September 14, 2015 at 12:04 am #13865Craig_AdamsParticipant
Today September 14, 1909 Florence Marguerite Nelson was born in Warren, Oregon to Marguerite Mae “Maggie” (Downing) and John A. Nelson, who was a farmer. Florence had six older brothers: Guy Willard, Lester Virgil, Nels, Herbert Edward & Paul E. Plus one older sister: Mildred G.
In 1913 Florence parents separated. Her mother Maggie took the children to Portland. Florence attended Woodmere school where she liked to sing. On March 26, 1920 Florence was part of the Woodmere school production of “Boy Blue” where she performed a solo dance. On June 20, 1922 when she was 13, Florence led girls in a dance production for the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.
She entered dance contests at the old Liberty Theater and became a pupil at Mose Christensen Dance Studio, learning a variety of styles, including ballet. It was there that a New York ballet master, Stefano Mascagno, spotted her while he was teaching a two-week course and said she had talent. He said if her mother would bring her to New York the following Summer, he’d have her soloing on Broadway. Christensen offered to pay the fare and told her she could pay him back by teaching some of his pupils when she came back. She had just graduated from Ockley Green Elementary School.
In New York Florence got work with a unit of Paramount and began appearing in theaters and on the road. On September 4, 1927 it was reported Florence was having continued success with appearances at the “Strand Theater” in New York City. Fellow performers included Rudy Vallee, Ben Bernie and Duke Ellington. Once “Billboard” magazine and “Variety” called her the best “blues” dancer on Broadway.
On May 30, 1930 it was reported Florence had made her home in New York City & Orange, N.J. for the past 5 years. On February 14, 1932 it was announced Florence was a dancer in Ed Wynn’s “The Laugh Parade” a popular stage and vaudeville production. She was spotted by Hollywood talent scouts in 1933. Florence turned down three job offers until the ante went up to $100 a week..
Once during her earliest days in Hollywood, Greta Garbo was stalking around alone behind a set while waiting to go before the camera. Florence collided with her. “Vy don’t you look where you are going?” Garbo demanded. “I was thrilled at the notice,” Florence said. Later, Garbo was a shoes-off friendly person when they met at gatherings, she said.
On August 30, 1937 it was announced Florence was now under contract with MGM. This led to choreographing dance numbers in 21 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals as MGM’s Assistant Dance Director, usually including herself in every chorus at least once. She taught Clark Gable how to waltz for “Gone With the Wind.” She taught dancing to Mickey Rooney and worked on all the Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald movies. Florence’s dancing feet frequently “doubled” for stars whose limbs were not as photogenic.
Although she could assume the Hollywood image of glamor, she said she was a strait-laced person. Clark Gable invited her to his dressing room, but she stuck her foot in the door to keep it open. The set men laughed uproariously, she said, and so did Gable, who became a good friend. In “Gone With The Wind” Florence is the dancer in a gray silk dress, in the great ballroom scene early in the movie. On May 18, 1939 Florence’s father John A. Nelson died at age 69 in Portland.
In October 1939 an acquaintance told Florence she just had to meet a man she knew in Portland. Florence came up to the Rose City for this blind date in high heels, silver fox furs, a black suite and pillbox hat. She then telephoned the man and just 9 days later he proposed.
On December 14, 1939 Florence Marguerite Nelson, 30, married 33 year old Forrest McDonald Pickett, a chemist for Standard Oil. She had left Hollywood for married life. The couple lived at 1410 N.E. Weidler. Then moved to Spokane and then back to Portland. On September 19, 1940 Florence & Forrest welcomed their son Forrest “Nelson” Pickett.
By August 1948 she had opened the “Nelson Pickett Studio of Ballet” at 918 S.W. Washington St. with Florence Nelson Pickett as Instructress. In December 1952 Florence presented The Nelson Pickett Dancers at Amato’s Supper Club. On January 30, 1953 Florence mother Marguerite Mae “Maggie” Nelson died at age 78 in Portland.
In 1954 Quenton H. Cox, KGW Radio General Manager heard Florence’s melodic and cheery voice during an interview. “Your voice doesn’t grate,” he said, inviting her to go on the air. The station gave her the air name Konnie G. Worth, standing for the initials K.G.W. She was also given the title KGW Women’s Director. Konnie was heard on KGW by July 26, 1954 from 11:30 to Noon weekdays as part of “The Moon Mullins Show”, a deejay.
On August 27, 1954 KGW gave Konnie her own program called “To The Ladies” 11:30 to Noon weekdays. As Konnie’s name became more well known, the program was also called “Konnie G. Worth.” On December 17, 1956 Konnie hosted the debut of “Telerama” 12:30pm to 2:00pm weekdays on the new KGW-TV. Also called “Telerama Theater” she emceed a movie with guest interviews and presented a feature on cooking with chef Gino Airaldi.
On April 4, 1958 the last “To The Ladies” program aired on KGW, replaced by ABC Radio’s “Listen Ladies.” On September 29, 1958 it was announced Konnie was selected to replace Nancy Wells on the “Telescope” program. On October 10, 1958 the last “Telerama” program aired on KGW-TV. On November 17, 1958 Konnie began hosting KGW-TV’s “Telescope” 9:00 to 10:00am weekdays which featured fashions, news & exercises.
On January 16, 1961 Konnie G. Worth was named “1961 Woman of The Year” by the Women’s Forum. Konnie was cited for being a board member of The Sunshine Division, The Governor’s Committee on Home Safety, Candle Lighters, member of the Order of The Mystic Rose, Women’s Ad Club, Toastmistress Club, The Forum, The Order of Eastern Star. Konnie helped select and train Portland’s first Meter Maids. She was praised for her work in helping the Toy & Joy Makers program to providing toys to needy children. She was also mistress of ceremonies for the New Mothers March of Dimes. Konnie was also named “Portland Woman of Accomplishment” in a program conducted by the Oregon Journal.
On February 15, 1968 it was announced Konnie G. Worth was appointed by Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara to represent Oregon on the 49 member Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. Konnie resigned from the “Telescope” program and was off the air by September 1, 1968. By February 1969 Konnie was working for Churchills Tours, Inc.
On January 11, 1975 Konnie’s brother Guy Willard Nelson died at age 81 in Vancouver, Wash. On March 6, 1983 Konnie’s brother Herbert Edward Nelson died at age 83 in Portland. On August 20, 1988 Konnie’s husband Forrest McDonald Pickett died at age 81 in Portland.
On November 29, 1989 Konnie G. Worth passed away at age 80 in Portland. She died of respiratory failure after abdominal surgery on November 27th. At her request there was no funeral. She wanted her body left to medical science.
Special Thanks to Joel Miller who helped make this biography more complete.
References: Medford Mail Tribune, The Oregonian.
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