“To Byron with lots of love from cousin Ruth Etting, Ziegfeld Follies of 1927″
Byron Spelts was one of Ruth Etting’s cousins, and my grandfather. He was born in and grew up in San Diego, and she lived in California briefly as a child, but she was over a dozen years older than he was, so they didn’t really meet until much later. She was already established in her career, and traveling to California for business, and he was barely out of school when they finally met, properly. He brought a couple of buddies with him, to meet her, and she gave him a signed photograph as a gift.
Many years later, I was playing a minor role in The Boyfriend, a musical set in the 1920′s, and my grandfather came to see it. It’s a bright sunny romp of a play – and I had a couple of quickie solo musical moments and did a lot of dancing and had some silly lines. If you know the play, I was one of the four girlfriends in the play – the one with the fewest lines! But my grandfather loved it, and soon after he brought out this very old photograph of one of his cousins, and he told me the story of Ruth Etting. And then he gave me the photo.
I was incredibly touched by the gift, and intrigued by the face in the photo – and sad that she had already passed on, years before. If only I’d been able to meet her! If only there was some info available about her? If only I could at least hear her voice? And thus my interest was piqued!
This site is dedicated my grandfather and his famous cousin – they’re both gone now, but neither is forgotten.