Watch the hips — those gently swaying, on-the-beat swivel hips. Midway through her 10th decade, the lady can still pull off some snazzy body English to oomph up the sweetly sung notes.
“I can’t give you anything but love, baby / That’s the only thing I’ve plenty of, baby”
Oh, these crazy kids. Like this one — crooning a classic tune to recorded background tracks two days shy of her 95th birthday. Wearing an unwipeable smile on her glowing face, Dorothy Guaralnik beams at the appreciative applause rolling her way while she brings the Jimmy McHugh jazz standard to a sassy stop.
“Till that lucky day you know darned well, baby / I can’t give you anything but love”
Who says life begins at 40? Maybe it begins at 90.
“It’s important to show them that when you’re a senior, you are at the age of elegance,” says Mary Mancini, 84, of the Ms. Senior Nevada organization and the emcee/director of its seniors-performing-for-seniors traveling shows, this day at the Bridge at Paradise Valley assisted living facility on East Harmon Avenue.
“Some of them feel forgotten, but by the time we leave there are smiles, so it’s fulfilling,” says the gregarious Mancini, proudly sporting her “Miss Congeniality 2006” sash — a prime credential for her hosting gig — from the Ms. Senior Nevada’s annual pageant (Guaralnik was its first queen in 1986), held every August at the South Point.
“It’s about life and the beauty inside,” says Charlie Christy, 73, executive director of the group, which supplements the annual pageant with its senior-starring variety shows — its cast members mostly in their 70s and 80s — three or four times per month at senior facilities and health fairs across the valley and occasionally elsewhere in the state.
“Many of them are retired professional performers and they love to keep doing it the way they’ve always done it,” says group secretary Dottie Reed, 79, about their seasoned troupers. “Many (home residents) here today are not as old as Dorothy. And the fact she can still get up and sing and carry on, it’s inspiring to make them want to do things — rock them out of their complacency.”
Not rocking as much as gliding, hoofing and swinging them out of it.
Decked out in feathery splendor, former “Enter the Night” showgirls Troy Stern and Donna Browning — relative toddlers at 58 and 57, respectively — high-kick off the rest of the show in all their sequined, shapely leg-baring glory, their tightly choreographed gyrations a master class in synchronized teamwork. Wide smiles and applause from the 80-ish/90-ish audience of residents — plus a touch of awe in their eyes — are their reward.
“I’ve had two hip replacements,” Browning tells them, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t get up and shake your tail.”
Nor does it mean you can’t channel your inner Babs, as Stormi Caprice, 70, hits the floor to belt out — and we do mean belt — that Streisand chestnut, “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” her voice hitting a crescendo on the final note for a powerful finish. Like a Borscht Belt throwback, Mancini keeps the acts coming, sprinkled with one-liners and a lush rendition of “You Made Me Love You.”
Performers pour forth: Weaving a fanciful dream sequence and injecting the energy of a 38-year-old rather than the 83-year-old she is, Carol Craven moves gracefully through “I Wanna Be a Rockette,” then cedes the spotlight to Samaria N. Graham, whose girlish, 77-year-old voice caresses the notes of the Gershwin swooner “Embraceable You.”
Honoring the concept of “variety” with the kind of relish that would have made even “Old Stone Face” Ed Sullivan grin, 87-year-old De Carney comes on next dressed as Charlie Chaplin for some funny, sharply executed, “Little Tramp”-style miming.
On it goes: Nine senior dancers of the Aliante Steppers in matching blue skirts and red tops groove to “Piano Roll Blues”; 75-year-old R onnie Savino summons the spirit of Dino, warbling about how the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie; the seventy-something high-kickers of the Sun City Sunsations sync up to John Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”; a Patsy Kline tribute comes courtesy of 80-year-old Maura Harrower; and the Ovation Dancers show off their barn-burnin’ moves, getting their cowgirl on to “The South is Gonna Do It Again” — climaxed by flipping up their dresses to reveal red hearts sewn onto their jiggling derrieres.
Return visits follow from Caprice, show gals Stern and Browning, and a raucous Steppers number as the ladies shake their maracas and shimmy their booties for a Carmen Miranda-style romp across the floor.
Yes, the audience is into it, but they’re not the only ones. “These people can’t get out anymore, so we bring it to them,” Reed says. “That’s the joy of it for us.”
Show-closer? Easy choice — Dorothy’s back to lead a full-cast sing-along to “When You’re Smiling.” Reaching out, they clasp residents’ hands, hug them gently and swap smiles.
Once again, those nearly 95-year-old swivel hips are swaying away. The lady’s still got oomph.