Zorita: vintage 8x10 photo
At nine months old, Zorita was adopted from a Youngstown, Ohio orphanage. When only four, her adoptive father died and her adoptive mother soon remarried, and her new step-father abused Zorita from the very beginning. Hence, to escape a tumultuous home-life, Zorita married when she was only 15 years old. The marriage did not last, and Zorita worked odd jobs to support herself. While working as a cigarette girl at the New York State Fair, she saw her first burlesque style show and became captivated by the dancer. Shortly thereafter, she made herself a costume and waltzed into a local club claiming to be the dancer from the fair, and landed her first burlesque job.
Zorita’s trademark name and dancing companion did not come until a little later in her career (mid-1930s). At that time she was working as a dancer at the San Diego California Pacific International Exposition. It was there that she befriended another Expo employee, who was a snake handler. At the end of the Exposition, he gifted her with a large indigo snake named Elmer, and she and Elmer moved to San Francisco. A theater owned in San Franciso hired her to do a veil dance and gave her the name Zorita, but after learning of her unique pet, he convinced her to work Elmer into her act….they rest, as they say, is history.