Betty Fox Above the Fort Shelby Hotel

Photograph courtesy of The Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

1945To get a bird’s-eye view of the city, you don’t necessarily have to be equipped with wings. Betty Fox, part of the aerialist/skydancing team of Benny and Betty Fox, fearlessly executes one of her famous “split jumps” high above downtown Detroit in this circa-1945 photo. It’s difficult to see, but there’s a platform under her, extending from the beam. The couple’s perch (left) is the roof of the Fort Shelby Hotel (now the Doubletree Guest Suites Detroit Downtown — Fort Shelby). The thoroughfare below is Fort Street; the low building in the foreground is The Detroit Club. The Foxes took their lofty daredevil act to cities around the country, and the most exciting part occurred when they danced on an 18-inch-wide disc, culminating in the “death whirl,” in which Betty would wrap her legs around Benny’s waist and he’d rotate like a banshee, thrilling the heart-thumping crowd below.

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