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By age 28 Delmar had been a performer for a decade. For a time she entertained in the honky tonk clubs of Panama. She came to Hollywood from Detroit around 1936 and danced in many of the plushest night clubs there. She was especially adept at Russian and acrobatic dancing.
On Saturday evening, February 1, 1941, Delmar was with a group of four people that included southern California department store scion Arthur Hamburger. Hamburger's family was one of the oldest in the region and possessed numerous interests in real estate, banking, and merchandising. The Hamburger department store was one of the largest in the western United States. It was purchased a few years before by the May Company, which still controlled the business in 1941.
It was a Saturday night and Delmar and Hamburger were accompanied by film actor Robert Tracy and another dancer, Alice Dere. Dere was Delmar's roommate. The four went to various Hollywood night spots until Hamburger suggested a sail on his 60-foot (18 m) yacht, El Con-A-Dee. The yacht was an auxiliary of the coast guard.
Dere disclosed that Delmar made one dive into the water with all her clothes on, an evening dress and wrap. She pulled Delmar out of the water near Catalina Island. She took off Delmar's wet clothes and put her in a cabin to get warm, before going to look for a robe.
Dere returned to find Delmar gone. She rushed to the deck, heard a splash, and saw bubbles in the water. The dancer called for assistance. Delmar had plunged into the water wearing only a bra and "filmy" panties at 10 a.m. on the Sunday morning.
After searching the mud of the harbor for a half an hour, firemen found Delmar's body. Police contended her death was accidental but left it up to coroner Frank Nance to determine whether she committed suicide. Delmar had been drinking but the coroner could not understand her resolve to "swim in the cold and dirty water of the harbor."
Dolores Delmar was once married to Maurice Chardenet. It is unclear how she met Hamburger and Tracy. Both men claimed to have been asleep when Delmar jumped off the boat, first to the pier and then to the water below. They were released and Hamburger sailed immediately aboard the El Con-A-Dee.
Delmar's father, Berhardt Rohn of Detroit, said he did not believe his daughter drowned accidentally because "she was a good swimmer".
- "Showgirl Death Under Inquiry". Edwardsville Intelligncer. February 3, 1941. p. 2.
- "Death Puzzles". Vidette-Messenger. February 6, 1941. p. 5.