Kay Laurel ~ The Tragic Aphrodite

 Kay Laurel Nude

Kay Laurel was a Ziegfeld Follies star and actress who died during childbirth.

She was born Ruth M. Leslie on June 28, 1890 in Erie, Pennsylvania. Sadly her father George died when she was eight. Kay briefly worked as a telephone operator. Then she moved to New York City and became an artist's model. She started dating George Messinger, a merchant from San Francisco. When he broke up with her in 1913 she sued him for $25,000 for breach of promise. Florenz Ziegfeld discovered her in 1914 and offered her a role in the Ziegfeld Follies. The shapely brunette caused a sensation when she appeared as a semi-nude Aphrodite in the opening of the show. Kay quickly became famous for her perfect figure and her willingness to be nude on stage. Florenz Ziegfeld said she was "the embodiment of feminine beauty." At the height of her popularity she was earning $500 a week. She married producer Winfield Sheehan in 1916 and retired from the stage. They had a very rocky relationship and legally separated in 1918.

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Kay Laurel Nude
Kay often posed nude

That Spring she returned to the Ziegfeld Follies. Kay made her film debut in the 1919 drama The Brand. Then she appeared in the films The Valley Of The Giants and Lonely Heart. Unfortunately she wasn't offered any other film roles. Kay starred in the Broadway shows Quarantine and Nocturne. She also performed vaudeville. In 1925 she moved to Europe and acted with a French stock company. She fell in love with Joseph Whiteside Boyle, a businessman, and moved to London, England. The couple wanted to get married but she was still legally married to Winifred Sheehan. She became pregnant in the Spring of 1926. Tragically on January 31, 1927 she died shortly after giving birth. When she was told it was a boy she spoke her last words "That is just what I wanted." Kay was only thirty-six years old. Her body was cremated in London. The press falsely reported that she had died from pneumonia. She left her entire $100,000 estate to her fiance who raised their son Joseph Kay Boyle.

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