Diane Shelton: Champion Baton Twirler Performed in War-Torn Vietnam (1966)

Diana Shelton, Baton Twirler, performs for U.S. Soldiers stationed in Vietnam, Christmas Day 1966
Diane Shelton, Baton Twirler, performs for U.S. Soldiers stationed in Vietnam, Christmas Day 1966

Baton Twirler Performed in Vietnam on Christmas Day 1966

Diane Shelton was an accomplished baton twirler who toured Vietnam with Bob Hope’s USO shows in 1966. William Harrell was stationed in Vietnam and serving in the 7th Surgical Hospital (MA) at Cu Chi, Vietnam in 1966, when he photographed Shelton twirling for US Troops. It was Christmas Day.

Harrell took many pictures while in Vietnam, which he has generously shared on Flickr.

An article about Shelton is available on the International Jugglers’ Association website, juggle.org. Here is an excerpt:

“When Diane was four years old, she saw a baton twirler in a Saint Patrick’s Day parade in San Francisco and immediately decided that she wanted to learn the skill. Her parents soon enrolled her in dance and baton twirling lessons. Diane became a national baton twirling champion at the age of twelve. She then put together a polished and highly technical baton twirling act that contained baton juggling. She appeared on many television shows during the 1960s and 1970s, including the Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the Mike Douglas Show. She regularly appeared in circuses and night clubs throughout the country.”

Hippodrome TV Show

Hippodrome was a “lavish” UK-based television show that featured a spectacular variety of acts including this one of Diane in 1966. It begins with a performance of dancers dressed up in King Guard fashion and dancing to John Philip Sousa’s El Capitan. At 2:15, Shelton loses her AirPod, I mean earring. Ha! Also, she’s twirling in pink high heels. She performs a one, two and three baton routine before an assistant wearing blue pantyhose (totally adorable) lights two fire batons for her. She ends the routine with three fire batons. At 2:29 you can see a hoop baton in the frame, but she never uses it in the performance. This is truly an amazing performance by a world champion.

Today, Ms. Shelton is Dr. Shelton, D.V.M, PhD, DACVIM, and the Director of Comparative Neuromuscular Laboratory, UC San Diego.

Bob Hope Christmas Special 1966

The Christmas special aired on NBC in 1967. Ms. Shelton appears around the 1 hour, 4 minute mark. For a soldier’s firsthand account of Diane’s performance, visit War Stories.

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