Felicity Isabelle Colby - Her Story in Words and Pictures
FELICITY ISABELLE COLBY
(23 March 1946 - 26 May 2011)
HER STORY IN WORDS AND PICTURES
By Gary P. Rose
Contributions by Dee Dee Wilde
|THOMAS COLBY AND ELEANOR MUGGLI||EARLY LIFE||THE BEAT GIRLS|
|PAN'S PEOPLE||EUROPE||TOP OF THE POPS||BREAKTHROUGH|
|RUBY FLIPPER, LEGS & CO AND ZOO||AFTER TOP OF THE POPS||SUMMARY||SPECIAL THANKS (Dee Dee)|
The Colby family's history has been well-documented and their tree includes many notable people, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, (author of Little House on the Prairie), Chester A. Arthur (the 21st President of the United States), William Egan Colby (former Director of the CIA), Richard Bruce Cheney (Vice President of the United States, 2001-2009), Gardner Colby (Christian philanthropist and founder of Colby College) and Bainbridge Colby (US Secretary of State 1920-1921). Their ancestry dates back to the fifteenth century.
The earliest recorded ancestor is William Colby of Lincolnshire, England. Records show that he owned land in a small village called Sempringham in 1421. One of William's descendants, Anthony Colby, sailed to New England on the Winthrop Fleet of 1650 and arrived in Boston, Massachusetts. Thomas Macy, the first town clerk of Amesbury, Massachusetts, was persecuted for harbouring Quakers and was forced to sell his home to Anthony Colby. The ancient Colby home can still be found, although the last Colby to occupy it was in 1958. There are treasured items of the Colby family still in the house. Many of the items belong to Anthony Colby but there is also a cradle which belonged to the Colby family's friend, Susannah North Martin. Susannah was involved in the notorious Salem witch trials of 1692 and was hanged as a witch.
The full history of the Colbys is the subject of a book entitled The Colby Family in Early America, by Frederick Lewis Weis, Caledonia, published by Caledonia Press in 1970.
THOMAS COLBY & ELEANOR MUGGLI
Thomas Edgar Colby was born in 1921 in New York. He attended Hamilton College and entered the U.S. Navy upon graduation, in 1942. He was in active duty with the Navy until 1945, after which he spent a year studying in Zurich. From 1947 to 1949, he taught German at his alma mater, Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York, and then began graduate study at Princeton University. He received an M.A from Princeton in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1960 and spent the next seven years on the faculty at Columbia University. Following this, he returned to Hamilton to teach German language and literature and remained at the college until his death in 1983.
Thomas married Eleanor Muggli on 22nd December 1942 in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois, and they went on to have three children, a son, Thomas, and two daughters, Michal and Felicity.
Felicity Isabelle Colby was born on 23rd March 1946 in Hazelton, Pennsylvia. A gifted child, with a natural talent for dancing, she started dancing at the age of three. According to those who knew her, she was very strong-willed, even as a child, and was determined to do things her way. She was popular at school and always participated in the talent contests that took place there. She got involved in their drama productions too, playing Katherine in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, and performing in a production of The Skin of Our Teeth. She was educated in Clinton, New York and Andover, Maryland and later attended the prestigious Joffe Ballet Company in New York. She worked in Ethnic and Modern Jazz Ballet at the Perry Mansfield School in Colorado and, at 18, choreographed the Harvard College production of Bye Bye Birdie.
She took ballet and dance lessons in Boston before joining a repertory theatre company, where she met her first husband, Robert Marasco. She sang and danced in Summerstock productions of Bye Bye Birdie, Damn Yankees, The Boyfriend, Gypsy, Annie Get Your Gun and The Fantasticks, amongst others, before moving to Europe.
THE BEAT GIRLS
Felicity arrived in London in early January 1966 with her husband, Robert, who was attending film school. It was the height of the Swinging Sixties and London was the place to be. The Beatles were on the scene and Felicity, now affectionately known as Flick, wanted to be a part of it. In those days, there was only the Dance Centre in Covent Garden, Floral Street, so all the dancers used to congregate there. Gary Cockrell ran and owned the centre and Flick attended classes there. To make ends meet, she took a job as a go-go dancer in a Soho nightclub. In the meantime, Gary created a group of dancers called the Beat Girls who were performing for a BBC programme called The Beat Room. The Dance Centre was where the Beat Girls rehearsed and Flick joined them at the end of January. It was through the Dance Centre and the Beat Girls that Flick would meet the girls who would later become her colleagues and, subsequently, her life-long friends, in Pan's People.
Babs Lord and Ruth Pearson were original members of the Beat Girls, having joined in the group in 1964 but, by the time Flick joined, Ruth had left to form her own group, Tomorrow's People. In May 1966, Dee Dee Wilde, Lorelly Harris and Penny Fergusson signed up as members of the Beat Girls, joining Babs, Flick and Diane South. This line-up performed in several television shows, including The Dickie Valentine Show. In September 1966, the Beat Girls went to Venice with the Luvvers pop group where they performed at a party thrown by Universal Studios after the premiere of the film Fahrenheit 451.
One of the most influential music shows was Top of the Pops and, to appear on the show meant that artists had reached their peak. The show often featured a dance troupe called the Gojos but Flick thought the show should have a regular dance troupe and decided to do something about it.
On 8th December 1966, Flick, Babs, Dee Dee, Lorelly and Penny formed their own group (Diane had left the Beat Girls to work as a choreographer for Gary Cockrell at the Dance Centre). After much discussion, the girls came up with the name Pan's People. Looking for a sixth person to complete the line-up, Felicity Balfour-Smith, a former school friend of Dee Dee's, was brought in. However, Felicity decided to leave after a few months and Pan's People continued as a five-piece. Flick's marriage to Robert dissolved shortly after arriving in London and, in 1967, she married publicist James Ramble in Westminster. James was also the personal manager of the group Dantalian's Chariot but, after marrying Flick, he took the role of manager and publicist for Pan's People. After careful consideration, Flick decided that Pan's People would function better as a six-piece so, in March 1967, she contacted Ruth Pearson and invited her to join the group. Then Lorelly left to join the Bluebell Girls in Paris and was replaced by Andrea Rutherford. Penny left at Christmas 1967 and was replaced by Louise Clarke. So, by the time Pan's People performed on Top of the Pops in the Spring of 1968, the line-up we know so well was complete.
In 1967, the newly formed six-piece toured Europe, where they spent the next eighteen months, appearing on television and in cabaret. Flick choreographed most of their routines but Ruth collaborated with her on a couple of occasions. On television, Pan's People appeared in three series of Vibrato for Belgium's RTB network and also appeared in Hits a Go Go in Switzerland and Beat, Beat, Beat in Germany. One of their highlights was appearing in a television spectacular called Carousel D'ete, which was broadcast in Holland, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. Pan's People appeared in two Royal Command Gala Performances for the Belgium National Company, Die Fiedermaus, in 1968, and Guliver, in 1969. On both occasions, Flick choreographed.
For their cabaret work, Flick recruited two male dancers, Adrian le Peltier and Gary Downie, who accompanied them throughout their European tour. Flick became a star in her own right in Holland, after she appeared in her own Showcase TV Special called Felicity. The show included a 15 minute improvisation to Mozart and went on to win Holland's official entry at the Munich Television Festival in 1967. Through sheer hard work - and determination - Flick, and Pan's People, soon gained a reputation and, when they returned to London, they were eventually offered a regular spot on Britain's biggest music show...Top of the Pops.