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Beverly Allen, 1917 - 2007

Professional chorus dancer worked into her late 80s

December 21, 2007|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Beverly Allen, a longtime professional dancer who joined the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies late in life and at 87 was the oldest showgirl regularly performing in a chorus, according to the 2005 Guinness World Records, has died. She was 90. Allen, of Tarzana, died of pneumonia Sunday at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, according to her daughter Lora Le Maire.

"Beverly Allen was . . . a bright and sparkling gem of a dancer," Riff Markowitz, producer of the Palm Springs Follies, said in a statement Wednesday.

The dancers are 55 or older. Allen joined the company at 80 and retired at 87. During that time, "she reigned supremely over nine three-hour performances a week," Markowitz said.

Born Nov. 4, 1917, in Chicago, Allen started her dance career at age 3 and learned tap, ballet, jazz and modern dance before she joined the Merriel Abbott Dancers in the 1930s. The company performed nightly at the Empire Room in Chicago's Palmer House Hotel with music by big band leaders such as Tommy Dorsey and Eddy Duchin.

Allen stayed with the company for five years and later remembered the constant pressure to maintain her dancer's figure.

Every week before the company dancers collected their paycheck, they were weighed. Anyone who went over her allowed weight was fined $5, which came out of her $25 check.

Allen was just over 5 feet tall. Her weight limit was 103 pounds.

During World War II, she toured with the USO entertaining troops stationed in Europe. While she was there, she met Jack Le Maire, a comedian and musician who was part of the show. They married in 1949, settled in Chatsworth and had two children before their marriage ended in divorce.

Allen was married two more times and was widowed twice.

From her 50s through her 70s she made few professional appearances, but at 80, she auditioned for the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies and joined the company.

"At 82 she was cartwheeling across the stage and being tossed from the arms of a 60-year-old male dancer to another who was 70," Le Maire recalled of her mother. "I said, 'Mom, are you sure these guys are going to catch you?' She said, 'Sure, honey. They're kids.' "

Along with her daughter Lora Le Maire, Allen is survived by another daughter, Donna Victor, and a grandson, Robert Victor.

mary.rourke@latimes.com

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