That's when I learned I was named for the actress Rita Hayworth. But, the story was more involved than being named for one of the biggest film stars of her era. My father spent a good chunk of world war two in the navy as a ship's cook. My father acquired what would become the second most popular pin-up poster of the war. It was of Miss Hayworth and it hung in his galley during his entire time aboard ship. Dad claimed that Rita Hayworth's sultry eyes and sexy pose were the only things that kept him going and were responsible for his making it home after the war.
I never could get a description of that infamous poster from my father. If he still possessed it after his 1945 marriage to my mother it never came to light. My research tells me Rita Hayworth's famous and sultry pose in a black negligee quickly made its way across the Atlantic in 1941, as troops brought the picture with them on their way to war. It ended up as the second most popular pinup in all of World War II.
I'm not sure that this is the same photo but it is the only black negligee photo I've been able to locate. The two photos below however, were not too far down in the pecking order. I would not be surprised to find the shot of Miss Hayworth in the swimsuit with the ship's wheel was the actual poster my father spoke of having even though he insisted he had the second best selling pinup poster of the war.
Hayworth, whose two brothers both fought in the conflict, didn't just pose for pictures: she also was involved in selling war bonds, and appeared in many USO shows. Her famous strawberry-blond hair was actually an act: her real hair color was jet black, but she dyed it a dark red and even underwent electrolysis to alter her hairline after she became concerned about being typecast in "Hispanic" roles. Rita Hayworth was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 as Margarita Carmen Cansino, the oldest child of two dancers. Her father, Eduardo Cansino, Sr., was from a little town near Seville, Spain. Her mother, Volga Hayworth, was an American of Irish-English descent who had performed with the Ziegfeld Follies.
A few days ago I received an interesting video link in my e-mail from a family member. It features Rita Hayworth in an assortment of old film clips dancing to the song "Stayin' Alive." Somebody had a lot of fun putting this clip together. Most of the people in the clips were deceased before the Bee Gee's released this song in December 1977. Rita Hayworth died at the age of 68 from Alzheimer's disease on May 14, 1987.
I could not get the embedded video below to play on my system. If it does not work for you please click on the link in blue to watch my name sake Rita Hayworth strut her stuff in this amazing video on U-tube.
And, just in case your wondering what the number one selling poster was during the war years.
It was this one of Betty Grable.
And, as a little side note: I never thought the name Rita fit me. In my book, it is too exotic for my personality and since about the age of ten, and long before knowing about this actress and her poster, I wished my parents had named me Betty.