‘Gypsy’ Star Faith Dane Dies @ 96

"You Gotta Get a Gimmick" from the 1959 Broadway hit Gypsy is one of the show-stoppers of all time — and now, 60 passionately lived years later, the show has stopped for that number's MVP, Faith Dane.

The colorful performer, who was cast in the show based on her own years parodying burlesque in a nightclub act, died April 7 of congestive heart failure at a nursing home in Washington, D.C., WaPo reports.

She was 96.

Faith (her legal name since 1983) was born on October 3, 1923, in New York City. She performed all over the Eastern Seaboard, leveraging her curves to put across her message of earthy humor more than titillation.

When auditioning for Mazeppa, Dane gave what her accompanist John Wallowitch (1926-2007) later called "one of the most spectacular auditions ever in the history of Broadway theater" by wearing a sequined gown, dropping it to reveal a form-fitting, nude body stocking, and ending her song by bending over and blowing a bugle between her legs at producers.

She, uh, got the part.

After 702 performances in Gypsy, Dane was invited to appear in the hit 1962 film version (she became the last survivor of the "Gimmick" scene by over 30 years), and promptly stole the whole thing with her grandiose entry, braying: "Miss Tura, I'll thank you not to give the boys any notions that I would ever play sceeeeenes!"

Later, when Gypsy was revived, she sued producers, claiming she had contributed materially to her characterization. She was unsuccessful, and it prodded producers to include a "Faith Dane clause," ensuring that any work actors do toward creating a character belongs to producers.

Dane never made another movie. Instead, she ran for the Virgin Islands Legislature in 1964 on an arts platform. Her first husband, Russell Johnson, was the attorney general there.

After divorcing Johnson, Dane married New Zealand artist Jude Crannitch and moved to Washington, D.C. From the '80s onward, she was a perennial candidate for mayor there, receiving a total of just over 2,000 votes in four runs. Her last run, in 2002, attracted the endorsement of longtime pal ("We were never lovers") Marlon Brando (1924-2004).

She also ran for other offices, and was active in both Green and Independent causes, using her voluptuous appearance and predilection for soft outrage to her advantage. Dane once interrupted President Bill Clinton (b. 1946) with her trademark bugle "Reveille" to make a point.

In spite of the comical nature of her approach to life, she took her work seriously; it came from — she said — a need not to be one of the folks who sat on the sidelines. She once said, "Behind every clown's mask, you may find some wisdom."

Faith is survived by Crannitch.

1 Response

  1. Actually, the information about the “Faith Dane clause” is incorrect. Such clauses do NOT grant performers credit for creative input. They serve the opposite purpose, stating that any material created by the actor belongs to the production.

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