Posted on March 13, 2013
This image was taken at the Merry Garden Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois in 1931. It is believed to be the longest recorded dance marathon in history. This particular dance endurance contest began on August 29th 1929, and didn’t stop until April 1st 1931!
Mike Ritof and Edith Boudreaux claimed first prize of $2,000 cash, and the marathon record. Unbelievably they danced for a total of 5,152 hours and 48 minutes!
Dance marathons became a popular fad in the 1920′s and 30′s whereby entrants would stay on their feet for extraordinary long periods of time. These dance endurance contests as they were better known, attracted literally thousands of people who were enticed by the idea of fame, notoriety and in desperate times monetary prizes.
In my view, this haunting and disturbing fad of yesteryear, is akin to the Reality TV shows of today.
In her memoir ‘High Times, Hard Times’, Anita O’Day recalls:
“It seems unbelievable now but there were once fifteen thousand people – promoters, emcees, floor judges, trainers, nurses, cooks, janitors, cashiers, ticket-takers, publicity agents, promotion men, musicians, contestants and even a lawyer – whose main source of income over a number of years came from endurance shows.”
In 1935 Horace McCoy, a bouncer at several of the events wrote a book entitled They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, which was later adapted to film in 1969 starring Jane Fonda.