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Rockettes - Then and Now

E-mail Betty



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Betty Dedrick Eckhardt's story began in 1940 when she graduated from Julia Richmond High School with classmate Lauren Bacall.

We all know what became of Lauren Bacall. Well, Betty had her own adventures. Betty auditioned to become a Gae Foster girl at the Roxy Theater and landed her first job on stage. A year later, when she saw an ad for Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus, she couldn't resist the offer of better money and the opportunity to see the world so she was off to join the circus where she appeared in an aerial routine called "Cloud Swing" high above the ring.

Betty's love of animals took her center ring with the elephants in the circus and found her helping with the care of newborn tiger cubs. Her love of tigers kept her enthralled with Seigfried and Roy and prompted her to attend a book signing by the duo in Manhattan many years later. When told of Betty's background with the tigers in the circus, Roy gave Betty a blue velvet pouch containing a blue sapphire symbolizing the ice-blue eyes of his own Royal White Tigers. Betty says she'll treasure that moment for the rest of her life.

Combining circus and stage, Betty returned to Broadway to perform in an aerial act in "Artists & Models." Jackie Gleason was a fellow performer and good friend, always standing in the wings yelling "hang in there Hackett," seeming afraid she'd fall. And fall she did.

Betty returned to the circus the following year and fell 50 feet from her aerial perch while performing in Madison Square Garden. Many broken bones healed and a year's worth of therapy later Betty auditioned for Russell Markert at Radio City Music Hall to become a Rockette. Betty says her proudest performing moments were stepping out onto that stage with 35 fellow Rockettes and she's thrilled to be an active member of the Rockette Alumnae.

Betty also speaks proudly of her 5 children, 8 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. She says she's 81 years young and can still kick!