Monday, July 22, 2019


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

After winning four Tony Awards and marrying Bob Fosse in 1960, Gwen Verdon took a break from performing to produce their daughter, Nicole Fosse, in 1963.

Nicole Fosse, Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon
April, 1986

"Verdon resumed working alongside Fosse in the title role of Sweet Charity on Broadway three years after Nicole was born. That was their last collaboration as husband and wife.

'I was living like a wife and a mother, which was really what I wanted to be, but I was the wrong kind of wife for him,' Verdon told the New York Times in 1981. 'I think Bob outgrew me. Bob started writing and he was involved in all kinds of things, and I was so involved with Nicole I didn't really care if I worked or not.'" (source: The Oprah Magazine)

I have my doubts about Fosse outgrowing Verdon, as if he were superior to her. It seems more likely that she knew she couldn't continue to let her star fade as her husband f***ed their marriage away. 

So she created the role of Charity Valentine in Sweet Charity, choreographed and directed by Fosse.

I'm sorry, but I don't know the year of this television appearance by Gwen Verdon and don't
 know what show it was. Maybe the Tony Awards?

In 1969, Fosse directed and choreographed a movie for the first time. It was Sweet Charity, not starring Gwen Verdon. Her part went to Shirley MacLaine because the studio wanted a young, fresh face. Verdon taught MacLaine the steps and assisted Fosse with directing.

She received no credit, but in the end, maybe she didn't mind because the film flopped.

Fosse got another chance at directing a movie in 1972 with Cabaret. As usual, Verdon pitched in and did whatever was needed, although their married life was coming to an end. Fosse/Verdon portrays Verdon as begging Fosse to end his affair with the film's German translator because she's humiliated by it. She flies to the U.S. to get, of all things, the gorilla head that was used in the movie. She returns to their hotel room to find Fosse in bed with the translator. An article I read said that he was in bed with two women.

That was it. They never divorced. They continued to work together. Verdon stated in many interviews that Fosse made her into a better dancer. Fosse was quite dependent on Verdon to "help" him with his work. When he won The Best Director Academy Award, he thanked his friend, Gwen Verdon, among other people.

As Fosse/Verdon continues, Verdon goes after the rights to Chicago with a vengeance, telling Fosse over and over that if they can do the musical with her in the role of Roxie Hart, then Nicole will be "set for life." Fosse always responds that Nicole will be fine, Nicole is set, they don't have to do Chicago. He tells Verdon that she's too old to be an ingenue, but finally, they bring Chicago to the stage in 1976.

The show didn't start out as a huge success, but it certainly wasn't a failure. When Verdon needed surgery and had to take six weeks off, Fosse brought in Liza Minelli to play Verdon's part. People flocked to the show and didn't stop coming when Verdon returned.

Fosse did a couple more Broadway shows and directed a few movies––some successes, some failures. He and Verdon worked together on a revival of Sweet Charity in 1987. On the way to the premiere, he had a heart attack and died in Verdon's arms.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Fosse and dancer Ann Reinking were partners from 1972 to 1978. She played Katie Jagger, the character based on herself, in Fosse's 1980 autobiographical film, All That Jazz. Leland Palmer played "Audrey Paris," the Gwen character. In her only film, Erzsébet Földi plays daughter Michelle. Roy Scheider had the Fosse role of Joe Gideon. All That Jazz has more than one great number, but I'm going with this one because it includes the three female leads.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon are played by Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams
in the FX series Fosse/Verdon

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Following Gwen Verdon's success in Can-Can, she won the 1955 Tony Award for Best Actress In A Musical for Damn Yankees. In 1957, she won the Tony Award For Best Actress In A Musical for New Girl In Town. In 1959, she won again for Redhead.

Four Tony awards in less that a decade, along with parts varying from small bits to starring roles in numerous movies.

Gwen Verdon might have met Bob Fosse in passing before he choreographed Damn Yankees. She definitely knew him well when he choreographed and became a first-time director for Redhead.

Fosse was married to his second wife, dancer Joan McCracken, when his relationship, which wasn't limited to dancing, began with Verdon.

McCracken's career came to a halt because of her type I diabetes––not as treatable as it is now. During her marriage to Fosse, she had a heart attack in 1955 and then had a lengthy stay in the hospital because of pneumonia. Doctors told her that her career as a dancer was over.

After encouraging her husband to become a choreographer and promoting his career, Fosse rewarded McCracken by divorcing her in 1959. He married Verdon in 1960.

Joan McCracken died in 1961. She isn't widely remembered.

So let's pause the Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon story here to honor Joan McCracken with "Pass the Peace Pipe" in Good News, 1947.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I'm not done writing about Gwen Verdon, but posts will be sporadic. I did something crazy on Monday: I went back to work.

Yes, I probably have quite a few emails to read, along with regular training that we do. I don't know yet. I can't access anything on my computer. It took quite a while for my supervisor, my manager, and a nice lady named Linda who called me "young lady" (of course I told Linda that I love her) to figure out how to re-activate my account. When next I work, I hope I'll be able to actually work.

I've been kinda hanging out and getting paid for it. Don't tell but on Monday, I took three lunches. I had my lunch, and then I kept two friends company when they had their lunches at different times. On Tuesday I only took two lunches.

I was nervous about returning, but when I went in the building, I felt comfortable right away. Then I saw on my colleagues' computers that many of our systems have changed. Furthermore, I didn't recognize most of my colleagues. All but one are new! They seem very nice.

For now, I'm the only "original" on my team, which means that I was part of a team that went through training together 18 months ago and then worked with the same supervisor and manager. People dropped out pretty quickly. One left at the end of the first week of training. I think we started with 22. Two other originals should be returning soon. For now, though, I delight in my original status all by myself.

It's difficult to become accustomed to sitting in a desk chair again. The chairs are fine; however, nothing at work can match my chair where I sit right now, with my feet up, next to Penelope, who is next to Franklin.

The bright, brighter, brightest overhead lights bug me, too. My eyes are very sensitive to light (it triggers migraines), and when I'm back on the computer, it will be worse. So last week I had my eyes checked and ordered computer glasses and sunglasses. I'll pick them up tomorrow. I'll let you know if they help. A lot of people have tired eyes from working on a computer so much of the time.

I'll blog as I'm able to do so. Gwen Verdon deserves our attention. I was able to order Damn Yankees on DVD from my good friends at Netflix. I started to watch the movie, and I'm pleased to report that Gwen Verdon has top billing.

I also have an author friend's book to read and edit. That makes me happy.


Who remembers flower power? This performance is from The Carol Burnett Show, sometime in the late '60s. It's not Gwen at her most brilliant, but she was always a pleasure to watch.

Monday, July 8, 2019


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

If you're as old as I am––and I'm old––perhaps you remember when an announcer would say that a TV show had to be interrupted because of a breaking news story or simply because the TV stations had to have a chance to say, This is WIBW in Topeka, Kansas.

For now, we interrupt the story of Gwen Verdon because I have to do some stuff. It seems unhappily appropriate that we have a delay now as we reach the part of Verdon's life when she became known as Bob Fosse's wife.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse, and Gwen's son Jimmy

Friday, July 5, 2019


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

In 1942, teenager Gwyneth Evelyn "Gwen" Verdon was in her bedroom while her parents gave a party (this account is based on bits and pieces of the story of her life that Verdon told her daughter Nicole, that are then portrayed in the FX series Fosse/Verdon, no doubt with some embellishments). An older man named James Henaghan came into the room and forced himself on her. Later in 1942, Verdon's parents forced pregnant Gwen to marry their friend Henaghan.

Her 2000 obituary in The New York Times stated that she eloped with Henaghan at age 17 because she was in love. "During a 1983 interview for the public access show Spotlight, Verdon laughed when the interviewer noted that she had married at that time because she was in love and it was the 'proper thing to do.' Verdon said with a laugh, 'I did not think it was the proper thing and I was not in love.'" (source: Bustle)

James Henaghan, Jr., known as Jim or Jimmy, was born in March, 1943. The marriage was already a struggle. Henaghan was a drinker and a gambler who wrote for The Hollywood Reporter. When he disappeared on a drinking binge or whatever he felt like doing, Verdon wrote his column and filed it. She left her husband on New Year's Eve, 1943; they divorced in 1947.

Gwen Verdon was a young girl with a child to support. She turned to her roots in dance to do the job.

When Verdon was two years old, she had rickets, which left her with knock knees. Her mother, who was a dance teacher, took her little girl to class to make her legs stronger. By age six, she danced on stage. At age 11, she had a solo dance in a movie.

After the divorce, she asked her parents to take care of Jimmy so she could work as much as possible. Verdon assisted choreographer Jack Cole for five years, and performed specialty dances in movies. She also taught numerous starlets their steps.

Then she turned to Broadway. In 1953, her breakthrough came when she had the second-lead in Can-Can. With Verdon receiving great reviews during out-of-town performances, the star of the show, Lilo, demanded that Verdon's numbers be reduced to two. Yet Verdon's Garden of Eden performance stole the show. She won her first Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in  Musical.

In 1955, Verdon starred in Damn Yankees, choreographed by Bob Fosse. She went on to play her role in the 1958 movie. How could Fosse, with his love of turned-in toes and legs, not adore the girl whose childhood knock knees allowed her to perform his moves so perfectly?

Dance for us, please, Miss Verdon.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Movie of Damn Yankees: "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)" 

Could she be cuter and funnier?

(additional sources: Vanity Fair, Town & Country, Wikipedia)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Perhaps you already recognized elements of Bob Fosse's choreography before I started writing this series of posts, or you might have noticed certain moves in the sequences I've posted from Damn Yankees and Cabaret.

Here's what Fosse Style is to me:

rounded shoulders

hip rolls

thrusts, considered quite sexually suggestive at the time

tiny movements filled with meaning

pigeon toes

smooth, including the snapping of fingers

looks simple but it ain't


the tiny movements suddenly become gigantic--huge kicks, big turns, jumps

jazz hands or cupped hands

intense stare


sideways shuffle

sometimes white socks revealed noticeably above black shoes

HATS--preferably bowlers

If you noticed something that I missed, please tell us in your comment.

Now, take a look––if you like––at Ben Vereen and cast performing "Glory" in Pippin:

Bob Fosse directed and choreographed Pippin, which premiered in 1972. Fosse won Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography.

Something else about Fosse style: Each move has to do with the plot and the character. If you've seen the entire movie of Cabaret, you know that every song and dance interspersed between the characters' actions has something to do with them and their story.

Now I'd like to show you one of my favorite numbers. From the 1957 movie The Pajama Game, Carol Haney performs "Steam Heat" with Buzz Miller and Kenneth LeRoy:

"Steam Heat" introduced America to Fosse style when he choreographed it for the stage in 1954––his first job as a choreographer, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Choreography––and he recreated the choreography for the film. *see note

When Bob Fosse died in 1987, his widow, Gwen Verdon, and his partner, Ann Reinking, kept his work alive.

When I started this series on Fosse and Verdon, Birgit of BB Creations pointed out that we can still see Fosse's influence in Michael Jackson's dancing. We should also include Beyoncé and Single Ladies.

Michael, you were creepy, but I ask that you dance us out today so we can see how Fosse style evolved in your work.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

*note: Carol Haney was ill and had to be hospitalized while making the film of The Pajama Game. Supposedly, her work wasn't up to par. If she wasn't at her best in that movie, then I can't even imagine what her best looked like.

Monday, July 1, 2019


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

In 1972, Bob Fosse choreographed and directed Liza with a "Z": A Concert for Television. I did not see it when it was on television originally, but a few years ago I asked Netflix if they would please send me the DVD of the concert. They obliged; I was enchanted.

I love the song that I'm asking Liza to sing for you today. She managed to go back in time and recreate a performance from her youth.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Take it away, Liza!