The Snakes have a sinful reputation. Since the Eve gave into the snake’s temptation in the green of Eden, the association of the slithering a serpent has been turned into erotic enticement. Before Britney Spear’s tried to be a snake charmer at the MTV VMA awards in 2001. Before Salma Hayek’s more successful turn as Santanico Pandemonium in 1996’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’. There was Zorita.
Born Katherine Boyd on 30 August 1915. Raised by strict Methodist parents, rebellion lead young Katherine to appear in nudist events and stag parties aged only 15. I highly doubt that her parents would have approved of their daughter’s career choice. With her more exotic features and her trademark white streaks in her hair. Zorita was set apart from the more wholesome, girl next door dancers.
If one were to try to cultivate a successful burlesque career. A signature act, to set you apart from your other colleague is vital. Lili St Cyr had her bath tub routine. Sally Rand had her Ostrich feather fans and Satan’s Angel was world famous for her flaming tassel twirling. Zorita has her snakes named Oscar and Elmer. While most of the burlesque legends faced arrest on obscenity charges. Zorita was unique in that she was arrested in February 1947 for animal cruelty. The ASPCA claimed that Zorita taped the mouths of her snakes shut before every show. While on the surface, the idea of protecting the creatures was admirable. However since circus’ were still using animals, this does appear to be more based on the salacious nature of Zorita’s performance rather then a genuine desire to protect performing animals. Though no charges were filed, all her serpents were removed from her. One of her more unusual yet intrigued shows was a take on the classic vaudeville act; Half and Half. Zorita created a costume that was half a groom and half a bride. Depending on which side she faced the audience she appeared like an couple embracing on their wedding.
Like most burlesque performers, Zorita had to diversify once she decided to semi retire in 1954. By taking over a couple of burlesque clubs in Miami and New York and teaching her sensual moves. Zorita finally hung up her G-string in 1974, choosing to breeds Persian Cats instead. Not the first choice I would have imagined for a serpentine stripper, but maybe she wanted a total change. While Zorita was involved with men and was the mother of a daughter named Tawny. She later claimed to actually be a lesbian.
Zorita died on 12 November 2001 aged 86. I am unable to find out what her cause of death was. A real had girl of burlesque. My kind of girl.