June Havoc


June Havoc (November 8, 1912 – March 28, 2010) was a Canadian-born American actress, dancer, writer, and theater director. Havoc was a child Vaudeville performer under the tutelage of her mother. She later acted on Broadway and in Hollywood, and stage directed, both on and off-Broadway. She last appeared on television in 1990 on General Hospital.
Havoc was the younger sister of burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee.
Early life
She was born as either “Ellen Evangeline Hovick” or “Ellen June Hovick,” in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, probably in 1912, although some sources indicate 1913. She herself was uncertain of the year – according to The New York Times obituary, her mother forged several birth certificates. (Her mother reportedly had five birth certificates for her).
Her lifelong career in show business began when she was a child, billed as “Baby June”. Her only full sibling, Rose Louise Hovick (1911–1970), was called “Louise” by her family members. Their parents were Rose Thompson Hovick (1890–1954) and John Olaf Hovick, a Norwegian American, who worked as a newspaper advertising man.
Following their parents’ divorce, the two sisters earned the family’s income by appearing in vaudeville, where June’s talent often overshadowed Louise. Baby June got an audition with Alexander Pantages (1876–1936), who had come to Seattle in 1902 to build theaters up and down the west coast of the United States. Soon, she was launched in vaudeville and also appeared in Hollywood movies. She could not speak until the age of three, but the films were all silent. She would cry for the cameras when her mother told her that the family’s dog had died.
In December 1928, Havoc, in an effort to escape her overbearing mother’s ambitions for her career, eloped with Bobby Reed, a boy in the vaudeville act. Rose reported Reed to the police and he was arrested. Rose had a concealed gun on her when she met Bobby at the police station. She pulled the trigger, but the safety was on. Eventually, Reed was released and June married him, leaving both her family and the act. The marriage did not last, but the two remained on friendly terms. By the age of 17, she had an affair with an older married man, Jamie Smythe, reportedly a big-time marathon promoter. He fathered her only child, April Hyde (April 2, 1930 – December 28, 1998), who was an actress in the 1950s known as April Kent.
June’s elder sister, Louise, gravitated to burlesque and became a well-known performer using the stage name Gypsy Rose Lee.
Film and stage
June adopted the surname of Havoc, a variant of her birth name. She got her first acting break on Broadway in Sigmund Romberg’s Forbidden Melody in 1936. She later starred in Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey on Broadway. Havoc moved to Hollywood in the late 1940s, appearing in such movies as Gentleman’s Agreement.
Havoc and her sister continued to get demands for money and gifts from their mother until her death in 1954. After Rose’s death, the sisters then were free to write about her without risking a lawsuit. Lee’s memoir, titled Gypsy, was published in 1957 and was taken as inspirational material for the Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents Broadway musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Havoc did not like the way she was portrayed in the piece which became a source of contention between the two. Havoc and Lee became estranged for many years, but later reconciled shortly before Lee’s death in 1970.
Havoc wrote two memoirs, Early Havoc and More Havoc. She also wrote a play entitled Marathon ’33, based on Early Havoc with elements of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? The play starred Julie Harris, and ran briefly on Broadway.
Personal life
Havoc was married three times. Her first marriage was in 1929 to Bobby Reed, a boy in her vaudeville act. The marriage ended in divorce.
She married for a second time, in 1935, to Donald S. Gibbs; they later divorced. Her third marriage, to radio and television director and producer William Spier (1906–1973), lasted from January 25, 1948 until his death.
Havoc’s sister, Gypsy Rose Lee, died of lung cancer in 1970, aged 59, and is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, in Inglewood, California.
Havoc was devoted to animals, offering a caring and loving home to various creature from orphaned geese to donkeys. Her homes in Weston, Wilton and finally North Stamford, Connecticut housed animals for decades.
Havoc died at her Stamford, Connecticut home on March 28, 2010, at age 97.
Havoc was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play in 1964 for Marathon ’33, which she also wrote. In 2000, Havoc was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
The June Havoc Theatre, housed at the Abingdon Theatre in New York City, was named for her in 2003.


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