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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mrs. Charles (Lyn) Henderson

     Mrs. Henderson (June 6, 1914 – May 1976 in Pima, Arizona) was an American dancer and stage and film actress. Born either Emylyn Pique or Juanita Emylyn Pique in Fulton, Kentucky, she grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. 
     She once told an interviewer, "I guess I'm just a natural dancer" and she recalled she was performing professionally at the age of 11 in a "kid act". She was seen and hired by song writer and vaudevillian Gus Edwards and taken on tour where she recalled that at one stop, "child labor authorities hauled her ... off the stage".  Story.
   Mrs. Henderson, better known by her stage name, Mitzi Mayfair, was in at least four Broadway productions in the 1930s, including the last edition of Flo Ziegfeld's Follies in 1931. By 1936 she was one of the highest paid vaudeville performers in the country. Her specialty was kicking her leg up to touch the back of her head. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "the manager of the Main Street Theater in Kansas City" did not like her name, and changed it to Mitzi Mayfair without her knowledge; when she first saw the name on the marquee, she thought she had been replaced. However, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle had a different story HERE which relates Gus Edwards, forgetting her name, made up the name 'Mitzi Mayfair.'
     On March 12, 1938 she married Albert Hoffman, vice-president of the Hoffman Beverage Company. They had a tumultuous marriage and separated a few years later. During World War 2 she went on a four month USO tour to North Africa along with three other Hollywood starlets to entertain the troops. When their experiences were made into the movie Four Jills In a Jeep, she played herself. Although she wasn't a trained actress her performance received good reviews. 
    Dancer Irene Castle wanted her to play her in a film but the studio gave the part to Ginger Rogers instead. In 1943 she filed for bankruptcy claiming that she only had $200 in assets. She divorced first husband Albert F. Hoffman in January 1944, and married Charles Henderson, "associate boss of the music department of the 20th Century-Fox Studio" on April 7, 1944. Henderson was a music executive from 20th Century Fox. You can find six of his games at Chessgamesdotcom.
     Soon after she retired from Hollywood to become a full-time housewife. She spent her time cooking and playing chess. Eventually she and Charles moved to Tucson, Arizona. She is buried at East Lawn Palms Cemetery in Tucson.
     She was also a chess player and appeared on the October, 1945 cover of Chess Review.
Mrs. Henderson with Hector Rossetto

      As far as I was able to determine she played in only two OTB events: a womens tournament as part of the Pan-American Chess Congress that was organized by Herman Steiner in Hollywood, California in 1945 where she played under her married name, Mrs. Charles Henderson. The tournament was won by Mary Bain and Mona May Karff with Nacy Roos finishing third. The other tournament being the Second Pan-American, also in Hollywood, in 1954 which was an open event that was won by Arthur Bisguier ahead of Rossolimo followed by Larry Evans and Herman Steiner.
Tom Fries vs. Charles Henderson.  Mrs. Henderson spectates.

   Her main chess activities seemed to have been confined to playing postal chess. She had been playing chess only three years when she started in the Chess Review Women's Postal Championship. She took a few lessons from Herman Steiner because chess meant so much to her husband. Chess Review magazine reported that playing under the name Lyn Henderson (of Los Angeles, California), she won the Southwest area championship in round 1 of their 1947 Women's Postal Chess Championship. In double-round competition with six others, from Oklahoma, Texas and California, she won all but one game, a draw with Mrs. Thelma F. Nelson of Pacific Palisades, California. The article also reported that at the time of writing she had scored three and a half points in the 1947-8 Golden Knights Championship and had a game published in their postal chess department. Here is that game, the only one I was able to locate.  Helen Rosenkjar at FindaGrave.

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