Broadway's Gypsy Robe
By Nancy Groce
In 1959 (Wrong year--ed.), Bill Bradley, a dancer in the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, borrowed a tacky dressing robe from a chorus girl or "gypsy" - as the singers and/or dancers in Broadway choruses call themselves. On opening night he paraded through backstage bestowing blessings on the production. The musical was a major hit. A few nights later, Bradley sent the robe to his friend, another chorus gypsy. He also attached a ready-made legend - the outrageous claim that it had been worn for luck on opening night throughout the 1920s by the beautiful stars of the Ziegfeld Follies. His friend's musical, Call Me Madam with Ethel Merman, was a phenomenal success.
Actor's Equity -- Gypsy Robe
But when the audience members have taken their coveted seats, a crescendo is heard from the orchestra, and the curtain rises the gypsy robe remains backstage while the performer it honors takes his or her place in the ranks of the chorus. The evening's honored gypsy takes no special curtain call, and the chances are the audience will file out of the theatre after the performance never knowing who the newly-robed King or Queen is. That, after all, is part of what it means to be a gypsy.
The gypsy, as any generation of gypsies will tell you, is first and foremost a performer, the performers' performer. They, like their namesakes, are considered a mystical, nomadic tribe of people who know what it takes to survive. Although there are no written requirements to "gypsyhood," no laws written in stone as to who is or is not a gypsy, there are some unspoken understandings of what it takes to qualify.
(Excerpted from "SHOW BUSINESS" JULY 25, 1990 by Leanne Boepple)
8 April 1956, New York (NY) Times, pg. X1:
A Tale About a Broadway Superstition
By ARTHUR GELB
THEATRE people, as everyone knows, are an extraordinarily superstitious lot. They shudderingly embrace almost any hoary superstition in the air and it appears that on occasion they will even go so far as to invent one. Take, for example, the curse that is operating among Broadway dancers. It is a fairly modern one, dating only as far as 1949. But although it hasn't yet achieved the mellowness of tradition, it is considered by the dancers to whom it is confined to be quite a nice little curse, and no one har dreamed of flouting it.
It stems from the musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Florence Baum, a dancer in the show, happened to own a flowing white satin cloak ornamented with a marabou collar. She first felt the malignant powers inherent in the cloak when she became the object of chaffing each time she wrapped herself in the respendent garment. To escape further jocular comments, she presented it to Bill Bradley, another dance in the show. Mr. Bradley, better versed than Miss Baum in matters supernatural, dubbed the cloak a "Gypsy Robe" and sent it on to Stanley Simmons, a dancer in "Out of This World," explaining that the curse of the gypsies would be incurred by Mr. Simmons if he failed to pass the robe on to another dancer in another show.
And so the Gypsy Robe has been sent along to someone in the company of each new musical that opens on Broadway. The sender tries to surprise the recipient by having it delivered backstage on opening night in a disguised package. (...)
The Gypsy Robe now weighs twenty-five pounds. Someone started the trend of embellishing the cloak with mementos of the musicals it was passing through.
New York City • Music/Dance/Theatre/Film • Tuesday, September 28, 2004 • Permalink
The Gypsy Robe.New Broadway Musical !!!
The Gypsy Robe