Carla Meyer Arndt was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey to a Marge and Carl Meyer. Marge worked for Prudential Insurance in Newark, while Carla’s father was employed in the Garment District of Manhattan. As an adolescent, Carla assisted a dance instructor in the instructor’s basement of their local housing development. She would continue to help the dance teacher while babysitting for families in her neighborhood. Upon graduating from high school she worked at Prudential. It was in Newark where Carla began entering beauty pageants. Her first contest won her 5th place. The next moved her to 2nd place out of 54 contestants. Soon she would take the title of “Miss Tall Doll” at Rockaway Beach, New York.
During this time Carla studied dance at the June Taylor Dance Studio in New York City. While there, she learned of a June Taylor Dancers audition, but when too few dancers turned out for the call, Carla found through a trade paper a listing for Lou Walters’ Latin Quarter. Carla auditioned at the nightclub for Donn Arden. She was asked back twice before telling Arden, “I’m taking time off from my job to come to these auditions”. He took a liking to her and said to come back tomorrow. At 6 feet in height, and 19 years of age, Carla became a Latin Quarter showgirl.
In 1962, Carla performed at the Latin Quarter and stayed through 1965 before leaving to get married and start a family. Venus Touch (1962) was her first production, produced and directed by Donn Arden, costumed by Bill Campbell. “This was a wonderful time in my life. We were like family. There was no competition.“
“The band was up high on stage and there were stairs on either side. The dancers and showgirls entered by descending the stairs. Then the stairs were pulled back when the audience would take over the stage for dancing after the show. When I performed there on New Years Eve in 1963 and ’64, I stood on the top tier of the stage holding the “6” [of “1963” and “1964”] when the clock struck midnight.”
Some of the headliners who made appearances the during her time the Quarter include Sophie Tucker, Eddie Albert, Van Johnson, Norm Crosby, Rip Taylor, Jack Durant, Francois Szony and Nancy Claire, the Barry Sisters, and others.“New York City was incredible”, Carla remembers. “All show people. Those of us who worked at night in showbiz – we owned the city then.”
Carla left the Quarter to marry in 1965, became a homemaker and shortly thereafter a mother to son, Carl. Her second marriage came in 1991, after meeting future her husband Rudy. For 38 years, Rudy worked as a Guidance Director for the Toms River High School, as well as Chair for the First Financial Credit Union in Tom River, New Jersey. “Rudy passed in 2018. A lovely man. He was the light at the end of the tunnel for me.”
Eventually Carla worked at their local Kmart where she enjoyed dressing up as Wonder Woman for Halloween, greeting customers who still remember her as the superhero’s doppelgänger. Years after her work at Kmart, Carla recalls an older gentleman approaching her at a grocery store. “I remember you,” he said. Carla replied, “I am the Kmart lady.” “No,” the man responded, “you’re Wonder Woman.”
This story is based on a phone interview between the John Hemmer Archive and Carla Meyer Arndt in February of 2023.