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PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

September 3, 2014

JUNE HAVOC

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June Havoc (1912-20010) achieved theatrical immortality without even appearing in a play. She was the pint-sized vaudevillian, ‘Dainty June,’ whose character was featured in the 1959 smash Broadway musical Gypsy. 

Havoc was the real-life younger sister of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. June’s dissatisfaction of working the stage as a child–plus the never-ceasing pushing of her overbearing stage-mother–led her to elope at age 13.  Her fleeing the act pushed older sister Louise to star status, where she perfected her shtick as the stripper with a sense of humor.

Out on her own, June knocked around the fringes of show business. She got her break in legitimate theater in the early 1940s with her turn in the musical Broadway hit, Pal Joey. She, along with co-stars Gene Kelly and Van Johnson were all signed to movie contracts. The latter two went to prestigious MGM while June pacted with lowly RKO.

Havoc never got a chance to display her acting chops at the low-budget studio. She made silly wartime programmers like Sing Your Worries Away and Four Jacks and a Jill. She saw she wasn’t going anywhere in Hollywood and returned to Broadway in such hits as Mexican Hayride and The Ryan Girl.

She continued to shuttle back and forth from the stage and films and had the opportunity to show audiences what a good actress she really was. Havoc also wrote and directed several plays, along with two top-selling books, Early Havoc and More Havoc.

She received renewed notoriety by the portrayal of her character in Gypsy. But June was already estranged from her sister over disagreements on how she was depicted in Gypsy Rose Lee’s autobiography. The musical play made her even more distraught. She threatened to sue producer David Merrick, who cleverly added the tagline ‘A Musical Fable….’ to the play’s title to avoid direct connection to the star.

I’m happy to say that she and her sister eventually patched up their severed relationship. She was there for Gypsy Rose Lee when she was dying from lung cancer in 1970.

Ms. Havoc passed away on March 28, 2010, at her home in Stamford, Connecticut. She was 97 years old.

 

 

 






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