May 2016

puig_2Sara Puig LAAS
When we were kids, sometimes on Sundays my parents would take us to the Royal movie theater in Laredo. They showed movies in Spanish and sometimes there was a stage show between movie showings. For movies in English, there was the Tivoli movie theater, and that’s all there was of Laredo theaters back then.
A recent email from dear friend Sara Puig Laas, now of Austin, brought back a lot of memories.  She tells us:
 In the 1930’s there was a bubble dancer named Sally Rand who did her strip by popping the balloons she had stuck all over herself— one by one, in tantalizing fashion. She was part of a fundraiser variety show sponsored by Lions or Rotary or something. Anyway, people in Laredo were pretty clueless about Sally Rand — I think they thought she would be BLOWING bubbles — so the Royal theater was full of families who had brought their kids. That included me, at about 5 or 6 years old, sitting in the 4th or 5th row. I remember she wore pink, and I was awestruck. Whatever the parents were all thinking at that point, it was too late to do anything about it, LOL.
Some notes on Sara’s personal/professional history:

Sara Puig Laas is a native Laredoan, the eldest of four children born to Dr. and Mrs. Val Puig, Jr. At Martin High School, she began her long career of interviewing by working for the school paper under the tutelage of a great journalism teacher, Mary Frances Doss. In 1947, Sara and co-editor Claude Villarreal brought back Martin High’s first gold medal in journalism in 1947 from the State UIL Meet in Austin. She later earned a degree in English from the University of Texas.“It has been a life full of adventures,” she says. She and her first husband, Art Ochoa, and sons Arthur, Mark and Phil, moved to Venezuela in 1958. Daughter Claire was born there. “We were there until 1964, through the peak years of Communist turmoil in the Caribbean.”

During the late 1960’s, while Art built an air conditioning business in Laredo, Sara continued honing her interviewing skills by opening an employment agency and also co-hosting a live noon time show on KGNS.

A move to Victoria, TX followed her second marriage in the mid-70’s to Wilburn Laas. There her first job as an interviewer with the Texas Employment Agency (now TWC) was followed by a career as human resources director for a bank. Those years also provided many travel opportunities — China, Canada, Guatemala, Ecuador, the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others.

Retirement in 1993 brought Wilburn and Sara back to a rural area near Austin, where she has been active with the Writers’ League of Texas and interviewed many authors as part of the “Writing Across Texas” TV series. She also interviewed a number of Laredoans for “Border Voices in the Arts” on Laredo’s Public Access TV and on Neo Gutierrez’s programs for that channel. After three wonderful years in Laredo from 2013 through 2015, the couple is back in central Austin preparing for new adventures.

“I’m learning something new,” Sara says, “which is always fun.” By June she hopes to launch her first blog, titled “Who In The Zoo Are You?.com.”

“It’s the book I’ve long wanted to do, based on what I learned over the years about personality types and how to fit people into the best jobs for them. I added it up once, and realized that I have interviewed more than 10,000 people. It’s time to put that knowledge to use to help others find their best path and also learn what motivates them and the other people in their lives. “The ‘Zoo’ is based on nine familiar creatures whose main characteristics we already use a lot in our daily language.

“With a husband, four wonderful children and their spouses, five married grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren to try to keep up with, I decided that blogging one chapter at a time might seem less daunting than trying to finish the entire book at once. It should be fun.”

Now we’ll conclude with some bio notes on Sally Rand, from the Encyclopedia Britanica:

Sally Rand, original name Helen Gould Beck (born Jan. 2, 1904, Elkton, Mo., U.S.—died Aug. 31, 1979, Glendora, Calif.) American actress and dancer who achieved fame as a fan dancer and bubble dancer.

Helen Beck entered show business at an early age. Eventually adopting the name Sally Rand (suggested to her, she said, by Cecil B. DeMille), she played in vaudeville and performed as an acrobatic dancer at carnivals and in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Circus while still in her teens. By the time she was 20, Rand was in Hollywood, where she appeared in a number of films.

With the onset of the Great Depression she was in Chicago. She managed to earn a living by improvising a nude dance routine employing large ostrich-feather fans she had fashioned. Her great opportunity came with the opening in Chicago of the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933–34: as a publicity stunt she rode a white horse to the fair, “attired” more or less as Lady Godiva. This act won her star billing at the “Streets of Paris” concession on the Fair’s Midway. There, performing a fan dance to such strains as Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune and Frédéric Chopin’s Waltz in C Sharp Minor,she caused a sensation, launching a career that lasted for more than 30 years. She later created an alternative dance with large five-foot elastic bubbles.

Rand continued to perform until age 74, maintaining a lovely face and trim figure that belied her age.




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