Monday, November 11, 2013

Mildred O'Keefe -- Black Bottomed Out

A Ziegfeld Follies dancer, the St. Paul, Minnesota, native performed on the New York stage in Rio Rita (1927) and with the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers (1928).  O'Keefe toured in Monte Carlo and Paris where she was credited with being among the first dancers to introduce the Black Bottom dance to the continent.  O'Keefe was working as saleswoman in the gown department of New York City's Saks Fifth Avenue when she suffered a nervous breakdown in 1936.  The 32-year-old former dancer returned to Minnesota and was visiting relatives in Minneapolis when she checked into the West Hotel as "M. Brown" on October 8, 1936.  Two days later, O'Keefe's body was found in her room next to a pound can of potassium cyanide from which a teaspoon had been taken and dissolved into a nearby glass of water.  An unsigned note expressed regret and said, "You will be better off without me."

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