Bill Holliday: A Bit of Balloon History
by Ralph Dewey
This article is about a balloon twister of color from the early days. Bill Holliday was included in my balloon history book, Balloon Twister Origins, but here is some additional information.
Bill Holliday was talented in many ways. He was a master of ceremonies, ventriloquist, trumpet player, interior decorator and balloon twister. As a ventriloquist he performed with JoJo his vent figure. At one time Bill played the trumpet with the “Lucky” Millinder band. Bill learned the art of balloon twisting by teaching himself and reading several books on the art of balloon twisting. Bill was very talented that way and had the gift of self teaching. In fact Bill Holliday did this with most of his entertainment skills.
Bill’s wife, Jean Holliday, was famous in her own right. Jean was one of the first African American dancers to perform as a Exotic Fan Dancer using the stage name of Jean Idelle and became described as the “Sepia Sally Rand.” Jean became a burlesque icon and at age 82 Jean did something most women wouldn’t do at any age. The great-grandmother of five went onstage before a live audience in Las Vegas and stripped. She performed her 8 minute signature fan dance at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender event. It resulted in an enthusiastic standing ovation. Jean is surrounded by Bill’s balloons in the photo below.
Bill Holliday was booked at various night clubs all over the United States/Canada. In between his shows as a master of ceremonies, ventriloquist & trumpet player he would amaze his audience with his talent of balloon twisting. Bill and Jean appeared in many shows together. Bill was very active during the 1940’s, 50’s & 60’s and since balloon twisting was such a rare art form, he always wowed the audience with his balloons. He mouth inflated his balloons and used mostly airship, spirals and round balloons in making his creations. In 1953 Bill Holliday was featured in Jet magazine with his balloons.
Bill passed away in 1971 at the age of 57. Jean is now 83 and living in New York state.