"Memoirs In Toe Shoes"
LOS ANGELES TIMES
DECEMBER 30, 2004
Erna Segal's memorable life.
No choice but to dance the night away
Eve is made for dancing. But what if dancing was your job? For Erna
Segal of the 1950s and '60s novelty act Chiquita & Johnson,
it was no party.
|Chiquita and Johnson perform in New York in
1957 with Jerry Lewis at the RKO Palace Theater
in her autobiography "Memoirs in Toe Shoes" (FictionSpin,
$28), posthumously published last month, being an end-of-the-year
showbiz staple had its downside. Sure, she and her partner, John
von Kralik, opened on New Year's for the likes of Red Skelton at
Harrah's Club in Lake Tahoe and Mae West at the Latin Quarter in
New York. But it seems all she really wanted was a little time off.
who was born Erna Grabler in Prague in 1938 and died last
year in L.A., was a talented ballerina who turned down a scholarship
to the Bolshoi Ballet at age 12 to team up with Von Karlik, 33 years
"ballet-adagio," their four-minute routine featured dazzling
split-leg lifts and jumps to showcase her technique and skimpy costumes
to highlight her hourglass figure. In addition to appearing on the
"Ed Sullivan Show" and opening in Las Vegas for Frank
Sinatra, Jerry Lewis and Lena Horne, the duo gigged in pre-Castro
Cuba, where their Tropicana Nightclub engagement ran for a year.
of the singular act, Segal led a life that was equally off the radar:
Von Kralik became her guardian so she could travel with him, until
they married, albeit briefly, when she turned 18. Five year later,
she quit the act.
had no time off," says Daniel Segal, the dancer's second husband.
"They were in such hot demand, especially on New Year's Eve;
that's one of the reasons she wanted out of the act."
The onetime nightclub dancer began writing science-fiction novels,
opened a specialty film distribution company with her husband and
wrote TV screenplays, including the memorably titled "Dan Haggerty
Goes to the Circus" for NBC.