Hello, my name is Melani Carty, creator and webmaster of PepitoAndJoanne.com. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, my family lived in Santa Ana, California, and my Grandmother Eva lived in a nearby apartment, on 15th Street near the corner of Parton.
Every time we went to visit Grandma, we drove past an incredible Victorian house just a couple of blocks away, on the corner of 15th Street and Ross. The sign on the front of the house read “Pepito & Joanne Academy of Ballet.”
That sign inspired my mother Nancy to fulfill a long-held dream of hers to take dance lessons. Mom enrolled herself, my sister Heidi, and me, and from 1970 to 1976, we attended Joanne’s once-weekly ballet classes.
We were mesmerized by Joanne, Pepito, their mahogany-paneled dance studio, their Victorian house, and the Little Theater out back, where Pepito taught pantomime.
Especially intriguing were all the old vaudeville and nightclub publicity photos on the walls — a tantalizing peek into Pepito and Joanne’s decades as traveling vaudeville performers, and their amazing celebrity friends, including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
We have many fond memories of performing in the annual dance recitals, which were held in the huge backyard of the Victorian house, on the first Saturday of June each year.
I wish I hadn’t been such a shy kid, and had put aside my reticence and asked Joanne a few questions about her storied past. Heck, “Harriet the Spy” was one of my favorite books, and I had so many detective-type questions bursting inside me. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s, that I suddenly had the opportunity to learn the whole story of Pepito and Joanne. The only problem was that researching and organizing the boxes of their clippings and photographs and vaudeville contracts was a little bit like “The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” … but without the happy ending.
This newspaper article from The Orange County Register explains what happened next …
It is my hope that this website will be discovered and enjoyed by many other former students of Pepito and Joanne. Please get in touch — I would dearly love to hear from you.