Farewell to Bill Bradley, a dancer in the original 1950s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, who started one of Broadway's most enduring traditions: "the Gypsy Robe." The robe is passed from the company of one musical to another as a symbol of good luck.
According to the New York Post obituary column, Bradley died, Monday, March 17, from complications of a stroke. The performer, who directed productions of the Florida-based Ringling Bros. Circus for 18 years, was 73.
How did the Robe tradition get started? "One of the women in the chorus had a terrible robe," Rudy Tronto, Bradley's longtime companion, told the Post. "It was pale pink with white feathers. Bradley thought it would make a great opening night gift for one of the men in another show. `A great gag.'"
Since then, the tradition has been to pass the robe to another chorus member, always pinning a prop from the previous show to the garment. "As the legend grew," said Tronto, "the robe became elaborately embroidered...with pieces of artwork attached." There are currently eight different robes circulating because of all the artwork attached.
At the March 20 performance of Broadway's new musical, Play On, one of the robes will be retired in Bradley's honor. --By David Lefkowitz