“I remember the idea for a name and its origins, but I would say the origin was somewhere between New Orleans music in the early ’30s and flapper music in the mid-1960s,” said John DeSoto, a flutist and founder of the Flappers Union, which has chapters in Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. “Most people call it flapper. It wasn’t until the mid-’70s that the term started to emerge around the world. For many years, the term was only used here in the Midwest and a few of us called ourselves the Flappers.”
From the beginning, the Flappers Union had a very specific mission: it fought for the rights of flappers and the flapper community to make their art visible within the larger entertainment industry. In fact, DeSoto and his friends founded The Flappers Union to fight for the legal recognition of the flapper community and in 1978 the organization took on the battle for the rights of The Flappers, a group of black singers that had begun to take over nightclubs in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Chicago in the late 1960s.
But despite its long history, John DeSoto says he never heard of a flapper named Betty. Flappers had no concept of what flapped meant.
Today, there continues to be a lot of confusion about the term flapper. So when a flapper, or a band, or just a musician, asks an interviewer for help getting a flapper’s name, the first person to answer is usually Betty Davenport, the flapper’s union co-founder. Davenport said that the name was a misnomer and, once it was recognized and made official, flappers embraced the new term.
So did she and other flappers have a lot of fun?
“All the time!” she said. “My friends used to call it the ‘Flapper Olympics,’ and I still use that term as a way to describe how fun they were. I mean, we had the craziest routines ever, you know? We would just do a series of jumps with this little little white stick until we fell into the crowd, and then we would fall like crazy into the crowd. We were so funny! It was really fun! But, the main thing was that we had so many different personalities who would have a routine to do and there was never a time we did one that was not funny. You never knew who was going to
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