Cigar Society of Chicago
Sally Rand: American Sex Symbol, with
                              William Hazelgrove
Sally Rand book
She would appear in more than thirty films and be named after a Road Atlas by Cecil B DeMille. A football play would be named after her. She would appear on To Tell the Truth. She would be arrested six times in one day for indecency. She would be immortalized in the final scene of The Right Stuff, cartoons, popular culture, and live on as the iconic symbol of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. She would pave the way for every sex symbol to follow from Marilyn Monroe to Lady Gaga. She would die penniless and in debt. In the end, Sammy Davis Jr. would write her a $10,000 check when she had nothing left.
Her name was Sally Rand.

Until now, there has not been a biography of Sally Rand. But you can draw a line from her to Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch, Ann Margret, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. She broke the mold in 1933, by proclaiming the female body as something beautiful and taking it out of the strip club with her ethereal fan dance. She was a poor girl from the Ozarks who ran away with a carnival, then joined the circus, and finally made it to Hollywood where Cecil B DeMille set her on the road to fame with silent movies. When the talkies came her career collapsed, and she ended up in Chicago -- broke, sleeping in alleys. Two ostrich feathers in a second-hand store had rescued her from obscurity.

William Hazelgrove is the national bestselling author of ten novels and eight nonfiction titles.  He has spoken to the Cigar Society previously about Henry Knox's Noble Train, the Wright Brothers, Teddy Roosevelt, Al Capone, and Woodrow and Edith Wilson. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards Junior Library Guild Selections, Literary Guild Selections, and the History Book Club Selections. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today, The Smithsonian Magazine, and other publications, and has been featured on NPR All Things Considered. The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, CSPAN, and USA Today have all covered his books with features. His books Tobacco Sticks, The Pitcher, Real Santa, and Madam President have been optioned for screen and television rights.

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You can have an autographed and personally inscribed copy of the book sent to you directly.

From Rick Kogan's review in the Chicago Tribune:

My father—maybe some of your fathers too—told me stories about the remarkable things he saw at A Century of Progress, the world’s fair held on Chicago’s lakefront in 1933 and 1934.

Of all the “wonders” on display there, the one that stayed longest in some minds was that of “fan dancer” Sally Rand, who pops off the pages the latest historical excursion by William Hazelgrove, a local author of boundless curiosity.

The woman who would be Sally Rand was born Helen Beck in 1904 in a small Missouri town tucked in the Ozarks. Benefiting from music and dance lessons as a child, as a teenager she ran away and joined a carnival, graduated to a traveling circus and eventually made it to Hollywood.

It was there that film director Cecil B. DeMille changed her name to Sally Rand (inspired when he saw a copy of a Rand McNally atlas) and cast her in more than two dozen silent films. But the talkies came along and she was gone, because, as she told Studs Terkel in a radio interview decades later, my “voice belongs in the Eleanor Roosevelt category.”

She then came to Chicago to star in a play. It lasted only one month. But it was here, “sleeping under cardboard in the alleys,” that she got the idea to buy some ostrich feathers, take off some of her clothes and get a job dancing at a place called the Paramount Club, a joint popular with the city’s gangster set.

A Century of Progress was scheduled to open within the year and Hazelgrove does an estimable and exciting job charting those heady times, from the inventive way Sally Rand “crashed the fair” as Lady Godiva to her stunning success that manifested in massive fame, huge crowds and piles of money.

Hazelgrove is a sociable historian, writing in a style closer to breezy conversation than droning academia, and not at all reluctant to share his enthusiasm for his subjects. He has done this in previous books about such colorful characters as Teddy Roosevelt, Al Capone, Edith Wilson and the Wright Brothers.

He has wisely opted to use only the Rand materials that propel this compelling story, “to focus on how [her life] played out in the cultural zeitgeist of America in the twentieth century. ... [She] lived large … and was one of the first to become famous for being famous.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2020
5:30-7:00 pm CDT

Sign in 5:00-5:30 pm for informal cigar and cocktail chatter.
The event will be called to order at 5:30.
There will be a Q&A session following the lecture. Audience participation is invited.
The event will conclude at 7 pm.
An optional cocktail party and discussion will continue after the event.
Be sure to have your cocktails and cigars at ready hand.

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About the Cigar Society of Chicago

ONE OF THE OLDEST AND greatest traditions of the city clubs of Chicago is the discussion of intellectual, social, legal, artistic, historical, scientific, musical, theatrical, and philosophical issues in the company of educated, bright, and appropriately provocative individuals, all under the beneficent influence of substantial amounts of tobacco and spirits.  The Cigar Society of Chicago embraces this tradition and extends it with its Informal Smokers, University Series lectures, and Cigar Society Dinners, in which cigars, and from time to time pipes and cigarettes, appear as an important component of our version of the classical symposium.  To be included in the Cigar Society's mailing list, write to the secretary at