Saharet: Star of Three Continents

Saharet (Paulina Clarissa Molony, 1878-1964) was a popular performer of the vaudeville, burlesque, music hall, and musical comedy stages of the fin de siècle  and early 20th century.

Saharet was born in Australia to a Chinese mother and an Irish immigrant father. She was already dancing in Australian music halls and vaudeville stages in her youth, using the name Clarice Campbell. By 13 she was performing with Pollard’s Lilliputian Opera Company, with whom she sailed to the United States in the early 1890s. She took the stage name “Saharet” prior to 1894, an apparent reference to the Sahara Desert, no doubt a reflection of the Little Egypt and belly dancing trend that gripped the show business world since the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Her repertoire ranged from French quadrilles to risque cooch and snake dances. In the mid to late ’90s, she toured with M.B. Leavitt’s companies, and performed at such venues as Koster and Bial’s and the roof garden at Hammerstein’s Olympia. Starting in 1898 she made several tours of the Continent (and even appeared in several German films), and performed on Broadway and on tour with the likes of Anna Held. In 1909 she headlined at the American Music Hall, a vaudeville house run by William Morris that was located across from the present site of New York’s Port Authority bus terminal.

Saharet’s three husbands were all German-born. The first was Isaac Rosenstamm a.k.a Ike Rose, to whom she was married 1896-1913, and who was also her agent and manager during her peak years. The second was millionaire industrialist Fritz von Frantzius, whom she married in 1913. Frantzius married her on the condition that she give up dancing. She could only take four days of the oppression, tore up the marriage contract, and ran off with her dance partner Jose Florido. Her third husband was Maxim Phidias Lowe, also her agent, to whom she was married 1917 through 1930. Saharet seems to have retired from dancing around 1920 when she was in her early 40s. She had one daughter, Carrie Rose (b. 1896), who committed suicide in 1950 following a massive car accident.

To learn more about vaudeville please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.