Ginger: My Storyby Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers is an entertainment legend. She has danced her way into the hearts of millions and has starred in both comedy and drama on both stage and screen. Now, for the first time, she tells her story. "My mother told me I was dancing before I was born," Ginger Rogers writes. Born in Independence, Missouri, in 1911, she debuted in vaudeville at age fourteen. In… See more details below
Ginger Rogers is an entertainment legend. She has danced her way into the hearts of millions and has starred in both comedy and drama on both stage and screen. Now, for the first time, she tells her story. "My mother told me I was dancing before I was born," Ginger Rogers writes. Born in Independence, Missouri, in 1911, she debuted in vaudeville at age fourteen. In 1930 she starred on Broadway in Girl Crazy, introducing the classic Gershwin tunes "Embraceable You" and "But Not for Me." Then she went to Hollywood, and the rest is history. Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire formed one of the most magical screen partnerships the world has ever seen. They made ten films together, including the classics Top Hat, Swing Time, and Shall We Dance, enrapturing the nation with their incandescent dance numbers and unique chemistry. Rogers displayed her deft comic touch in Stage Door, The Major and the Minor, and Monkey Business, and won the 1940 Oscar for Best Actress for her dramatic role in Kitty Foyle. Ginger sparkles with Ginger Rogers's wry, sometimes offbeat sense of humor and glows with her warmth and humanity. Once, to land a role, Rogers invented the persona of the aristocratic British actress "Lady Ainsley" - costar Katharine Hepburn was not amused. In 1936, Ginger was invited to the White House for FDR's birthday party, and the president asked her to do an impromptu dance number. All went well until she caught a heel on the carpet, stumbled, and the top of her dress almost came down in front of the distinguished company. Lavishly illustrated with rare photographs from her personal collection, Ginger is full of stories that only Ginger Rogers could tell - the joys and heartbreaks of her five marriages, including one to matinee idol Lew Ayres; her romances with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Hollywood attorney Greg Bautzer, Howard Hughes, and George Gershwin; and her encounters with such figures as Lucille Ball, Harry Truman, Henry Fonda, Dwight Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe
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Read an Excerpt
My mother told me I was dancing before I was born. She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months. Prophetic as this was, my birth was a dramatic one in the steamy heat of a Missouri summer.
In July of 1911, Lela Owens McMath moved to Independence, Missouri. Not quite twenty years old, abandoned by her husband, she left her home in Kansas City. She desperately needed to find a place to live. More important, she wanted her child to be born at home. The little four-room house at 100 Moore Street was the perfect choice.
Once settled, Mother began looking for a job to help support herself and her soon-to-be-born child. She found it through an advertisement calling for "a lady of quality as secretary for the Sand Company," which was located close to her new home.
On a humid July morning, nine months into her pregnancy, Lela applied for the job. She was interviewed by three bearded young gentlemen. Her condition obvious, Mother headed off all questions by admitting she was expecting a baby at the end of the month. She said her husband traveled a lot and she needed to hold a job in order for them to make ends meet.
"If it's agreeable with you," she told the speechless trio, "I will be able to start work for you the first week in August." Mother seemed to radiate a charm that could captivate even the toughest of critters, and despite the unusual circumstances, the Sand men could do no less than hire her.
"We'll expect you on August 1st, Mrs. McMath—or a bit earlier if you can make it." They shook hands all around and Mother started back to her new littlehome.
She had gone a half a block in the sweltering heat when she felt a sharp pain warning of the impending event. Calmly, Mother went into a drugstore, called the doctor, and advised him her labor had begun. She asked him to hurry to her place on Moore Street where she would meet him. "I think I can make it, Doctor, it's only a block and a half away. If I'm not at my house when you get there, look up the street—you just might find me sitting on the curb."
Mother left the drugstore and hurried as best she could. Now the pains were more frequent, forcing her to bend to the oncoming labor. Though embarrassed, she was determined to keep going. Wringing wet, she finally reached her front door. The doctor arrived one minute later. He was amazed at her tenacity in getting home.
The labor took longer than anticipated. Day turned into evening and another day began. Then, at 2:00 A.M. on July 16, 1911, in her own home, Lela McMath gave birth to a seven-and-a-half-pound baby girl. Mother told me she had prayed for a daughter and months before had decided to name the baby after the oldest of her three younger sisters, Verda Virginia. Mother asked the doctor to wait until a reasonable hour and then call her parents, Walter and Saphrona Owens, who would soon come to visit their new blue-eyed grandchild, Virginia Katherine McMath.
Shortly after giving birth, Lela announced that she'd be going to work. Saphrona begged Mother to come home and let her help with the baby. Mother said no to both requests. She had told her employers she'd be there on the first of the month and she would neither budge nor relinquish her baby to anyone.
On August 1, Mother reported to the Sand Companyand—so did I. Mother wrapped me up, put me in a basket, and carried me right along. I was raised in the workplace, literally.
"I'm ready to begin," she told the astonished executives. "Where's the typewriter?" Those gentlemen had not bargained for a secretary and an infant, but, like so many other men, they were enchanted by this 5'l" dynamo and gave her her way. Fortunately, I was a good little baby and rarely cried. If ever I did disturb anyone in the other offices, Mother would offer to take on extra typing without pay. She earned $6.00 a week and hoped her devotion to the job would ultimately raise her to $8.00 a week. Those sums sound ridiculous now, but in those days they were considered decent wages... for women.
On Sundays, Mother would take me by streetcar to Kansas City and leave me with my grandparents for a few hours while she went to the movies. Mother loved motion pictures, and sitting there in the dark, she vowed that one day she would do something—perhaps write for them. On one of those Sundays, my father made a surprise visit to the Owens house and saw me, his daughter, for the first time. His reunion with Mother was not a happy one. Eddins pleaded with her to take him back, promising that his wandering days were over. Lela knew his promises were empty, and so refused. She told him that as soon as she had the money for a lawyer, she would seek a divorce. Chastened, my father left and, for a while, dropped out of sight.
Over the next few months, Mother and I were together constantly. Spring days in Missouri are beautiful, and Mother wanted me to enjoy the outdoors. Under the mottling shade of a weeping willow tree, in the grassy area next to her office, she put a rug and made a makeshift barrier around it. This four-foot-square area was my kingdom. She'd put me in the center and pile little pillows and soft toys around me. "Mommy is right over there," she'd say, pointing to the window near her desk. Then she'd go into the office building, open the screen, and call, "Mommy's right here!" From her workstation, Mother could monitor my actions. I soon became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. People played with me as they went by, and occasionally someone would call up to Lela at her desk to ask permission to take me down the street for an ice cream cone. My love for ice cream came at an early age . . . and has never left!Ginger
My Story. Copyright � by Ginger Rogers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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