On 31 March, 1923, the first U.S. dance marathon ended in New York City but began a strange fad with sometimes fatal consequences!
Less than a decade later, in 1932, a young woman dropped dead after dancing non-stop for 48 hours in a dance marathon!
And when the people raided a ballroom during a Marathon World Championship, the promoters simple transferred the contestants, who were still dancing, into a van.
From there they were taken onto a sloop, a small sailing ship, which sailed out of territorial waters and so beyond the area of police control. The plan worked perfectly, until the contestants got seasick.
Marathon dancing competitions brilliantly depicted in the movie “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”, which were the rage in the 1930’s, were more than just tiring, and often torturous, dance sessions.
Contestants had their teeth extracted during these marathons; others got married. A few even went mad!
If you are wondering why so many people bothered to take part in these competitions, it is because the prizes were simple too good to resist – the top prize was as much as $2,000!
You may not think that large enough a sum to entice thousands of people to sacrifice sleep and food for days on end.
But remember, 60 years ago, $2,000 was a lot of money. Plus, these marathons took place during the period when times were hard.
To win or survive almost to the end of a marathon usually meant that one could become an instant celebrity. The rules of these seemingly endless dancing sessions were strict: out of every hour, contestants had to spend 45 minutes in constant motion.
Only 15 minutes were allowed for rest (not sleep), first aid and toilet needs. And this grueling schedule went on for 24 hours a day.
It was pure entertainment for the large audience which often turned up to watch. Many brought presents for their favorite contestants.
Other placed bets on the final outcome. And there were some who simple enjoyed watching the judges mercilessly torture the weaker contestants by speeding the music and flicking with towels at their swollen legs.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest marathon lasted over 30 weeks; however, in 1933, this form of ‘entertainment’ was banned in the USA.
The March 1926 issue of Science and Invention magazine included the photo above and the illustration below, showing off just how the new Vibro-Shave worked.
Under the headline, “New Devices at the Electrical Show,” the magazine touted the benefits of electric shaving.
With the twist of the bottom knob, the device would start vibrating and the razor blade inside would move from side to side.
It was so easy, even a heavily bearded child could do it.
And it wasn’t just for shaving.
The removable head allowed for a massage attachment (seen in the photo on the right) which was promoted for use on both the scalp and the face.
“It does not rub in wrinkles,” the booklet that came with the gadget proclaimed, “but, by the gentle tapping with the vacuum tip, coaxes them out.”
John William Pilbean Goffage (1909-1971), actor, was born on 26 March 1909 at Broken Hill, New South Wales, son of John Goffage, from England, and his wife Violet Maud Edyth, née Joyce.
With his thin build and height of 6 ft 6 ins (198 cm), and an irreverent sense of humour, Goffage first entered show business as a magician’s assistant, then was hired as an extra in a film, Come up Smiling (1939), produced in Sydney.
He attracted attention in a small role as a gangling member of a slapstick bushfire-fighting team in Dad Rudd, M.P. (1940), and was promptly cast as the comic lead in Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940), Charles Chauvel ‘s much-publicized tribute to the Australian Light Horse in the Sinai desert campaign of World War I.
An outstanding commercial success at home, the film screened favourably in Britain and the United States of America, bringing ‘Chips Rafferty’ (the screen-name Goffage adopted) instant fame in Australia.
On 28 May 1941 at the registrar general’s office, Sydney, Goffage married Ellen Kathleen Jameson, a 37-year-old dressmaker. On 29 May 1941 Goffage had enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force.
On secondment, he acted in several Australian propaganda films for the Department of Information, including South West Pacific (1943), and in a second feature film for Chauvel, The Rats of Tobruk (1944).
Rafferty’s first postwar film, The Overlanders (1946), marked a turning-point in his career. He was cast by British director Harry Watt in the role of a bushman who headed a team which drove a vast herd of cattle across northern Australia beyond the reach of possible Japanese invaders.
With a brilliant background in documentary, Watt was determined to create authentic Australian characters in his factually based drama. Under his perceptive and disciplined direction, Rafferty moulded the character of the tough, laconic Australian bushman which he continued to play, with minor variations, for the rest of his life, both in public and on screen.
Following a postwar decline in local production, Rafferty took numerous roles in British and American films made on location in Australia, most notably Bitter Springs (1950), Kangaroo (1952), Smiley (1956) and The Sundowners (1960).
He continued to work as an actor at home and abroad in films such as They’re a Weird Mob (1966) and Double Trouble (1967) with Elvis Presley.
He also made numerous guest appearances on Australian television, in variety shows, in Australian series like ‘Skippy’ (1970), and in American series which included ‘The Wackiest Ship in the Army’ (1967) and ‘Tarzan’ (1969).
Chips died suddenly of lung disease and heart failure on 27 May, 1971, at Elizabeth Bay, Sydney.
via Australian Dictionary of Biography
After their use in Ancient Greece for raising the height of important characters in the Greek theatre and their similar use by high-born prostitutes or courtesans in Venice in the 16th Century, platform shoes are thought to have been worn in Europe in the 18th century to avoid the muck of urban streets.
During the Qing dynasty, aristocrat Manchu women wore a form of platform shoe similar to 16th century Venetian chopine.
Platform shoes enjoyed some popularity in the United States, Europe and the UK in the 1930s, 1940s, and very early 1950s, but not nearly to the extent of their popularity in the 1970s and 1980s.
When the biggest, and most prolonged, platform shoe fad in U.S. history began at least as early as 1970 (appearing in both advertisements and articles in 1970 issues of Seventeen magazine), and continued through the late-1980s though not in Europe or the UK where they had all but died out by 1979.
At the beginning of the fad, they were worn primarily by young women in their teens and twenties, and occasionally by younger girls, older women, and (particularly during the disco era) by young men, and although they did provide added height without nearly the discomfort of spike heels, they seem to have been worn primarily for the sake of attracting attention.
Many glam rock musicians wore platform shoes as part of their act.