Erna Segal Erna Grabler

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Erna Segal Erna Grabler, who danced under the name Chiquita in the dance duo Chiquita and Johnson in the ’50s and early ’60s, and afterward became a screenwriter and novelist writing under the name Erna Olinger, has died at UCLA’s Liver Transplant Intensive Care Unit awaiting a liver transplant. The cause of death is believed by her family to be pulmonary Aspergillosis from toxic mold, pending an autopsy. She died Saturday morning, April 5, a day before her 65th birthday.

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Segal started studying ballet at age 5. At 12, she was offered a scholarship to join the Bolshoi Ballet, but wanting to go west instead, teamed up with John von Kralik, aka Johnson. Thirty years her senior, Johnson received the guardianship over Segal from her divorced father. The team they formed became world famous as Chiquita and Johnson.

Leaving the Iron Curtain behind, they became an instant success with their unique ballet-adagio style. They performed in Germany and toured the Middle East, dancing for kings and queens.

After performing in Cuba they came to the United States, where their first engagements were the “Ed Sullivan Show” and Radio City Music Hall. They went on to perform in the top hotels in Las Vegas and opened shows for Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Lena Horn and Red Skelton, among others.

In 1956, she and Johnson were married and bought a home in Malibu, but the couple divorced in 1960. In 1962, she met Daniel Segal, whom she married a year later.

Giving up the touring life, she and her new husband lived in Malibu and opened ASO Films, a specialty film distribution company, while they also wrote screenplays together. Among the shows they wrote and produced were “Dan Haggerty Goes to the Circus” for NBC and “Man Isn’t Dying Of Thirst” for PBS.

Along with screenwriting, Segal wrote three novels. Her sprawling science-fiction novel, “The Ademian Line,” will be published by FictionSpin in May.

Segal is survived by her husband, Daniel Segal, her sister, Kveta, and three nephews Tommy, Ivan and David. In lieu of flowers, in Erna Segal’s name, please contact your representatives to help educate, eliminate and fight the effects of lethal Aspergillus toxic mold.