Virginia Biddle: Left Show Biz with a Bang

Originally from Topeka, Kansas, Virginia Biddle (1910-2003) was a promising Broadway chorus girl during the Jazz Age and a favorite model of photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston. Biddle danced in the chorus of four Ziegfeld hit shows. The first three were Rio Rita (1927-1928) with Wheeler and Woolsey; Smiles (1930) with Fred and Adele Astaire;  and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931.

It was during the run of the latter show in July 1931, that a life-altering experience occurred when she was with a party of friends carousing on Harry Richman’s yacht. While she, Richman (whom she was dating at the time), writer Mark Hellinger and fellow chorus girls Gladys Glad and Helen Walsh were hanging out, for reasons that have never been explained, the engine exploded, hurling them into the ocean. Helen Walsh died of her injuries. Biddle’s ability to dance was impaired; her feet and ankles had been burned. She did one more show, Hot-Cha (1932) with Bert Lahr, Lupe Velez and Buddy Rogers, but then she called it quits. She attempted to sue Richman for damages, but the award($50) was purely symbolic.

She retired from the business, married a man named William Bulkley, settled in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, became a real estate agent and raised a family.