The first letter comes from an 81-year old man who wonders why the town of Pittsburgh, where Kelly was born and ran a dance studio with his mother and siblings, can’t find room in its heart to erect a statue honoring the song-and-dance legend. After all, the author cries, a town in Illinois, “recently unveiled a statue of Superman’s girlfriend, Lois Lane,” so surely, Kelly’s hometown can pay homage to him. (Read more on Pittsburgh’s possible Gene Kelly statue here.)
The second letter comes from a former dance student of Kelly who began taking ballet and tap lessons from him when she was about 4 years old; he was 19. According to the writer, Kelly was “caring, loving and demanding,” and he often encouraged his young (female?) students with the line, “If you do the step right, I’ll marry you.”
The two letters, which I thought were too cute and unassuming to keep to myself, are reprinted in full below.
Be super, Pittsburgh: Honor Gene Kelly
There’s a town in Illinois called Metropolis and it recently unveiled a statue of Superman’s girlfriend, Lois Lane. Her former home was in the brush of a cartoon artist. And in this day and age, explain why Pittsburgh can’t find any space for a statue of one of its most famous sons, the great Gene Kelly.
I am a retired New Yorker and will be 81 on Father’s Day. I have some blue and down days, like many of us octogenarians. My therapy? My DVD recorder. I just push the play button and go back to 1942 to be enchanted while watching two legends, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, singing and dancing to “The bells are ringing, for me and my gal.”
I truly doubt that looking at a statue of Clark Kent’s friend could ever do much for my spirits, but, then again, I’m not from Krypton.
JOHN K. COYLE
After reading the June 20 letter from John K. Coyle of Bedford (“Be Super, Pittsburgh: Honor Gene Kelly”), I felt compelled to write about my many years as a student of Gene Kelly.
I started dancing lessons with Gene Kelly at the tender age of 4 at the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Squirrel Hill. Several years later, he opened his own studio on Munhall Road where I continued weekly lessons for another 10 years. Gene was 19 years old when he started teaching.
My memory of him was wonderful. He was caring, loving and demanding. His two sayings were “It’s no cigar” and “Hit the nail on the head.” He also often said, “If you do the step right, I’ll marry you.”
He taught tap, toe and ballet. I took all three. He was a master and we loved him dearly.
His parents took care of the business side and his brother Fred and sister Louise also did some teaching.
I ended my “career” when he left for New York to appear on Broadway in “Pal Joey” and then onto Hollywood. No one could replace him!