One of the most thrilling moments in putting together my book, Historic Photos of Broadway, was writing the page I devoted to Eaton Travis. I even acquired the 8×10 glossy of her, age 16 or so, right after she joined the Ziegfeld Follies. How can you resist that image on the left? That’s about 1920.
Talk about an amazing life. She has earned her rest, admiration and love.
Here’s a statement from the PR firm Boneau/Bryan-Brown, which represents Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the organization to which Eaton Travis was so good, remarkably so, for so long. I shall sing “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” tonight — and think only of her.
Doris Eaton Travis passed away today at the age of 106. Ms. Travis was one of the legendary Ziegfeld Follies Girls and a longtime friend of Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS having made many memorable appearances in their annual EASTER BONNET COMPETITION.
In a statement on behalf of the family, Joe Eaton, Jr., Doris’ nephew, said, “Doris and her brother, my father Joe, had been working with Arthur Murray just after the war. She met Paul Travis in Detroit. They married in 1948. The work with Arthur Murray Dance Studio franchises really took off then and for the next 25 years. In 1972 they retired to Norman, Oklahoma and began Travis Ranch, a horse farm. But Doris always continued to dance, teaching privately, performing at local benefits and parties. She was thrilled when first invited by Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS to participate in the opening number of the first EASTER BONNET COMPETITION to be produced at the New Amsterdam Theatre where she had appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies over 70 years before. Doris loved coming back to Broadway for the event every year after – 12 times altogether. From 1998 – 2010, she only missed it in 2007. It became the highlight of her life. She adored dancing with the young dancers, seeing new shows and the incredible response from the Easter Bonnet audience and Broadway community. Life came full circle for her again and again and she said each year how much she loved everyone at BC/EFA for making it possible. Just this past weekend, she was talking about what she wanted to do next year. I know she’ll be there in spirit. Even from heaven, she wouldn’t miss it.”
In a statement, Tom Viola, Executive Director of BC/EFA, said, “Doris Eaton Travis was beloved at Broadway Cares. Since first meeting her in 1998 at the very young age of 94 when she appeared at the 12th edition of the EASTER BONNET COMPETITION at the New Amsterdam Theatre through the 24th edition which was held two weeks ago at the Minskoff – no matter her age when the stage lights hit Doris, she was instantly and forever young. Whether leading 30 Broadway dancers in a conga, playing sassy in a tux with the Cagelles, celebrating her 100th birthday on the New Amsterdam stage where she first appeared at the age of 16, teaching Sutton Foster “the Black Bottom,” or showing the young ballerinas from Billy Elliott the “Ballin’ the Jack” – a number she had introduced in 1921, Doris was simply a delight. Broadway loved her, giving her a standing ovation just two weeks ago that I know she took to heart and I’m certain has taken with her. Doris taught us all a little bit about how to celebrate the past and live for today. We will miss her forever.”
Funeral arrangements will be private. A memorial service in West Bloomfield will be announced at a later date. Tomorrow night at 8:00 pm the lights on Broadway will be dimmed in memory of Doris Eaton Travis.