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Dancing in a “Hot Wind”

My mother kept a lot of mirrors, in every room, in her apartment.  As she grew older, Missy became somewhat vain.  She shed pounds, as she shed a husband or two, and never looked back.

In the days before Pinterest, Missy hung a real bulletin board on the wall near her closet.  She’d cut out photographs from magazines, and tack up the looks she thought she might copy.  But no matter what glamorous styles were on that board, for every day, Missy wore a uniform of sorts, a denim or corduroy skirt and a cashmere sweater.  She only went to the back of her closet two or three times a week, when she’d pull out some fancy dress to wear to the dance with the boyfriend of the moment.

This was all when she was in her eighties.  By this time in her life Missy knew exactly who she was, and liked what she saw reflected in her mirrors.  She was the excellent dancer, who wore all the pretty clothes, and stole all the men, even the younger ones.  She knew the other women at the dances were jealous because she was thinner, and knew how to dress.  I once had to defend Missy’s joie de vivre to one woman who complained about her.  My mother’s self-confidence was hard-won, and long-overdue.

Her father owned a farm in Connecticut, and was a harsh, abusive man who drank.  At a very young age, she and her friend, Ann Corio, ran away from home to join the Ziegfeld Follies.   Missy was dazzled by glamour, and the idea of being able to dance for a living.  She didn’t make it to Manhattan though; becoming frightened, she turned back.  Her friend, Ann Corio, however, became a famous strip-tease artist, later worked in Hollywood,  and was considered the last Burlesque Queen.  My mother named my sister, Evelyn, after Ann Corio’s daughter, although she didn’t feel comfortable contacting her after she’d become famous.

Ann Corio

Ann Corio

My mother survived another few years on the farm, then married the first man who asked her, a handsome Italian, Frank Scirocco, who danced well.  She might have thought about twice about this, had she known his name meant,  “hot wind”.  There wasn’t any dancing in my mother’s life, then, with the Depression snuffing out the hope of living a glamorous life.  Her life for the next twenty years was a hot hell.  Her husband drank, and beat her.

My father came to her rescue, but that’s another story.  He was a much better husband, but he didn’t dance.  So, dancing was put on hold for another forty or so years.  And when most people would have given up on their really old dreams, Missy pursued hers in her late seventies.  She took dancing lessons, where she met Karen Black’s mother, Peggy Ziegler.  Peggy and Missy would put on their false eyelashes, pretty outfits, and cruise around looking for fun.

Missy found a  new boyfriend, Bernie, who serenaded her at night over the telephone, and knew how to tango.   She entertained a lot, and partied with Peggy and their  friends.  Missy found herself, finally.  She was still happy and active into her 90’s, telling people that dancing keeps you young.  At 98, she suddenly came down with pneumonia.  Fighting to the end, she was mad at having to miss the dance that week.  She passed away on Thursday, the day of the dance.  I think of her, at eighty, up on that stage in Old Town, San Diego, Bernie dangerously dipping her in their last tango, happy at last.

Missy would have loved our Brava! dresses, perfect for dancing.  Elegant, easy-care, packable and static-free, the bamboo fabric drapes well, and swings with every movement.  Brava! dresses might have been designed for Missy’s dances, and for the hot wind in her blood.

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