The last living Ziegfeld girl, Doris Eaton Travis—who made her Broadway debut in 1917—died yesterday at the age of 106. In her honor, and presumably in honor of Ziegfeld girls in general, the lights on Broadway will be dimmed for sixty seconds tonight, at 8 p.m.
It’s the third time that moving but peculiar mourning ritual will have been performed this month, and we’re not even two weeks into the month!
In fact, the last time was yesterday, when the lights went down for 60 seconds at 7 p.m. in honor of Lena Horne, who’d died two days earlier. A week earlier, the lights had gone dim for Lynn Redgrave, who’d died the day before.
Before this trio of marquee deaths, the Broadway lights hadn’t gone dim since September, when multiple Tony-winning writer Tony Gelbart passed away. So many dimmings in a row happened as recently as March 2009, when Horton Foote, Ron Silver and Natasha Richardson died in a two week period.
I’m having a hard time finding the history of dimming the lights on Broadway marquees, but it doesn’t seem like it used to happen so often, but that might be part of a broader trend of celebrities in general seeming to die these days with more frequency, itself the result of a) more celebrities than ever and b) celebrities living longer lives, just like the rest of Americans. At this rate, will Broadway marquees one day be dimmed every night?