap “Certificate Free”

Recent Prima Donna Now Luring Public to Buy Soap “Certificate Free”

New York. June 18. “An’ sweetie, lemme tell you, when my gray silk stockings ripped as I was dressin’ only this afternoon to go keep a date with a certain party, I just had to sew ‘em up again. Just imagine! Me, that paid $750 for a seal wrap up in Montreal last winter—me that did specialty numbers an’ always workin’. And now I’m looking for a job in a department store. Dee-rie, you know ‘at ain’t right.”

Over the coffee-spotted marble-topped tables of the come-and-get-it lunch room you get the real “situation” in the Broadway show business from the people that have been hit hardest by the slump. The chorus girls know when things begin to rag, let the magnates whistle whatever tune they like for the good of their own courage.

It’s awful—Jeanne La Pearl, late of the ensemble of the Chlc and Cheri Shimmy Shakers, 17 weeks on tour but a dog’s death on Broadway—will tell it’s awful.

But Jeanne—called Jennie by the folks out in Terre Haute—may be prejudiced.

Take, then, the word of Ruby Belle, the lady with the low-down on what’s what and such as that from Times Square to the farthest explorations of the educational chautauqua troupes and the peripatetic tent shows. Ruby is the girl who gives them a dab of powder as they’re rushing for their trains to go on tour with a new expedition and the girl who welcomes them back with a community lipstick when they come dragging in from five days in the day coaches after disbanding in Winnipeg. Ruby is the first-aid in the chorus girls’ casual club, the dressing room of a Broadway hotel.

Says Ruby, “Of course every summer is bad but I never knew it to be so bad that the girls had to go clerking in department stores or manicuring for a living. That’s what they’re doing this year, poor kids. They’re so good when they’ve got it, too. All the girls come in and tell me about this show and that show closing and they hate to give up the stage and their hopes. But what else are they going to do?”

The Broadway Johnny is having his troubles no less than his happy little friends who used to slip an arm through his at the stage door in the alley around the corner. In the pawnshop windows on Sixth and Seventh avenues silk hats and dress capes again predominate, meaning hard times for John. And if a John does take a little lady for a nice long walk of an evening in these times he screws his face into that broke-my-garter expression of forced interest on passing the Mme. Sophie Silberman’s Parisian hat salon where Chapeaux scream for buyers at a frightful sacrifice of profit.

As an authority on how things are breaking for the show girl, Howard Kyle concedes no one the edge, for Kyle, late of Margaret Anglin’s “Joan of Arc,” is secretary of the Actors’ Fidelity league.

Kyle tells of one pretty young woman who had a prima donna role in a recent musical tragedy on Broadway, now luring the public to buy six cakes of soap and get five certificates free, in a drug store not far from her old theatre.

“I know of glrls all around here who have left the profession to sell powder and candy and women’s wear in stores they used to- patronize,” said Kyle. “Girls who used to get as much as $175 a week are working for $20 and glad to get that.”

Things are not so good on Broadway.

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