Dorothy Bercu was born in Douglas, Wyoming, on June 14th, 1917 to George and Olive Bercu. Her father was a Jewish immigrant from Romania, and her mother hailed from Minnesota. The American West provided many economic opportunities for Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and Jewish-owned businesses were a feature of many western towns. Her father owned the Chicago Hide, Fur, and Wool business.
The show advertised in the poster was a Vaudeville production staged at the Opera House in Grace, Idaho, in 1937. The Bercu Sisters, featured in the 1937 show as dancers and acrobats, traveled and performed on the Orpheum circuit, which stretched from Chicago to California and included a theater in Denver. This performance took place during their second stint in Vaudeville; about ten years previously they had toured and performed as children. Their acts encompassed tap dancing, Mexican style dances, and acrobatics, and were often performed with Dorothy and Harryette wearing extravagant costumes.
Dorothy grew up in Wyoming, but as a show business performer, she traveled widely. Over the course of three decades (1917 to 1939), she resided variously in Douglas, Denver, Grand Junction, Albuquerque, and Salt Lake City.
She and her younger sister Harryette became popular Vaudeville performers, dancers, acrobats, and dance studio owners. Dorothy and Harryette performed as the “Bercu Sisters” in many Vaudeville shows and venues, including the Gold Palace in Juarez, Mexico. Dorothy later married Norman Gross, a doctor who became a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. The couple had three children: a daughter, Valerie, and two sons, Gary and Dennis, and the family traveled extensively. Dorothy also had a later career as a dance and health instructor.
Vaudeville was a popular form of variety show in the United States from the 1890s through the 1930s. It developed into a family entertainment venue after it evolved from more risqué types of shows performed for frontiersmen in the mid-1800s. Many early well-known American Hollywood stars, such as W.C. Fields and Will Rogers, worked in Vaudeville, and a number of the early performers were Jewish.
This poster and photograph are part of the Bercu Gross Family Papers (B356), which contain materials donated by Dorothy Bercu Gross.