Little June Havoc could dance on point at age two.
Baby June was appearing regularly around Seattle, once as part of the bill on Anna Pavolva’s farewell tour, inspiring her mother to change her billing to “Baby June, the Pocket-sized Pavlova.”
Soon she was launched in vaudeville and also appeared in Hollywood movies. She couldn’t speak until three, but the films were silent and she could cry for the cameras when her mother told her dog had died.
June had a big sister, Rose Louise. Their mother, also named Rose, wanted stage careers for her children.
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. She 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.
By the late 1920s, vaudeville was dying and Dainty June was getting too big for a kid act. The girls never knew their real ages until they were grown. June thought she was 13 when she eloped with Bobby Reed, but she was probably three years older. A furious Rose jammed a gun into Bobby’s chest and pulled the trigger but the safety catch was on. (She later pulled a gun on Louise’s first husband too, but it wasn’t loaded.)
With backing from Rose’s father, they recruited a half dozen unprepossessing adolescent girls who wanted a career in show business. Louise made babyish costumes for them, and they hit the road as Madam Rose’s Dancing Daughters with a pig named Porky and an act in which they held dolls. The act wasn’t a success.
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The act was renamed “Rose Louise and Her Hollywood Blondes,” and they worked their first burlesque house, The Missouri Theatre in Kansas City. It was then that Rose Louise Hovick changed her name to Gypsy Rose Lee
Meanwhile, Dainty June, now billed as June Havoc, had worked her way back from obscurity. After her smash performance in the Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey in 1940, she went on to a long and distinguished career in movies and on Broadway.
Rose (senior) died in 1954. In later years, she had run a lesbian boarding house and farm. One of her guests was shot at a party, and the verdict was suicide, but her grandson, Erik Preminger, is quoted in a Vanity Fair article saying that the victim was Rose’s lover, and that Rose killed her in front of many witnesses after she made a pass at Gypsy.