Everything is not coming up roses for June Havoc.
She’s now pushing daises.
Younger folk may not know the name, but Havoc once had a vaudeville act with her sister—sis later became infamous strip-tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. And yes, Havoc was the original Dainty June.
The sisters’ lives are the basis for the Tony-winning 1959 Stephen Sondheim-Jule Styne-Arthur Laurents “musical fable” Gypsy.
According to her caregiver Tana Sibilio, Havoc died of natural causes at her Stamford, Connecticut home on the morning of March 28, 2010. She was 97!
Or so we think.
June herself guessed at the birth date while doing research her autobiographies. June’s Mama Rose (yes, the one who screams “Sing out, Louise!”) had five birth certificates for her younger daughter so she could get around child labor laws; depending on the state in which June got work, Mama would whoosh! whip out the one with the correct “legal” age.
But don’t believe everything you see.
In Gypsy, June quits show biz , runs off with one of the boys in her act and we never heard from her again.
Call it artistic license.
Havoc called it nonsense.
“If you’d been a child–a phenomenon, really–someone who earned fifteen-hundred dollars a week on the Keith-Orpheum circuit, who was a headliner with all the applause and laughter and raised in that glorious vaudeville family, and then see yourself portrayed as a no-talent, whining nothing, well, it hurts terribly.”
Indeed, while her sister Gypsy was showing flesh, June was busting out all over on stage and screen. Keep in mind that June had been working since she was two, billed back then as “Baby June, the Pocket-sized Pavlova.” Havoc insisted she suffered a nervous breakdown at 10; and claimed that the Gideon Bibles she and her Mama stole from hotels was her “chief English textbook.”
Can we hear an Amen?
Still, being a child star who never really became as famous as her sibling can play with your mind. Havoc once recalled that her mother introduced them to a gangster by saying, “I am the mother of Gypsy Rose Lee and this is my baby. She used to be somebody.”
As an adult, Havoc is become somebody. Note the lowercase ‘s.’
Her break-out role was as scheming chorus gal Gladys Bumps in the 1940 Broadway musical Pal Joey. On the big screen, she is best remembered as Elaine Wales, Gregory Peck’s secretary who’s ashamed of being Jewish in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947).
The last time we saw June was on stage in the ’80s, she was playing, with great zest and zeal, cruel orphanage matron Miss Hannigan in Annie. By the time she played on the ABC soap General Hospital in 1990, she looked good but old. It’s a hard-knock life.
Even at the end, Havoc remembered the details and dollar signs: “I cherish and am extremely proud of my childhood. I’m not sad about my childhood in vaudeville. Why should I be? Think how wonderful it was to be a little kid on stage with all that love from the audience. It was a special world. I remember the signs at the theater: ‘No hells, no damns, no mention of the deity, and always wear silk stocking all the way up. Keep your act clean, but loud.’ That was religion for me.”
Now can we hear an Amen?
More about dead celebs! My book, MORBID CURIOSITY: The Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous, has gotten rave reviews. from celebs not dead . . . yet.
“Alan has written a very funny, very clever book-it’s shocking and sinful, and I couldn’t put it down. He leaves no gravestone unturned, nothing buried. Morbid Curiosity is part Six Feet Under, part Mad magazine. It’ll make a killing!” – Joan Rivers
“Even celebrities die, and they do so in far more grand-scale ways than mere mortals. Now that they’ve met their maker, they’ve also found their chronicler, Alan W. Petrucelli. He unearths the demises of the rich and infamous-from Valentino to Heath Ledger and beyond-with detailed research, dishy wit and insight. This book is to die for!” – Michael Musto
“Morbid Curiosity is a cornucopia of Hollywood gossip and tidbits, much more humorous than macabre, delivered from a different point of view than any book I’ve read about celebs. It’s breezy, pithy, informative, odd and, despite its subject matter, certain to amuse.”– Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies