As far as vintage Burlesque stars, probably the most famous. The one who could peel of her clothes and make you laugh, who was deemed by some as ‘obscene’ but featured in Vogue Magazine. Gypsy Rose Lee.
America’s most legendary stripper, was born Rose Louise Hovick on 9th February 1911 in Seattle, Washington. Both Rose and her sister June were vaudeville performers, pushing them was their mother Rose. A classic stage mum. Ironically June was the star of the two of them, Her sister very much in the background. Young Rose eventually decided that since she was not a good singer or dancer, she would be better off in burlesque.
What set Gypsy apart from other strippers, was that she peppered her routine with witty comments about fine art and other cultural references. Given that Burlesque was a more ‘working class’ form of entertainment (thanks to the cheap fee and the racier humour). Plus she actually removed very little clothing, think for tease than strip. If you were anyone in burlesque, THE place to perform was Minsky’s in New York. Gypsy was their star act for 4 years. Like many of her colleagues, Gypsy was frequently arrested for indecent exposure.
Gypsy was fortunate enough to have couturier Charles James, create beautiful gowns just for her.
Hollywood courted Gypsy, between 1937-1938 she appeared in 5 films. These included ‘You Can’t Have Everything’ and ‘Sally, Irene and Mary’. On paper Gypsy and the silver screen should have been a winning formula. Where the problem lay was that in Hayes era Hollywood. Where even the meanest suggestion of nudity (where even a nude silhouette was banned) was not permitted; Gypsy was not allowed to do the very thing that made Hollywood interested in her. Her panned acting was another handicap. Gypsy even wrote a few novels including ‘The G String Murders’ which was turned into a major film ‘Burlesque’ starring Barbara Stanwick.
Relationships were not as successful as her career, she had been involved with Mike Todd (Mr Elizabeth Taylor no.3) and Otto Preminger (the father of her son, Erik). As a side project, Gypsy was a huge lover of Chinese Crested Dogs and set up one of first kennels dedicate to the breed. In 1962, ‘Gypsy’ the biopic was released starring Natalie Wood. Gypsy died on 26th April 1970 from lung cancer.
Her humour and unique style of stripping have left a sparkling legacy. Sure she is looking down, enjoy her immortality.