Ziegfeld Follies, which appeared on Broadway almost every year from 1907 until 1931, was an extravagant production that included music, dance and comedy.
The biggest draw, though, was the bevy of beautiful showgirls.
It became a popular sport to guess which one would break out and become the next big star, like onetime showgirls Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Gypsy Rose Lee, Josephine Baker, and of course, Marilyn Miller.
Several Follies girls went on to enjoy successful careers in entertainment, but only two — Allyn King and Avonne Taylor — inspired baby name debuts.
Allyn King was born in North Carolina in February of 1899. It looks as though she was named after her father, Allen. (Her sister, Phoebe, was named after their mother.)
Allyn was a Follies girl from 1916 until 1920, and the name Allyn — which was already showing up regularly on the SSA’s list as a boy name — debuted as a girl name in 1918:
- 1926: 5 baby girls named Allyn
- 1925: 11 baby girls named Allyn
- 1924: 5 baby girls named Allyn
- 1923: 7 baby girls named Allyn
- 1922: unlisted
- 1921: 5 baby girls named Allyn
- 1920: unlisted
- 1919: unlisted
- 1918: 7 baby girls named Allyn [debut]
- 1917: unlisted
(I can’t include SSDI data for unisex names like this one because the SSDI doesn’t code for gender, making it impossible to know for sure which people are male and which are female.)
Allyn King continued to appear in Broadway shows during the 1920s, and she was in one silent film in 1923.
But the pressure to achieve the skinny, boyish figure that was fashionable during the ’20s proved too much for her. Extreme dieting nearly killed her in 1927, and, after spending almost two years recovering in a sanatorium, she was still so depressed in early 1930 that she jumped out of a 5th story window in New York City. She died two days later.
Avonne Taylor was born in Ohio, also in February of 1899, to parents Clifford and Diana. Her birth name was Evangeline, but she joined the Follies under the name Avonne. (I’m not sure how she came up with it.)
Avonne was a Follies girl from 1920 to 1922, and the name Avonne debuted on the SSA’s list in 1923:
- 1928: 9 baby girls named Avonne
- 1927: 12 baby girls named Avonne
- 1926: 6 baby girls named Avonne
- 1925: 12 baby girls named Avonne
- 1924: 17 baby girls named Avonne
- 1923: 11 baby girls named Avonne [debut]
- 1922: unlisted
Though the name was in use before 1923, it was too rare to appear in the publicly available SSA data. Here’s SSDI data from the same time period, for comparison:
- 1928: 3 people named Avonne
- 1927: 6 people named Avonne
- 1926: 2 people named Avonne
- 1925: 9 people named Avonne
- 1924: 11 people named Avonne
- 1923: 13 people named Avonne
- 1922: 4 people named Avonne
- 1921: unlisted
- 1920: 1 person named Avonne
- 1919: 2 people named Avonne
(For the SSDI numbers, I only counted people who had Avonne as a first name, not as a middle.)
Avonne Taylor went on to appear in a couple of films — one in 1927, the other in 1931 — and then left the entertainment industry altogether after marrying asbestos heir Tommy Manville. (The marriage lasted about a month.) She died in 1992.
Which name do you like more, Allyn or Avonne?