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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida • Page 66
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida • Page 66

West Palm Beach, Florida
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Extracted Article Text (OCR)

3 A i niE nin the exciting life of DIXIE LEE 1 jrc-jrr: v. ry-X J.i'v, 'X I 1 I I II V. I 1 i f. I 1 I "AH, TOROI Torol" The Torera taunt the bull, urging him to charge as the make dangerout "knee pa" from crowded quarter against bull ring fence, THE TORERA controls the bull with the "muleta," pink cape draped over tword, careful not to move and distract the bull. MAKING a "muleta pat" Dixio work tht horn of tmall, but fiorcr fighting bull within inthe of her poited body.

"Banderilla" are placed in bull's shoulder. "PARADE of lh Matador" it Ud by Dixie Lt al bordertown Fiotta. By JOYCE STEINECKE aficionados and judges if he fails to make a clean kill. For a good showing, he gets one ear; superior, two; superb, two ears and a tail. It takes a good job to rate even one "ole!" Dixie, who has fought some 30 bulls, has 11 ears and one tail as trophies.

The day of the fight begins early for Dixie. She starts the day with a luke-warm shower and heavy breakfast (eats no lunch in case of a stomach wound). She starts dressing slowly about noon. Instead of the shining "suit of lights" worn by matadors, which tradition bars to women, she dresses in skin-tight black torera suit, long-sleeved white shirt, straight-brimmed tan hat. Her long blonde hair is arranged in a neat bun.

Like all matadors, before leaving for the ring, Dixie prays to the Virgin of Gualalupe for protection. Then, the slow ride through the city to the plaza de los toros. Bullfights begin on time in Mexico, and the "parade of the matadors" begins promptly at four. Nearly all bullfighters are superstitious. Not so, this senorita.

"I don't worry about hats on beds, nor am I afraid if I draw a black-and-white bull. I believe in myself and I'm happy at what I am doing. There's only one thing on my mind when I go into the ring-give the crowd their money's worth and do the best I can." Dixie lives in a Mexican home where she is treated as one of the family. She helps around the house, goes to movies, likes to dance, likes science fiction (because it is so exciting), dates a Mexican matador, is in bed at 8:30. She finds her life "a lot of sweat and blood, with only an occasional hint of glamour," but she "wouldn't trade it for anybody's golden girl of the fiesta brava.

Since then, her right arm and five ribs have been broken on different occasions. Usually the test of a would-be matador or torera follows the first cornada. If the bullfighter shys away from the bull after being gored, he may as well quit, because critical aficionados will boo him out of the ring. But today, Dixie, who has suffered four cornadas, works her bulls as close to her body as she ever did. How did she feel after her first goring? "I didn't even know it.

The bull tossed me, and after I hit the ground my manager was hustling me out to make the kill. After the kill, I looked down and saw blood-wry blood-all over my shirt, and I fainted." Dixie fights at least three times a month in season, which begins in October. And since corridas take place only on Sundays, she is a pretty busy torera. She nets about $500 a fight, more in the border towns. Between fights, she must keep in shape by adhering to a rigid schedule.

A week day begins at 7:30 in the morning. She goes with her manager and other novillerbs (apprentices) to a deserted fronton, where they warm-up at tennis. The practice begins. A novillero brings out a bull's head mounted on a bicycle wheel. Dixie takes cape and sword and waits.

"Zum! Zum!" the novillero rushes toward her, pushing the bull's head and simulating sounds of an angry animal charging. Again and again, under the careful eye of her manager, she "passes" on the "bull." Then with the sword, she practices "the kill," thrusting it all the way through the head of a maguey plant. Being able to execute a "successful kill" is important to a matador. Regardless of fancy cape work, he receives no award from fussy circuit of the ring. White handkerchiefs flutter among the aficionados.

Hats float down into the oval cushions, serapes, flowers, anything lit all to indicate approval. The black figure approaches on its parade of triumph. It is not a boy at all-it is a tall, slender girl. Moreover-a gringa. Close up, Dixie Lee, as she is acclaimed on corrida posters plastered on walls up and down Mexico, is a smiling, friendly, brown-eyed girl with light hair and a shapely lower lip curled with determination.

Her real name is Sandra Lee Landry and she has lived most of her 21 years at Jacksonville, Florida, where her father is a retired Air Force colonel now with the airlines. Dixie has been studying the art of bullfighting for three years, and now is a torera (girl bullfighter) to be reckoned with. How did she become entranced with the ambiente (atmosphere) of the bullring? Dixie was a model with, C. 0. Chapman in New York, when she went to see the movie, "The Magnificent Matador." "When I went into the show I was going to be an actress," she explains.

"When I came out I was going to be a bullfighter." But Dixie didn't achieve her present billing as "The Yankee Empress of the Bullring" without hard work, sac-fice and pain. The first live animal she faced was a cow, during a tienta (time when bulls and cows are tested for bravery) on a breeding ranch called Xajay, outside Mexico City. "Although knew all the I was so scared. I didn't realize a cow could look so ferocious up close." And that first fightj resulted in her first cornada (goring). Her right leg was broken in five places.

IT is late afternoon of an autumn day in a Mexican bordertown. The shadows fall long across the trampled and blood-stained sands of the bullring. The stands around the oval ring are filled to capacity with a colorful crowd of aficionados (devoted bullfight fans), including a liberal sprinkling of gringos from across the border. It is a tense momeirt in the corrida (bullfight). A hush falls over the stfln's' Surrounded by thousands of people, but very much alone down in the oval, a slender, boyish figure dressed in form-fitting black stands straight and still, feet together.

Slowly, the figure removes a gleaming sword from under the pink muleta (cape), raises it above the head, pointed downward, rises on tiptoes, body poised, leaning slightly forward. "Ah, Toro! Toro!" very softly, yet audible in the dead silence throughout the encircling stands. A small, but fierce, black bull stands a few feet away, its hooves firmly planted in the sand, shaggy head lowered, angry eyes glaring. The animal blows through its nostrils, shakes its head. The banderillas (barbed spears) rattle in its shoulders.

And then the bull charges toward the slender black figure. The figure scarcely appears to move. The blade flashes in the lowering sun. "The moment of truth" has arrived. Aficionados jump to their feet in the stands.

"Olel Ole! Ole!" they shout in unison. Then they stand and wait, eyes turned toward the judges' stand. The judges signify agreement with the crowd. A brassy trumpet sounds the of triumph. An ear is severed from the slain bull and handed to the slight figure in black.

Trotting and waving the award, the figure makes a triumphal Jacksonville, Florida girl-a former modelnow rates "Ole's" from aficionados of Mexico bullrings All Florida Magoiint Mi 7 6 All Florida Mogotine 7-U i.

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