Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Discussion »
LOS ANGELES A couple generations ago, American Indian women seemed to have had a special affinity to Elvis Presley, one of the most popular singers of all time. Whether it was his handsome looks, his crooning in songs such as "Love Me Tender," or whatever, American Indian women loved Elvis Presley.
Just ask around.
Rita Rogers with Elvis Presley
For Rita Rogers, Apache and Spanish/Jewish, who passed away June 11th at the age of 76, her dancing abilities and good looks landed her roles as a dancer in many of Elvis' movies. She became known as one of Elvis' girls within the Hollywood circuit. Behind the scenes, she and Elvis became close friends.
“I think people should know about this. When I was young I would see Elvis often,”
stated Joanelle Romero, of Red Nation Film Festival.
“He became a friend of our family.”
Rita Rogers - Apache
Rogers was a studio actress who danced beside Elvis in featured films such as "Viva Las Vegas," "Harum Scarum," "Spinout," "Clambake," "Kissin' Cousins," "Roustabout," and "Speedway," with Nancy Sinatra.
She was born Ida Mae Aragon in Albuquerque, New Mexico on January 10, 1936 to Ramon and Cecelia Aragon.
She started her career doing plays with her father-in-law and daughter. She made her stage debut as a showgirl in Las Vegas in numerous shows, then moved to Hollywood to become a movie star.
“Well, I started working extra to support my family, because I always had the goal to be an actress and director and everything you know. A superstar that's what I wanted to be,”
Rita Rogers told an interviewer late in life.
Rita Rogers with Elvis Presley
Beyond her roles in Elvis movies, Rogers starred in Peter Fonda's first directional feature film "The Hired Hand." Her other roles include with Robert Mitchum in "The Sundowners;" "Our Man Flint" with James Coburn; "The Dirty Dozen" with Lee Marvin and John Cassvetes; "The Devils Brigade" with William Holden; "The Wild Bunch" with Holden and Warren Oates; and many other roles that continued into the 1980s.
Television roles includes: "McHale's Navy," "Kung Fu," and the "The Mystic Warrior" on ABC with her daughter, "Joanelle Romero."
She always stayed close to her American Indian heritage. Chief Leonard Crow Dog gave her Indian name "Wamble Win" which translate to Eagle Woman.
In 1968, she went to Peru to represent the United States in film, she was treated like royalty and with great respect. Besides her friendship with Elvis, this experience was one of the highlights of her life.
Diagnosed with liver cancer in 2004, she fought the disease for years and passed away on July 8.
She leaves behind a Hollywood legacy as evidenced by the success of her daughter, Joanelle Romero, who starred in "Powwow Highway," "Hatter Fox," and "Black Cloud." Romero also directed "American Holocaust: When It's All Over I'll Still Be Indian." Additionally, Rogers grandchildren are actors: granddaughter, Sage Galesi, starred in "Dreamkeeper" and "Into the West;" and grandson, Montano Rain, was young Neo in "Matrix Reloaded."
Rita Rogers will be honored at the 9th Annual Red Nation Film Festival on November 7 in Beverly Hills.
updated August 2, 2012 1:30 pm edt; posted August 1, 2012 12:40 pm edt
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