Howard, a 44-year-old public relations consultant (the other Ritas are 30ish), "fell in love" with Hayworth after seeing Gilda as a child. Over the years she has dyed her hair red, married a Lebanese—Rita married Aly Khan, remember—and even named her daughter Yasmin. "She's patterned her whole life after Rita Hayworth," says another Rita. When a local theater held a Hayworth film festival two years ago, Howard saw her chance to do more. She gathered six fun-loving single friends, and they paraded out-front dressed to the nines. "That brought our first publicity," says Howard, "and we liked it." Just by passing a hat when they appear, the seven performing Ritas have raised more than $1,000 for the national Alzheimer's Association, and there are now 30 members in the club, which calls itself international, Howard explains, "because we have one member in Rome."
There have been other changes. "Originally we said we wanted to meet and marry princes," admits Howard, "but we're too liberated for that. Now we say we want to meet them, then we'll decide what to do with them."
Of course every dream ends, and too soon every Rita turns back into a yuppie. "We have more fun as Rita, and we all look better as Rita," Howard says. "But then I think the whole world would look better as Rita."
By day they're typical yuppie women—a stockbroker, a graphic artist, a law student, the usual stuff—but on Wednesdays at 8 in the evening, stand back, boys. At that hour they put on slinky, black satin gowns, furs, flaming red wigs and white gardenias, turn into the International Rita Hayworth Fan Club and lip-synch their way through a tape of Put the Blame on Mame, Hayworth's hot number from the movie Gilda. On special occasions these Philadelphia women have shimmied at a street fair in front of Mayor Wilson Goode, for sailors from the USS Forrestal and at a Hayworth look-alike contest, which club president April Howard appropriately won. All this strutting is not just campy fun. "We formed the club to create an awareness of what a fabulous sex goddess and savvy woman Rita was," says Howard, "and to raise money for Alzheimer's disease, because it's killing her."