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"Baby" June Havoc has passed

"Baby" June Havoc has passed away:

June Havoc, a show-business legend whose hard-knocks childhood as a stage performer was depicted in the classic musical Gyspy, died March 28, according to the Village Voice. She was 96.

Driven by an ruthless stage mother, young Ellen Evangeline Hovick and her sister Louise—who would become legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee—were forced into Vaudeville at an early age. Ms. Havoc was billed as "Baby June," and later "Dainty June," and played the West Coast Pantages circuit, but she abandoned her mother's world when she eloped at 13 with fellow performer Bobby Reed. The two teenagers scraped by entering, and winning, dance marathons.

All this, and more, was told in Ms. Havoc's two autobiographies, "Early Havoc" (1959) and "More Havoc" (1980). But it was her sister's 1957 book, "Gypsy," that became part of America's permanent show-business tapestry when it was adapted by composer Jule Styne, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, librettist Arthur Laurents and director Jerome Robbins into the stage musical Gypsy. The show, considered one of the most hard-boiled backstage stories in theatre history—and one of the best constructed and most entertaining—debuted on Broadway in 1959. Though based on Gypsy Rose Lee's book, the central figure is not the stripper but her monstrous mother, Rose, based on June and Louise's mother, Rose Thompson Hovick.

Despite her embittered upbringing, Ms. Havoc persevered in the trade into which she was born. She found her first Broadway part in Sigmund Romberg's Forbidden Melody in 1936, and would later star in Rodgers and Hart's classic Pal Joey, playing Gladys Bumps. Other roles of the 1940s included Mexican Hayride, Sadie Thompson, The Ryan Girl and Dunnigan's Daughter. The next decade brought Affairs of State, The Infernal Machine, The Beaux Stratagem and The Warm Peninsula.

Her film career began in 1942 and was littered with mainly "B" material. A few credits stood out, however, including the comedy "My Sister Eileen" and "Gentleman's Agreement," in which she played a racist secretary.

In 1963, Ms. Havoc turned her book "Early Havoc" into the play Marathon '33, which she both wrote and directed. Set in 1933, it starred Julie Harris as June. Ms. Havoc was nominated for a 1964 Tony Award as Best Director, and Harris as Best Actress in a Play. The show ran only 48 performances, but it did provide the basis for the hit movie "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," set at a Depression-era dance marathon.

In 1982, she made her final Broadway appearance, as one of the last Miss Hannigans in the long-running hit Annie. She also toured the country as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

June Havoc was born Nov. 8, 1913, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her father, a reporter for a Seattle newspaper, and her mother divorced when she was very young. She was coached for the stage from the time she could walk, dancing with Anna Pavlova and appearing in silent films with Harold Lloyd. Blonde, blue-eyed and pretty, she danced and sang and high-kicked her way through four shows a day on the Keith Orpheum Circuit and earned $1,500 a week (a fortune during the Depression—and still not bad today) for her family at the peak of her popularity.

Though Gypsy went a long way toward making Ms. Havoc a famous, even mythical figure in her latter career, she was not happy with the way she was portrayed in her sister's autobiography, and the two were long estranged. They reconciled shortly before Gypsy Rose Lee's death in 1970.

"All I wanted was the truth to be told," she told the New York Times in 2003. "That the little kid went out and killed the people. That she was a gold mine and Louise wasn't there at all. I disappear. Nothing is ever mentioned about the fact that I went out and became somebody. No one understands the loss of professional dignity with which I grew up, the dignity which I have cherished and protected all these years."

All of Ms. Havoc's three marriages ended in divorce. After Bobby Reed, she married Donald Gibbs. They divorced in 1942. She was married to William Spier from 1948 to 1959. Reed fathered her only child, April Kent. Kent died in 1998.

5 Comments

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ShariLee

31 Mar 10, 06:25 PM

May she RIP

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filmguy24

30 Mar 10, 08:48 PM

June Havoc is one of the memorable contributors to " the Golden Age of Broadway" documentary that came out in ca. 2000. Actually anyone who is a member of the CFU should see that documentary as it is an astonishing glimpse into a world that has vanished, or rather changed dramatically. The concept of live theater is the bedrock. Thank you June for your great career.


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jamesjazzguitar

29 Mar 10, 12:00 PM

June was great in Chicago Deadline with Alan Ladd and Donna Reed made in 1949. A good film noir that would of been a noir classis if 'Alan Ladd had not played a superman whose look dominated all situations,,,'. June always had spunk and she shows it well in this movie.

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Roberta109

29 Mar 10, 05:18 AM

Lovely tribute! May she RIP.

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hepclassic

29 Mar 10, 12:53 AM

May she rest in peace.

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