EXPIRED: 05/11/10 – Doris Eaton Travis, 106, once measured 36-26-38. You had to if you were going to be a girl in Broadway’s legendary “The Ziegfeld Follies.”
Wearing glittering, feathered headdresses, the Ziegfeld girls were as integral a part of the Jazz Age as the Charleston, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Speak-Easies. And Travis, as the oldest surviving member of the Follies, kept that spirit alive up until the day she died.
In an interview with the New York Times in 2005, she spoke of the Follies as “…beauty and elegance like a French painting of a woman’s body.” It was possibly this beauty that convinced Travis to lie about her age at 14 and join the group. That, and the fact that performing was something she had in her blood; her family was comprised of celebrated American stage performers known as “The Seven Little Eatons.” Growing up, she not only watched her family perform but listened as George Gershwin played on her family’s piano (while Charles Lindbergh dropped by for prohibition-era “tea.”)
After leaving the Follies, she acted on stage and in silent films. She later opened the first Arthur Murray dance studio outside of New York, going on to own numerous studios in Michigan.
In her 70’sTravis earned her high school diploma and later pursued a college degree. At the age of 88 she graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a major in History and a Phi Beta Kappa key. In 2003 she wrote a memoir entitled, “The Days We Danced.” When honored with a doctorate degree by Oakland University in 2007, at the age of 103, she sang and danced a popular Follies song “Ballin’ the Jack.”
And just two weeks before her death, Travis appeared at the annual Easter Bonnet Competition held by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Though she apologized that she no longer performed cartwheels, Travis dazzled the crowd with some Follies kicks.