If you've been paying the slightest bit of attention, you'll know that I've recently written about the (in)famous Whirlaway Club — not just on this blog, but also in the June issue of Memphis magazine. In the magazine's "Ask Vance" column, I focused on two dancers — Betty Vansickle (stage name: Betty V) and Sue Sennett, who got into trouble with the law in the early 1960s by appearing on stage in scandalously skimpy costumes and "bumped and grinded" for customers. I was especially intrigued by Betty's costume (which she probably designed herself), featuring a long white glove stretching down her torso.
Yes, that's her in the photo above. The black lines are crop marks and the "haze" around her was added by the Press-Scimitar so she'd stand out from the dark background; that's where this photo first appeared, in 1966. Sexy, huh?
Well, today I received an email from Betty Vansickle Bendall, who told me that "Betty V" was, in fact, her mother, who is still alive and living in Memphis — though no longer dancing, unfortunately.
Here's what she had to say:
This month's article "Dirty Dancing" ended with you asking, "Whatever happened to Betty Vee?" Well, she is my mother: Betty Broughton, Vansickle, Lawrence, Stanley, McGough. Yes, that's number four. She is now 73 years old and still married to the last husband.
She retired from dancing shortly after her arrest, after her mother and father told her to "straighten up or take your three kids and get out of my house." We had all moved in with my grandparents, in their small East Memphis home, after she divorced my father. But I was told by friends, when my mother was still dancing at age 50, that she was still attracting men with those same dancing skills.
She was divorced, and a single mother of three kids, all under the age of 10, and working at the General Electric Lamp Plant, with little to no child support at that time. I was never sure if this job was for fun or because she needed the money. But she was 31 at the time of the arrest.
I remember the morning of the arrest, since I was 9. The newspaper and evening news were off-limits for several days. And we were off-limits to the neighbors, who would no longer allow their kids to play with us. It was a very big scandal at the time.
All three children grew up to be law-abiding, educated, and quiet adults with families in Shelby County and Las Vegas, Nevada. And, well — I would like to think my mother finally grew up too.
As for the article, I think I will add it to the family scrapbook, I'm sure my grandkids will find it a hoot when they grow up.
Pam Vansickle Bendall
Thanks so much for the great information, Pam. Now I wonder: Whatever happened to Sue Sennett?
PHOTO COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES