Halitosis In Extremis

I Remember Distinctly

No, it wasn’t bad breath that caused Marie Micholowsky to pass clean out in her brother Frank’s arms. Believe it or not, this image was snapped at HOUR 3327 into a Chicago dance marathon. The seated woman shares my sentiment exactly. Girl, what were you thinking?

Now most of us have heard of dance marathons, especially popular during the 20s and 30s. But did you know that some lasted for weeks, even months? This particular one began on August 29, 1930 and ended in 1931. And yes, they did get intervals in which to nap. But can you imagine having started dancing TWO WEEKS AGO, only to ultimately finish next January? I guess these couples didn’t have jobs? Or families?

This next pair had the benefit of not being siblings in embrace, but you can see the pickle petite Anna Lawanick is in, having to support slumbering Jack Ritof, aka the failure.

Library of Congress/Corbis via Getty Images

What had begun as opportunities for the glow of youth to show its endurance and immortality eventually morphed into the exploitation of those who desperately needed the cash reward given to the last couple standing. As you can see, the onlookers (who paid an entrance fee to gawk) kept their eyes on the dance floor.

But what of the pain in their feet? Rules often allowed for one partner to visit the restroom or nap as long as the other partner continued dancing, so the feet were only briefly spared their dancing duties. The contestants below received medical attention for their tootsies during a Madison Square Garden marathon in June of 1928, where the prize was $5000, more than an average annual income.

Spectacle it was, as folks pushed themselves past the point of exhaustion, and in the case of Homer Morehouse, heart failure at the age of 27.


The predecessor to today’s reality shows or movies like Hands On A Hard Body, dance marathons proved both cruel and entertaining. Ultimately, the fad passed as fads do, and Americans moved on to the next big thing.

10 thoughts on “Halitosis In Extremis”

  1. Well it was during the depression so I guess if you were young and in need of cash you could see this as an opportunity. I wonder how many hours in before contestants starting re thinking their decision? I wouldn’t even try.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My inflation calculator tells me that $5k in 1931 would be worth north of $84,000 in 2019. A nice prize, but it would pale in relation to modern game show and reality show compensation. I guess the times dictated the willingness of people to put themselves through such an exhausting competition. Just for fun someone should have put on “What’s New Pussycat” to liven things up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol. That sounds like a John Mulaney Netflix special, which incidentally did lead my son to find that on a jukebox over the summer and play it several times in a row. But the Jukebox only played it once sadly and the joke was lost. You’re right about that prize does pale in comparison, especially to those new wheel shows where you can make millions.


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