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Gypsy Robes

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Joann M. Hunter, Richard E. Korthaze, and Roxane R. Barlow model the robes...Photos by Carol Rosegg

History of the Robe


Gypsy Robesm pages:

Who Are Gypsies
History of the Robe
Rules of the Ritual
Robes & Recipients
Gypsy Stories

Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley wearing the 1987-1989 Robe

The ritual of the Gypsy Robesm takes place on the stage of every Broadway musical on opening night, before the audience is admitted. It began in 1950 when Bill Bradley, in the chorus of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, persuaded Florence Baum, a chorus member, to let him have her dressing gown. As a lark, he sent it to a friend, Arthur Partington, in the chorus of CALL ME MADAM, on opening night, telling him it had been worn by all the Ziegfeld beauties. Arthur added a rose from Ethel Merman's gown and sent it to a chorus member on the next opening night of GUYS AND DOLLS. It was then passed from show to show in a haphazard way and was often presented to a friend of the previous recipient, or awarded to a chorus member based on popularity. Through the years the passing of the Robe became a specific ceremony with official rules stating how it is presented, worn and paraded on stage.

When Robes are completely covered with artifacts, souvenirs and sketches, they are retired and a new one started. Three retired Robes are at the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing arts; two are in the Smithsonian; and all others are with Actors' Equity.

In April 2002, three gypsy robes were donated to the Museum of the City of New York.

The supervision and guardianship of the Robes is under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (ACCA) and David Westphal, National Chorus Business Representative. Gloria Rosenthal is the Gypsy Robesm historian and former AEA staff member Terry Marone is a robe volunteer.

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