JUNE HAVOC November 8, 1912 — March 28, 2010
Photo by Gabi Rona – © MPTV – Image courtesy mptvimages.com

Dainty June

Just read today about June Havoc passed on at age 97. Wow! what a life she and her sister Gypsy Rose Lee experienced. Having read every book I could find on them I came away with the mother not be such a monster. She had a dream and nothing was going to stop her. If she was passed the age to perform herself she trained her girls to be stars and she was successful at that dream.

Both Gypsy (Louise Hovick) and June Havoc (Hovick) Became big stars. Gypsy as the most famous of all exotic dancers. Hard to call her a stripper as she always managed to keep a little bit covered.

June ran away and married to escape her Mother's vaudeville dream to become a stage actress, was in many films and was very popular in the Golden Age in Hollywood.

Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz and June Hovac

The mother, Rose Thompson Hovick, was a teen aged bride fresh from a convent school when she married Jack Olaf Hovick. At 19, she gave birth to the 12-pound Rose Louise on January 8, 1911, at 4314 Frontenac Street in West Seattle. Rose reported that the birth was horrific and the baby was washed outside in the snow.

Mama Rose Hovick

A second child was born in Vancouver B.C. two years later, and named June. By this time the Hovick marriage was in trouble, but it limped along a little longer. Rose’s father had not allowed Rose to go on the stage, and now, she wanted a career for her children.

June and Louise circa 1925

Rose set to work to make a performer out of Louise, but Louise had no talent at all. She couldn’t sing or dance. Her little sister June, however, could dance on point at aged two. Rose’s father arranged for a debut concert at his lodge hall, and soon Baby June was appearing regularly around Seattle, once as part of the bill on Anna Pavolva’s farewell tour, inspiring Rose to change her billing to “Baby June, the Pocket-sized Pavlova.”

Meanwhile, Rose Louise, nicknamed Plug, a chubby, ungainly child with dark hair in a shiny Dutch bob, stayed back in Seattle with her father or grandparents and went to kindergarten, sometimes visiting her mother and her sister in Hollywood. When Louise was seven, she joined them permanently. Neither girl got any further schooling.

June was now the star of the vaudeville act, “Madam Rose presents Dainty June and her Newsboy Songsters.” The newsboy songsters consisted of a revolving cast of male street urchins whose parents were glad to turn them over to someone who would feed them. They received pocket money and the promise of theatrical training.

Louise was one of the newsboy songsters, and even off stage was sometimes dressed as a boy in a knickerbockers, cloth cap, and belted leather coat so as not to eclipse June, who sported tiny fur coats, hats and muffs, garish makeup and peroxided ringlets.

“People stared at us when we walked down the street,” wrote Louise later. At its height, the act was pulling in $1,500 a week on the Orpheum circuit, and Dainty June was a powerhouse with top billing who often stopped the show.

Madam Rose taught the girls to lie about their ages to truant officers and railway train conductors, steal blankets and sheets from hotels, and sneak out without paying. The girls were practiced shoplifters. Madam Rose wasn’t above sabotaging rival acts and was masterful at conning well wishers out of money with her genteel, brave-but-helpless single mother act. June later said that after the age of five, she never believed anything her mother said.

 A tiny, delicate looking woman, Rose nevertheless once managed to push a hotel manager out of the window. Vaudeville was dying. (Elsewhere, June and Bobby Reed had tried to get an act going, but eventually had to settle for the grueling marathon dance circuit.) Rose Louise and her Hollywood Blondes, now living in a tent to save money on hotels, worked their first burlesque house, The Missouri Theatre in Kansas City. The rest is history for Miss Gypsy Rose Lee.... She became a huge burlesque star...

After June's elopement at age 13 with a young boy from the act (Bobby Reed, who inspired the dancing character of Tulsa in "Gypsy"). They married in North Platte, Nebraska with each lying about their age. By the time the Depression hit, however, vaudeville, the nation's economy and her marriage had all collapsed. Now a mother of a young daughter, April (born out of wedlock in 1935, April Kent acted briefly in the 1950s), June made ends meet by modeling, posing and toiling in dance marathons. The blonde, blue-eyed stunner also found work in stock musicals and on the Borscht Belt circuit. She made her Broadway debut in the musical Forbidden Melody in 1936.

Years passed before she earned her big break as Gladys in Rodgers and Hart's classic musical Pal Joey opposite Van Johnson and Gene Kelly in 1940. As a result of their scene-stealing work, the trio earned movie contracts - the two men heading off to the MGM studio and June to RKO. Married three times, June was long estranged from her sister, none too happy with Gypsy's portrayal of her in the best-selling memoir Gypsy.

The girls, noted for their trademark elongated faces and shapely gams, were estranged as children as well, but had eventually grown close for a time as adults. The sisters didn't patch things up until Gypsy told June that she was dying of lung cancer in 1970. June elaborated more about her relationship with her sister in her second autobiography, More Havoc, in 1980. Ms. Havoc died peacefully on March 29, 2009 at her home in Stamford, Connecticut of natural causes. She was 97. RIP June


andy ross said...

"Yes! That sibling rivalry got ugly. "

Retro Kimmer said...

Because their mother showed such favoritism toward the kid who could make the most money. In the end she was wrong Gypsy knew how to use what she had to extreme effectiveness.


"Great story."

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...