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June Taylor

June Taylor

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June Taylor was an American choreographer, best known as the founder of the June Taylor Dancers, who were featured on Jackie Gleason
Jackie Gleason
Jackie Gleason was an American comedian, actor and musician. He was known for his brash visual and verbal comedy style, especially by his character Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, a situation-comedy television series. His most noted film roles were as Minnesota Fats in the drama film The...

's various television variety programs.

Early life and career


Taylor was born in Chicago, the daughter of Percival Guy Taylor and Angela Taylor. She started taking dance lessons at age eight; by age 14, she lied about her age and became one of the dancers at the Chicago nightclub, Chez Paree
Chez Paree
The Chez Paree was a Chicago nightclub, which opened in 1932 and closed in 1960. Located in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago at 610 N Fairbanks Ct, the club was host to many great entertainers, ranging from singers to comedians to vaudeville acts. A "new" Chez Paree opened briefly in the...

. At age 19, she was touring the US and Europe as a dancer in various nightclubs. She returned from London and began performing again in Chicago. Taylor collapsed on stage, ill with tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 in 1938; she spent the next two years in a sanitarium. Taylor then turned to choreography
Choreography
Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself, which is sometimes expressed by means of dance notation. The word choreography literally means "dance-writing" from the Greek words "χορεία" ...

, founding her own troupe of dancers in 1942; June Taylor's dancers made their first professional appearance at Chicago's Blackhawk restaurant
Blackhawk (restaurant)
The Blackhawk was a restaurant in the Chicago Loop from 1920 to 1984. It served a menu of American cuisine, notably prime rib and a signature "spinning salad bowl," and was, in the early part of its history a nationally known entertainment venue for Big Band music...

.

She met Jackie Gleason
Jackie Gleason
Jackie Gleason was an American comedian, actor and musician. He was known for his brash visual and verbal comedy style, especially by his character Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, a situation-comedy television series. His most noted film roles were as Minnesota Fats in the drama film The...

 at a Baltimore nightclub
Nightclub
A nightclub is an entertainment venue which usually operates late into the night...

 in 1946; the two became friends when Taylor helped Gleason overcome a case of stage fright. She made her television debut in 1948, on The Toast of the Town starring Ed Sullivan
Ed Sullivan
Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan was an American entertainment writer and television host, best known as the presenter of the TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show. The show was broadcast from 1948 to 1971 , which made it one of the longest-running variety shows in U.S...

, where six of the original dancers appeared as The Toastettes, bringing the chorus line
Chorus line
A chorus line is a substantial group of dancers who together perform synchronized routines, usually in musical theatre. Sometimes, singing is also performed. Chorus line dancers in Broadway musicals and revues have been referred to by slang terms such as ponies, gypsies and twirlies...

 to television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

. Two years later, she joined Gleason's Cavalcade of Stars, and followed him, with sixteen dancers, to The Jackie Gleason Show
The Jackie Gleason Show
The Jackie Gleason Show is the name of a series of popular American network television shows that starred Jackie Gleason, which ran from 1952 to 1970.-Cavalcade of Stars:...

, where her signature was the overhead camera shot of the dancers making kaleidoscopic
Kaleidoscope
A kaleidoscope is a circle of mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other end creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection off the mirrors...

 geometric patterns, reminiscent of the work of Busby Berkeley
Busby Berkeley
Busby Berkeley was a highly influential Hollywood movie director and musical choreographer. Berkeley was famous for his elaborate musical production numbers that often involved complex geometric patterns...

.

Taylor was initially dubious about joining Gleason on his DuMont Network show because it meant signing a long-term contract; her husband, Sol Lerner, suggested she take the offer. The high-kicking, smiling routines that formed the first three minutes of each broadcast were Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

-based and redolent of The Rockettes
The Rockettes
The Rockettes are a precision dance company performing out of the Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York City. During the Christmas season, the Rockettes have performed five shows a day, seven days a week, for 77 years...

. In addition to Gleason's show, the June Taylor Dancers also made appearances at the General Motors "Motorama
Motorama
The General Motors Motorama was an auto show staged by GM from 1949 to 1961. These automobile extravaganzas were designed to whet public appetite and boost automobile sales with displays of fancy prototypes, concept vehicles and other special or halo models. Motorama grew out of Alfred P. Sloan's...

" auto shows in New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 and on Stage Show
Stage Show
Stage Show was a popular music variety series on American television originally hosted on alternate weeks by big band leaders and brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Produced by Jackie Gleason, the CBS-TV show included the first national television appearances by Elvis Presley.The series began as a...

. Gleason and Taylor also worked together to produce a television ballet, Tawny, in 1953; the music was done by Gleason and the choreography by Taylor.

Taylor won an Emmy Award
Emmy Award
An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

 for choreography
Choreography
Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself, which is sometimes expressed by means of dance notation. The word choreography literally means "dance-writing" from the Greek words "χορεία" ...

 in 1955. Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

 and daughter of Mercer
Mercer Ellington
Mercer Kennedy Ellington was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger.Ellington was born in Washington, DC, the son of famous composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington...

, became the group's first African-American dancer in 1963. In 1965, the June Taylor Dancers added male performers to the troupe.

In 1978, Taylor, who lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale is a city in the U.S. state of Florida, on the Atlantic coast. It is the county seat of Broward County. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 165,521. It is a principal city of the South Florida metropolitan area, which was home to 5,564,635 people at the 2010...

 after Gleason moved production of his show from New York to Miami Beach, began choreographing the Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are a Professional football team based in the Miami metropolitan area in Florida. The team is part of the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League...

 cheerleading squad, the Dolphin Starbrites, and served in this capacity until 1990. The Starbrites, famous for their one-piece bathing suits and go-go boots, performed Broadway-style halftime show
Halftime show
A halftime show is a performance given during halftime, the period between the first and second halves, or the second and third quarters, of a sporting event. Halftime shows are not given for sports with an irregular or indeterminate number of divisions , or for sports that do not have an extended...

s.


Personal life


June Taylor married attorney Sol Lerner; the couple had no children. Her sister, and sometime dance partner, Marilyn Taylor Horwich, became Jackie Gleason's third wife in 1975.

Death


June Taylor died on May 16, 2004 in Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida
Miami is a city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida and the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States with a population of 2,500,625...

 from natural causes, aged 86. She is buried in Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami, near Gleason's outdoor mausoleum.

In popular culture

  • On May 9, 2000, Taylor was interviewed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation
    Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation
    The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation is the charitable arm of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The Foundation’s educational and preservation programs include the Summer Internship program, the College Television Awards, the Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship and the Archive...

    's Archive of American Television
    Archive of American Television
    The Archive of American Television is a division of the non-profit Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation that films interviews with notable people from all aspects of the television industry....

    . This interview can be seen at the Archive's offices in North Hollywood, California.
  • In 2001, Taylor was featured on episodes of A&E
    A&E Network
    The A&E Network is a United States-based cable and satellite television network with headquarters in New York City and offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, London, Los Angeles and Stamford. A&E also airs in Canada and Latin America. Initially named the Arts & Entertainment Network, A&E launched...

    's TVOGRAPHY, a program about America's favorite TV shows.

Credits

  • Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town - 1948
  • Jackie Gleason's Cavalcade of Stars - 1950
  • The Jackie Gleason Show
    The Jackie Gleason Show
    The Jackie Gleason Show is the name of a series of popular American network television shows that starred Jackie Gleason, which ran from 1952 to 1970.-Cavalcade of Stars:...

    - 1952-1959 and 1962–1970
  • Stage Show
    Stage Show
    Stage Show was a popular music variety series on American television originally hosted on alternate weeks by big band leaders and brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Produced by Jackie Gleason, the CBS-TV show included the first national television appearances by Elvis Presley.The series began as a...

    - 1955-1956
  • What's My Line - 1956

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