The Lillie Tossas Centennial

The young lady in question enjoyed perhaps the briefest day in the sun of anyone else on Travalanche, but the fact that she was born 100 years ago today seemed well worth marking.

Lillie Tossas (1921-2007), the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, was a headline dancer at the Havana-Madrid Club at 51st and Broadway at the tender age of 18. When the 1939 New York World’s Fair opened in Flushing, Queens, she was one of the stars of the night club in the Cuban Village, said to to re-create the popular Sloppy Joe’s bar in Havana. From here she was recruited to be one of the first Copacabana Girls when the famed Brazilian themed nightclub opened on East 60th Street in 1940. It was said that Cecil B. DeMille had wanted to sign her to a movie contract, but an accident had left her blind in one eye, so she was unable to take advantage of it. By late 1941 Tossas was already married and had a child and her career as a Latin dancer was over. At the time of her death in 2007 she was one of only three of the original Copacabana girls left.

For more on show biz history, please read No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous