Monday, December 31, 2007

The Ross Sisters

Get Bent Out of Shape Over Potato Salad

My friend Cody sent me this amazing YouTube clip that shows triplet gals contorting themselves while singing a silly song about making solid potato salad:

The Ross Sisters mash the potato

The YouTube video had no other information about the flexible sisters or what movie the clip was from, simply saying "Potato Salad." My inner librarian had to know, so I did some research and found out it's The Ross Sisters - Aggie, Maggie and Elmira (who for some reason did not use their real-life names of Vicki, Dixie and Betsy Ross - though I can understand Betsy not wanting to be confused with the comparatively non-athletic Betsy Ross who sewed the first American flag!) - performing "Solid Potato Salad" from the 1944 MGM musical Broadway Rythym. This clip also appears in That's Entertainment! III (1994). Why these singing-dancing-contorting sisters weren't as big as the contortionally challenged Andrew Sisters, is beyond me.

Anyway, that's some potato salad recipe, one that requires the gals to literally jump through hoops. As the folks at VideoSift describe it: "It's Hee-Haw meets Cirque du Soleil!...Never before has the human body been twisted into such extraordinary positions in service to the American Potato Salad Industry." Talk about T & A (Taters & Acrobatics)!

Thinking I had seen these gals before (I mean, how many Hollywood films had triplets in them?), I tried to figure how a script writer would fit them into a film narrative. By matching them with three other freaks - like The Three Stooges! I recalled that in their classic short Gents without Cents (the one in which the boys do their "Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch..." routine), the boys put on a show at a shipyard with three acrobatic dancers named Mary, Flo and Shirley. But it turns out that this was yet another trio of contortionist hoofers (what are the odds?): Lindsay, LaVerne and Betty (Lindsay Bourquin - pictured at right, Laverne Thompson and Betty Phares). 1944 was a big year for this trio; in addition to performing at USO shows for servicemen, they also appeared in the films Showboat Serenade and Youth Aflame.

But Broadway Rhythm was the lone celluloid appearance for The Ross Sisters who were born too soon to take advantage of the Twister game craze that started in 1969. They could have landed a lucrative product endorsement contract from the folks at Hasbro!

Of course in today's world, girls who can contort themselves - and are not gymnasts or ballet dancers of some sort - are pretty much considered freaks with a lascivious edge. Like porn star Vanessa Lane (pictured at right), whose ability to wrap herself into a human pretzel has enabled her to invent new sexual positions beyond the wildest dreams of The Kama Sutra.

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Blogger Robolly said...

I was sure that was the famous "Potato Salad for Pazuzu" scene cut from the original release of THE EXCORCIST (audiences were freaking out).

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for researching The Ross Sisters from Solid Potato Salad.......but what happened to them and where are they now??
Such talent never really recognized?
Britt in Oregon

12:23 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

During the 'war' years, the term "solid" meant "great", "good", "rad", "far out", "groovy" and other definitions of similar meaning. The term "Solid, Jackson" was very hip (actually, in those days it was "hep" in the song phrase "I was hep before it was hip to be hep.")and it meant simply "you're ok" or "yeah, man"....blah, blah, blah ...I think you get the picture. Bob King, Newport Beach

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Paxdora said...

Bob is absolutely correct! "Solid" is the equivalent of "fresh", "the joint", "kewl", "hot", "groovy", "rad" and "narly"! Feel free to add your own superlatives...

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Triplet trapeze troopers Tom, Tim and Tyrone Tidwell are totally transfixed by the titillating terpsichorean traipsing of this tantalizing trio. How they wish they had a time machine in which they could travel and meet three flexible beauties. Adoringly yours, Tom, Tim and Tyrone

2:17 AM  
Blogger majskyking said...

Tom, Tim and Tyrone:
Adorable and amazing alliteration and an acceptable adoration and an amusing anecdote about acrobatics.
Bob King

2:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny..."my" friend Cody sent me this link too...wonder if it's the same Cody?

I too had to try to read some more about them, so thanks for writing this. Are they definitely saying "Solid" Potato Salad? Because it sounds like "Salad, Potato Salad" to me...

Naomi in NC

7:51 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

What I loved was the "oy oy" bit

5:03 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

Hey, Brent ....actually, the phrase is "hoy, hoy" ....not Spanish for "today" and not the Jewish lament "oy vey!". "Hoy, hoy" was a hip musician's saying for a phrase similiar to "that's hep" or "very cool". Believe you can hear that phrase in the old war-time song "Cement Mixer, Putty, Putty". I seem to remember that. But because I'm so frikin' old (75), nothing about my memory is certain. So, "hoy, hoy", Brent are the most! Plant you now, dig you later ....and all that other WWII crap! Ciao.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This brings back memories!"Contorsionism" was very popular when I was a young girl in the 1940's. It was called Tumbling and Acrobatics then and dance schools, even in my small town of Anacortes, WA, offered it along with ballet. We had to suffer thru it in our gym classes in the 1950's...those who could of course, the rest of us tried and were given a "C" for that quarter's class. I had a classmate in grade school that took Tumbling classes and who performed at Talent Nights at the local theater..we were all in awe of our red-headed, human pretzel, school friend. It was an accepted, not unusual, form of excercise, without the errotic connotations of today.

4:07 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

To "Anonymous" from Anacortes, WA. Hmmmm, very interesting. Do you by any chance know a young man (well, he's not so young anymore!) by the name of David Balthazar? Dave's about 70 or so (I'm 75) and, since Anacortes is a reasonably small town, thought perhaps you may know of him. Let me know via this post or contact direct at majskyking @ g OK ....thanks, Bob King.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend sent me the video and I couldn't believe the positions those sisters put themselves in. I can't help wondering If they're still around today. I'm assuming they'd be in their 80's. Perhaps they're doting Grandmothers with a Grandchildren who excel at gymnastics! It would be nice to know....

2:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Some one sent me this video too. I do notice they use the word "groovy"
"It's the "groovy, movie salad potato, Jack."
LOL, I thought the word "groovy" was invented in the 70's.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, was frustrated by the lack of information on the rather amazing Ross sisters. I found snippets here and tidbits there, then consolidated all that I could find into an expanded Wikipedia article on the trio. I can't say for sure whether Maggie and Aggie are yet alive, but did discover that Vicki died at age 34, in the late 1940s.
———Marilyn McD, Arizona

12:58 AM  
Blogger Buttkicker for Simba said...

She died in 1963, not the 40's.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Surely, there is a book somewhere out there about them. At least there ought to be.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

According to Wikipedia, they were not triplets, but very close in age. The oldest, Betsy, was born in June 1926, the same month as Marilyn Monroe. The middle sister, Vickie, was born in November 1927, and the youngest, Dixie, was born in August 1929 and died on her fifteenth wedding anniversary in July 1963 at age 33 and is buried in London. Cause of death is not mentioned. In 1944, when the film clip was made, their ages would have been around 18, 17, and 15. Why weren't they more famous? For one thing, they had such talent that they did not concentrate on one thing such as the Andrews Sisters or Boswell Sisters focused on their singing. But the main reason would seem to be that they all married fairly young and were more dedicated to their lives with their husbands than to their career as performing sisters. The oldest married at 20, to an American dancer and the couple performed multiple times on the Ed Sullivan Show. The middle sister married a Frenchman in Paris at age 22, and the youngest sister married at age 18 to an Englishman, who was also a popular entertainer in Britain. So there you have it- three sisters married three husbands from three countries. Also, they were together all their lives since they were children, and most likely they just wanted to live their grown-up lives as most people do- with their own husbands and not with their siblings.

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Pasty said...

They were sisters, but not triplets. They were born in 1926, 1927, and 1929. They were all born and bred in Texas. After making this movie in the U.S. they then moved to Europe. They each met nice European men that were all into show business. One went on the Ed Sullivan show with her hubby. The youngest, Dixie, died at age 34 in 1963. She's buried in London. There is no death report on the others that I can find. As far as anyone knows they could be nice little old ladies drinking tea with the queen.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Percy Swingbridge. said...

Rhythm is a difficult word to spell innit?

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anyone else curious why a young woman of 34 would die? On her wedding anniversary? Of What? I can find nothing!

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Arlene said...

I also noticed the coincidence of death at so young at age. maybe they went out to celebrate their anniversary and got into an accident, or??

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They weren't triplets, seeing as how they were born in different years and different cities...

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering why that little tidbit was not mentioned. They are not TRIPLETS!

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the info on these ladies, amazing talent! I also loved the comments and learing the old slang which was really kind of groovy (I grew up in the 60's!)

8:27 AM  
Blogger lightpost said...

These moves make Madonna look like a beginner. Thanks for the clip and information.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Bill Hicks said...

I did some digging around and discovered that some of the information on Wikipedia regarding the Ross sisters is incorrect. Dixie is indeed buried at Gunnersbury cemetery. However the name recorded in the burial records (which I have had access to ) Gives her real name as Veda Victoria. So Veda is dixie not Jewel as implied on thier Wiki page.the name recorded in the burial records give her name as Veda Victoria Henderson.
Dixie is buried in a double plot at the West London cemetery but there is no indication what so ever that her husband Dickie is also buried there.
The marble headstone does give her name as Dixie with no mention of Veda Victoria.
Dixie and Dickie lived in Abbotsbury road which I believe is around the Holland park area.
If anyone has any furher information please feel free to contact me

12:28 PM  
Blogger tiggyboo said...

Thanks, but why do you say they were triplets? They were all born in different towns in Texas.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contortionist rarely live a full lifespan, An old Circus owner told me years ago that it had something to do with the abuse they cause to their internal organs.

1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you all so much for all of the interesting information on these sisters. They indeed were incredible! Can't think that it was healthy and not sure what a person has to go through to be able to do those things but it couldn't be good.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so you know, they are not triplets. Born 1926, 1927 and 1929 respectively.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother knew the three sisters. Vicky became disenchanted with show business. After years of dancing, gymnastics and singing lessons; not to mention the tedious touring and performing, she packed it in and married a professional Bowler named Barry Pena and had three boys. She passed away in 1987.

Dixie began drinking heavily and found herself singing on skid row. She was past middle aged and still trying to stretch her leg over her head. Mickey Rooney recognized her from her two big breaks and tried to help her but she stole his wallet and caught a greayhound to Madison Wisconsin where she died a street lady in either 1982 or 1983.

Betsy married a Preacher who turned out to be a homosexual. She left him and lived with the sixties famous Belgian Singing Nun of Dominique fame.
After the Singing Nun commited suicide, Betsy moved to India where she worked with Sister Theresa until her death. Betsy disappeared outside Calcutta and it is beleived that she may have been murdered by a gang of cult Charlie Manson like murderers.

4:43 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

Anonymous who posted at 4:43PM (assume East Coast time as I received at 1:43 here in Newport Beach, CA. ...thanks - a treasure trove of information about the Ross'! How well did your mother know them, where, when and how did she meet them? Was your mother in the biz? I was fortunate enough to see "Broadway Rhythm" in 1944 and was enamored with all three of them - only ten years old but really liked their performance. Great info about Mickey Rooney, Mother Teresa, The Singing Nun and other stuff. How 'bout emailing me at: majskyking at g mail dot com with answers to my questions ... or ...come back to this site with answers. I'm sure other inquiring minds would like to know the 'rest of the story'.

5:22 PM  
Blogger tiggyboo said...

And anonymous, you really should look into contributing to/fixing the wiki piece on the sisters because it bears no resemblance to your story!

10:44 PM  
Blogger It's all in your head... said...

That's the most ridiculous story I've ever heard.

7:40 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

Tom Duban: which story is ridiculous?

Believe you stole that line from Groucho or Bill Bendix.

So ......? Which story - there're more than one.

9:11 PM  
Blogger It's all in your head... said...

Married a pro bowler, sang on skid row, stole Mickey Rooney's wallet,
married a homosexual Preacher. She left him, lived with the Belgian Singing Nun that commited suicide, moved to India worked with Sister Theresa. Then disappeared outside Calcutta, murdered by a gang of cult Charlie Manson like murderers.
How Utterly Ridiculous.

11:17 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

Hey, Duban .....may be bulls**t, but makes for a great story!!

And, in the whole scheme of things, who really gives a pelosi? Not I, for sure.

Dixie had the drinking problem, etc.

Betsy married the homosexual preacher.

As I said ....who really gives a pelosi?

Have a nice day, and, believe it or not, love your skepticism!!

11:36 PM  
Blogger It's all in your head... said...

Couldn't have said it any better myself, My thoughts exactly :) Peace B W/ U :)

11:47 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

Your last reply was so gentlemanly you deserve a ....Mr. Durban, ergo:

Mr. Durban:

One of the best things about this particular comment page is that people are now more aware of Aggie, Elmira and Maggie than ever.

I saw "Broadway Rhythm" in early 1945 at the Tower Theater in San Diego. I was only 12, but in "love" with Gloria DeHaven AND Lena Horne!! So, had to see the movie!

Ben Blue and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson were also in the film. Believe I saw in twice those days, the theaters weren't "cleared" after each performance. Some of the ushers and usherettes weren't that friendly, but most were and sure didn't want to kick out a cute 12-year old kid!!

So .... that's the deal. Good memories for me.

One of my regrets (and, at 75 I've had a few!) is that I cannot find the film on either VHS or DVD and can't show it to my three daughters. Alas. Don't know if they'd enjoy it or not.

When they were little, if they'd misbehave, I'd make them listen to Sinatra as punishment.

They'd probably think Broadway Rhythm was punishment, too!

Take care.

Love, peace, hugs, harmony and a balanced California budget.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what happens to the backs of these girls (and guys) who contort themselves, when they grow old? Ouch. As much as I am fascinated,I am equally uncomfortable watching them.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

There's a much higher quality video now on YouTube:

2:04 PM  
Anonymous P.Ellen said...

Mickey Rooney is still alive. Has anyone thought to write him and ask if he knew these women? Or, for that matter, if the wallet theft story is true?

10:17 PM  
Blogger majskyking said...

Hey, P. Ellen .... if I knew Joe Yule, Jr.'s address, I'd drop a line to verify the 'stolen wallet' story. Nice history, if true.

So, if anyone knows Mickey Rooney or his agent(s), give it a go. 'Twould be interesting.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Taz said...

just one thing thank-you for your endevor for the truth but on fact was slightly mixed up the sisters were not triplets there was about 3 years between the eldest Betsy (born 1926) and the youngest Dixie (born 1929) thank you :)

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1:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They were sisters, not triplets. And quite talented.
The clip on YouTube is from one of those Frank Capra WWII WHY WE FIGHT propaganda films. These were shown to GI's and even the public to show how we differed from the Nazis and Japanese. BROADWAY RHYTHM was Capra's direct response to Leni Reifenstahl's TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.
It must have been effective. The Ross sisters were given a special award from FDR and it's alleged he had an affair with two of them just before he died.
Anyway, he scored and America was victorious!
Why two sisters and not all three?
By that time the president was on his last legs (no pun intended) and I think two was more than enough to kill him. 
There's evidence to suggest they were agents of the NKGB, Stalin's spy network. It's doubtful they were assassins, however as it turns out they were probably moles planted by the British.
One of the Ross sisters died in the USSR in 1971. (Read SISTER, SISTER, SISTER, SPY by Sir John Blythe Newland, 1978, loosely adapted for the recent film SALT.)
It's on the internet so it must be, or at least is probably or maybe partially true.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Me-me said...

Hey you dopes that leave posts advertising your crap!!! Why not do it elsewhere! Geez! Anyway, that is a great idea to contact Mickey Rooney or maybe Don Rickles knows them. Worth a shot! These girls definitely deserve some recognition!!!

5:57 PM  
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8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They aren't triplets, they were born a year apart in 1927, 28 and 29.

2:35 PM  
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11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nmy understanding is that one of the sisters was nearly beaten to death by her husband,,
I first saw this video clip about 3-4 yrs ago,, sent it to my momma since it was in her "era" momma says that the Ross Sisters were overshadowed by the ANDREW SISTERS, and other singers during the 40's,,I just found them totally amazing to watch

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

they were slow triplets, born one at a time, mom had a rest in between bending over backwards for her husband. What other reason?

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

There is a rare genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in which one of the main characteristics is extreme hypermobility. I strongly suspect the Ross sisters may have had this condition as it is predominantly passed on to females. I was diagnosed with EDS last year...and as a younger woman was extremely flexible. In older years it leaves you very much damaged.

3:03 PM  
Blogger sarahred is smokeylonglong said...

EDS is autosomal dominant and is not female specific. I doubt these women had EDS as they would either dislocate easily or potentially die from ruptured aneurysm if teu had the vascular type.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 of them died in 1963. The other is still alive. Via wikipedia

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are correct that EDS is autosomal dominant, but it *does* tend to effect women more than men - probably due to hormonal influences.
Dancers and gymnasts with the condition tend to have no real problems at the time due to their muscle strength. It is after they retire that their health problems come to the fore.

(An EDS-H sufferer)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:
Biographical details

Published sources and some official records conflict on the names and dates of the sisters, as they apparently used each other's names at different times. When Broadway Rhythm was filmed, birth records indicate that the sisters were between about 14 and 17 years old. It has been suggested that in order to perform in London in 1946, the two younger sisters assumed the identity of their next oldest sister to make them appear to be older than their true age. The oldest of the three used the identity of an older sister who had died as an infant.[18] They were recorded on the Queen Mary passenger list as Dorothy (aged 21), Eva (20) and Victoria (18),[13] though their real names and ages were Betsy Ann (20), Veda Victoria (18), and Dixie (17). Each sister also used a different stage name.

Betsy Ann Ross (also known as Dorothy Jean Ross; stage name "Aggie") was born on June 26, 1926, in Colorado City, Texas. Her birth name was Eva,[19] but she was recorded as Betsy Ann Ross in the 1930 US Census.[20] She used the name and identity of a sister, Dorothy Jean Ross, who had died as a baby. She married Burnice C. (also known as Robert "Bunny") Hightower, an American dancer, in 1947.[21] He has been described as an alcoholic suffering schizophrenia who once beat her so badly that she almost died.[9] They appeared together many times on The Ed Sullivan Show. They divorced in 1957, and she married Hieronymus "Rony" Abagi, with whom she had two daughters. They divorced in 1969, and shortly afterwards she remarried Hightower, who died the following year. In 1976, a Betsy Ross worked as a production assistant in a Broadway dance production,[22] but it is unclear if this is the same person. Dorothy Jean Hightower died in Troup, Texas, on November 21, 1996.

Veda Victoria Ross (also known as Eva Vicki Ross; stage name "Maggie") was born on November 8, 1927, in Roscoe, Texas.[23] She later adopted the name Eva from her elder sister's birth name, and was known as Eva Vicki. She married ventriloquist Robert Lamouret in Paris in 1950, and had two daughters with him. Lamouret's act included a talking duck puppet dressed in a sailor's outfit, and he also appeared in episodes of the Ed Sulllivan Show.[24] After her husband's death in 1959, Eva Vicki Lamouret married Robert Sherman Hender; they divorced in 1973.[25] She died in Maitland, Florida on May 29, 2002.

Dixie Jewell Ross (also known as Veda Victoria Ross; stage name "Elmira") was born on August 9, 1929, in Loraine, Texas.[26] Using her sister's name Veda Victoria Ross, she married English entertainer Dickie Henderson in London on July 10, 1948;[27] they had a son and a daughter.[28][29][30] Dixie Henderson died aged 33, on her wedding anniversary, July 10, 1963, following an overdose of barbiturates,[31][32] and is buried in Gunnersbury Cemetery, Acton.[33][34]

After their father's death in 1955, their mother remarried and was known as Veda Matteson; she died, aged 94, in 2000.

10:33 PM  
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11:54 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm 77 and absolutely adored the Ross sisters. By the way, the plural of Ross is Rosses.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Neill said...

Me too! Especially the girl on the right with the way she rolled her eyes. She was by far the prettiest of them all!

9:08 AM  
Blogger SaraHa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:13 AM  
Blogger SaraHa said...

Dixie Ross, the youngest sister, was married to Dickie Henderson.
They had a daughter and a son.

Unfortunately Dixie died of an overdose in 1963

11:42 AM  
Blogger SaraHa said...

More info:

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um no. They are all dead only one died (of an overdose) in 63 and the other two died in their 70s.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

She Overdosed.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are full of rubbish

10:29 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Neil, the Ross Sister on the right as you're looking at the camera at the beginning of "Solid Potato Salad", was the eldest sister, Besty. The girl in the middle who was the shortest, was the youngest sister, Dixie. The tallest on the far left was the middle sister, Vicki. This makes sense in terms of the "Solid Potato Salad" act, because the hardest feat (with the apple) was performed by the eldest, Besty, and the second-hardest feat performed by the middle sister, Vicki.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Neil, one more thing... There is a few Ross Sister advertisement posters on the link below if you scroll down, along with some info. One of the posters matches which sister (real name) belongs to which face:

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There's a big section in this article about the sisters

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