Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Eleanor Holsten: dancing since 1921

Every time she suggestively wriggles her butt, the place erupts in whistles

Ms. Holsten dances the hula onstage
Ms. Holsten dances the hula onstage

Eleanor Holsten comes onstage dressed in a yellow mumu with tropical flowers in black printed all over it. She wears flowers around her head. The Hawaiian music starts. She starts swaying, to cheers from all the crowd, which has stood up to welcome her.

Why the big deal? Eleanor Holsten is 102 years old. She has been dancing for 97 years. Every time she gives a come on look to the audience, here at a “Coronado’s Got Talent” type show, they roar. Every time she suggestively wriggles her butt, the place erupts in whistles. The thing is, she’s not brittle as you’d expect any, well, more mature person to be. No, she’s positively slinky. At the end, they won’t let her go, for minutes of stand-up applause.

“I was a cigarette girl when I was 15,” she tells me in a clear voice. This was at a place called the Tahitian Hat. She was “maybe” 15. “I was pretty. I was a little hottie,” she says. “I sold lots of cigarettes, cigars, gum. Smoking was legal in theaters back then.”

Eleanor Holsten, hula dancer. She is 102 years old. Has been dancing for 97 years

What wasn’t legal back then was underage girls selling cigarettes. “Well, mom always signed in for me, because I helped sales. People would come because they wanted to see me. Buy their cigarettes from me. It was only partly for the movie.”

And when the cops came? “I’d go to the women’s bathroom and stand on the toilet so I could see them coming. And when they looked in at floor level, they wouldn’t see my legs!”

She started dancing early. “My mom thought I had something wrong with my legs. Because I wouldn’t walk or run. I wouldn’t even sit on chairs. But then one day my mom left me with my aunt. And she put some dance music on the [Victrola]. And I just had to dance. I danced all afternoon long. ‘There’s nothing wrong with her legs,’ my aunt told Mom. And I never stopped. I have been dancing [onstage] since 1921.”

She has survived three husbands, starting off with Pete Peterson. “He was part of the Vagabond Comedy Music group at a club in Miami. He was famous because he could play his ukulele with his feet.”

She says it matter-of-factly, like no big deal. “I loved him best of the three, because he was the most fun. He was full of life and I was young, and he really loved me. Yes, he was Number One.”

I have to ask the “How do you do it? Live so long, stay so young?” question.

“You’ve gotta have fun, hon. People are too serious these days. Times weren’t easy back then, but we had fun.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

One or two puffs for the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health

And so starts the procession of questions.
Next Article

The Seafood la 57 mariscos truck is nothing new

A brand refresh has taken over in South Park's Target parking lot
Ms. Holsten dances the hula onstage
Ms. Holsten dances the hula onstage

Eleanor Holsten comes onstage dressed in a yellow mumu with tropical flowers in black printed all over it. She wears flowers around her head. The Hawaiian music starts. She starts swaying, to cheers from all the crowd, which has stood up to welcome her.

Why the big deal? Eleanor Holsten is 102 years old. She has been dancing for 97 years. Every time she gives a come on look to the audience, here at a “Coronado’s Got Talent” type show, they roar. Every time she suggestively wriggles her butt, the place erupts in whistles. The thing is, she’s not brittle as you’d expect any, well, more mature person to be. No, she’s positively slinky. At the end, they won’t let her go, for minutes of stand-up applause.

“I was a cigarette girl when I was 15,” she tells me in a clear voice. This was at a place called the Tahitian Hat. She was “maybe” 15. “I was pretty. I was a little hottie,” she says. “I sold lots of cigarettes, cigars, gum. Smoking was legal in theaters back then.”

Eleanor Holsten, hula dancer. She is 102 years old. Has been dancing for 97 years

What wasn’t legal back then was underage girls selling cigarettes. “Well, mom always signed in for me, because I helped sales. People would come because they wanted to see me. Buy their cigarettes from me. It was only partly for the movie.”

And when the cops came? “I’d go to the women’s bathroom and stand on the toilet so I could see them coming. And when they looked in at floor level, they wouldn’t see my legs!”

She started dancing early. “My mom thought I had something wrong with my legs. Because I wouldn’t walk or run. I wouldn’t even sit on chairs. But then one day my mom left me with my aunt. And she put some dance music on the [Victrola]. And I just had to dance. I danced all afternoon long. ‘There’s nothing wrong with her legs,’ my aunt told Mom. And I never stopped. I have been dancing [onstage] since 1921.”

She has survived three husbands, starting off with Pete Peterson. “He was part of the Vagabond Comedy Music group at a club in Miami. He was famous because he could play his ukulele with his feet.”

She says it matter-of-factly, like no big deal. “I loved him best of the three, because he was the most fun. He was full of life and I was young, and he really loved me. Yes, he was Number One.”

I have to ask the “How do you do it? Live so long, stay so young?” question.

“You’ve gotta have fun, hon. People are too serious these days. Times weren’t easy back then, but we had fun.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Let the wine make itself

“Let’s get cracking. It’s time for racking!”
Next Article

The Golf Bar: Bratwurst and ball whacking

“This is the first golf bar in San Diego.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close