Riding Bareback To Las Vegas:
An Autobiography

Harry A White

Vantage / ISBN 533061334 (1985)

First warning: no index. A real loss in a book where so many big names are dropped.

Second warning: at least one whopper of a mistake (two, really)
make me doubt the long-term memory ability of the author.

He had already referred to Ruth St. Denis as "Ruth Denishawn"
on page 30, an error I was likely to pass up since "Denishawn"
was the name of her dance company -- but then on page 42 he wrote:

_______________________________

     "After she left the Ruth Denishawn Dancers
     (Ruth's son, by the way, was Ted Shawn, who
     had his own touring dance company)..."

_______________________________

I'm afraid I had a dizzy spell at this point.

For those of you uninformed on dance history, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn were married.

Together they formed the famous Denishawn dance school in Los Angeles and the touring company.

(To be completely fair, Ruth had already been a star and toured, but was never as successful
as when she married her handsome young partner and their names were combined to form
what would become a legendary epoch in American dance, Denishawn.)

In later years Ted Shawn did resent being known as "Mr. St. Denis" and formed his own dance troupe
but they never divorced, and danced together for their fiftieth wedding anniversary at Ted's summer
dance camp, Jacob's Pillow, before Ruth's death in 1968.

So how accurate are all the other stories about Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, etc. etc.?
I have no way of knowing but there are some pretty good stories in here. One that I like the best
is how Harry and his wife played hosts to Pearl Bailey when she performed at the Desert Inn, just next
door to their home. Segregation laws prevented her from staying at the hotel whose lounge she was
selling out, but no worries... she loved having a kitchen and cooked dinner for them every night.

The book is dedicated to Alice Manning, the author's partner ("White & Manning") and wife, who died
in 1979. The book ends with the author in his eighties, still grieving the loss of his wife but happy
in the thought of his daughter and grandchildren... and this is what makes my copy of the book (which
is now out-of-print and I bought used from an Internet site) so special. It had been given by one of
his grandchildren to a friend, with a note inside the flyleaf explaining how proud they all were of him
and how much they missed him. At the end of the story the same hand has written the beautiful poem,
"Do Not Stand At My Grave And Cry," with a notation, "In Memory: Harry Andreas White - 1/30/90."


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