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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
17 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean--Appalachian Outsiders tell all

Southern Appalachian outsiders tell allby Rob Neufeld             “Who was that woman...on the trail, the rain-matted one, the one covered in mud?”            A woman who was following her wants to know.  She’s out there in the rain, too, headed toward a cave where women were known to disappear forever,…See More
City Lights Bookstore posted an event

Carolina Writers at Home: Kathryn Byer & Thomas Rain Crowe at City Lights Bookstore

November 6, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Kathryn Byer and Thomas Rain Crowe have been included in a collection of true stories showcasing the houses where some of the most notable Southern authors have forged their writing lives. They both will be at City Lights Bookstore on Friday, November 6th at 6:30 p.m. to sign copies ofCarolina Writers at Home.  The homes in these twenty-five essays range from the classic bungalow and mid-century modern ranch house to wilder locales: a church, a trailer, and a sparsely-inhabited barrier island.…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Land Still Speaks film and Culture Vulture fest, Oct 30

Culture festival features film about mountain eldertsfrom press releaseThe Center for Cultural Preservation presents a film festival that highlights mountain heritage, Jewish heritage and African-American heritage on October 30th at the Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College.   The festival will feature three films, including the world premiere of a new film, The Land Still Speaks to Us which includes the voices of mountain elders throughout WNC.  There will also be music by local…See More
Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Oct 1
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19

Asheville girls shaped Arthur Murray’s life

by Rob Neufeld


            Once upon a time, Asheville had been a dancing city.  Folk dancing and clogging persist in the mountains, but the hip dances in Southside joints and the ballroom dances downtown have become subjects for history.

            For the ballroom dancing, one figure and one place stand out: Arthur Murray at the old Battery Park Hotel, the Biltmore Estate-quality manor that had once sat atop a now-vanished hill.  (Battery Park Apartments now occupies the location.)

            In late 1914, as England was mounting its historic first aerial bombing on Germany, Arthur Murray, age nineteen, arrived at the Battery Park.  As a teen, he’d started dancing as a way of getting beyond his Jewish immigrant neighborhood, the Lower East Side in New York.  He discovered he had a gift.

            He won a waltz contest.  He taught at the Vernon and Irene Castle school.  Baroness de Kuttleson, an established dance teacher there, took him under her wing.  She advised him to lop off his last name, Teichman, because it sounded too German.  She took him to Asheville.  She charged his clients $50 per lesson, and pocketed $45 for herself.

            From all accounts, Murray—tall, foreign-looking, elegant, and a great dancer—had been a huge hit. 

            He grew a moustache.  “When Edith Vanderbilt saw him,” Jane Heimlich, his daughter, recounts, “she instructed him to take that fool thing off.  He was quick to do so.  She was one of his staunchest supporters, and often invited him to the Biltmore House to give lessons.”

            Heimlich, author of authoritative alternative medicine books and wife of surgeon Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, has just published a memoir, titled, “Out of Step.”  In it, she vividly recalls her father’s charm because of its connection to her mother’s suicide attempt.

            Her mother, Kathryn, whom Arthur had married in 1925, would go on to be as big a star as he on the TV show, “The Arthur Murray Party” (a popular variety show, on which young comic Johnny Carson had gotten his TV break).

            But in 1930, Arthur, who had already established a world famous dance-by-mail business, further wedded himself to his work by starting a chain of dance studios.  He travelled from his suburban home to his founding studio in Manhattan and spent days and nights with young female teachers and socialites.

            “The women were like the Southern girls that Arthur had admired so much in Asheville,” Heimlich writes. 

            Murray published a book, “The Secret of Popularity.”

            Kathryn, who had enjoyed the life of a flapper, but who did not dance, went to parties and drank bathtub gin, Heimlich relates.  A hired woman took care of the house, which included the Murrays’ twin daughters.  One night, Kathryn climbed out a window, dropped, and broke her spine.

            Asheville had its own tragic post-Crash jumps.  But in 1914, the city had been flying high.  The Great Gatsby, if he’d been here, would have been drawn to Battery Park Hotel dances like an outsider to the glow of the good life.

            Murray’s path to high society involved wooing rather than the takeover approach of the fictional Gatsby.  In 1914, charming Arthur received a letter from Edith Vanderbilt, who stated she was in charge of arrangements for the Christmas Ball.

            “Dear Mr. Murray,” she wrote, “I have been requested…to ask you if you would be kind enough to perform an exhibition dance at the ball tomorrow, Tuesday evening, Dec. 25.   I understand there is a young lady in Asheville who would dance with you, and I will ask you to please extend to her this invitation.”

            At future dances, Murray partnered with such local lasses as Misses Dorothy Lytle, Jeanette Hartzog, Doris Davenport, Louise Wise and Eustice Hudley.  On Saturday afternoons, he gave classes to children. 

            “To dance smartly, as society girls must,” Murray wrote in a brochure, “it is necessary to learn from well-bred teachers who are reared in an atmosphere of culture.”


Information in this article has been drawn from Jane Murray Heimlich’s new book, “Out of Step” (Orange Frazer Press); an interview with her; and “Encyclopedia of World Biography (Advameg).



Arthur Murray poses with his wife Kathryn on the cover of their daughter Jane’s new book.

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I notice one of the local ladies who danced with Mr. Murray was Doris Davenport. I would assume this is the same lady who went on to marry Chester Pierce Munroe and lived for years on Edgemont Rd in Grove Park. Pack Library just received a collection of her papers last year which had ended up in the care of her neighbor after her death. The photo album, available online, is amazing and I can't wait to read the letters between her children, her end of the correspondence returned to her when they both died young.


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