Tag: Burlesque History

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque of the 1960s

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque of the 1960s

Hello lovers,

Welcome back to our overview of burlesque history. Well, it’s the ’60s. Between the censorship of the ’50s, when a lot of clubs were closed, and the general loosening of society, burlesque as an art form was pretty much over. Around this time, club owners began asking dancers to mingle with the audience in a bid to increase alcohol sales, a front-runner to lap dance culture at the modern strip club. It was no longer about the tease, but about the hard sell to increase revenues. As one dancer put it, “anyone willing to get naked could get work.”

In 1960, the Playboy Club opened in Chicago. While it didn’t feature dancers, it employed beautiful women in bunny costumes to serve drinks.

Despite Playboy’s later reputation, the club was swank and classy rather than sleazy. Members were known as “keyholders” and you could even take your wife, although it’s unclear how many men actually did that. Eventually, clubs opened all over the world and featured some of the most famous musicians and comedians of the era. Being a keyholder was a major status symbol.

Another fad born of the ’60s is the go go dancer, which is said to have originated (appropriately enough) at L.A.’s Whisky A Go Go. Modeled on a Parisian bar of the same name, the Whisky opened on the Sunset Strip in 1964 and became one of the most famous (or notorious) clubs of the decade, hosting pretty much every famous act you would associate with the era, from The Doors to Jimi Hendrix to The Beatles. The club is still in business today and some of the most famous rockers of the last 50 years have played there. The club featured dancers in “cages,” who eventually became known as “go go dancers.”

Another famous dance club of the era was NYC’s Peppermint Lounge, which also claims to have invented go go dancing.

The Peppermint Lounge is said to have launched the Twist craze of the early sixties, and according to lore, the go go dancer evolved out of people dancing the twist on tables. Wherever it started, the go go dancer is one of the most iconic symbols of the ’60s.

In 1964, a dancer named Carol Doda made international headlines by becoming one of the first public topless dancers at San Francisco’s Condor Club.

(She was also known for having her breasts injected with silicone, taking her from a size 34 to a size 44, earning them the nickname “San Francisco’s New Twin Peaks.”) Her act showed her descending from the ceiling onto a baby grand piano, where she would perform a few numbers before being raised up again. She is credited with launching San Francisco’s topless craze (which I guess was a thing?).

Finally, meet Tammi True, who worked during the ’60s at Jack Ruby’s Dallas nightclub The Carousel Club (yep, THAT Jack Ruby!).

60stammytrue

Ruby and dancers

She actually had to testify in Washington during the investigation into Ruby’s murder of JFK shooter Lee Harvey Oswald.

Ruby shooting Oswald

So there you have it. While burlesque wasn’t big in the ’60s, you could still see your share of beautiful women shaking and shimmying. Come back next week to explore the ’70s with us!

Check out these sites for more info:

burlexe.com
loti.com
burlesquebabes.wordpress.com
retrospace.org

Did you miss a week?

1920s
1930s
1940s
1950s

AND! If you haven’t bought tickets for Decadent yet, you can get them HERE. See you at The Triad on April 22!

xoxo

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque of the 1950s

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque of the 1950s

After a golden age in the ’20s and early ’30s, burlesque’s decline began in the late ’30s. It was exacerbated by censorship in the ’40s and it continues into ’50s. But despite that, the ’50s gave us some of its sexiest, most glamorous and iconic stars. Here are just a few.

(Click on any photo for more info.)

From Burlexe.com

Blaze Starr
Blaze Starr
Tempest Storm
Tempest Storm
Dixie Evans
Dixie Evans
April March
April March
Jennie Lee
Jennie Lee
Candy Barr
Candy Barr
Wild Cherry
Wild Cherry

Read more: Burlexe.com

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque of the ’40s

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque of the ’40s

As we learned last week, NYC Mayor Fiorello Laguardia closed most of the city’s burlesque houses in 1937, bringing to an end what at the time was known as the golden age of burlesque. By this time, striptease was the name of the game, comics and variety having been dropped completely.

Last week, we also met burlesque legend Sally Rand who is one of the performers who introduced the fan dance. By the ’40s, she was an established dancer and went on to fight against censorship, which as we’ll see, seems to be the key theme of the ’40s. In 1946, Rand was arrested twice in San Francisco for lewdness, but after viewing her performance, a judge declined to convict her.

Sally Rand

Gypsy Rose Lee, whom we also met last week, tried to make it Hollywood in the ’40s but it didn’t quite work out. In 1941, Lee wrote The G-String Murders, a detective story set in the backstage world of burlesque. The novel was made into a 1943 movie musical called The Lady of Burlesque, starring Barbara Stanwyck. However, it was considered too racy for the strict moral code of the time and censored heavily.

Gypsy Rose Lee in a 1949 show
Gypsy Rose Lee in a 1949 show

Ann Corio was also an established dancer of the time, and by the ’40s, she too went to Hollywood looking for a movie career. She appeared in some B-movies in scanty costumes, the most well-known of which is probably 1942’s Jungle Siren. She also volunteered to be a pinup girl for YANK, a weekly magazine for the military.

Poster for Jungle Siren with Ann Corio

Finally, meet Lili St. Cyr, who began her career as a ballet dancer and chorus girl. She was renowned for her beauty and had several acts, including Cinderella, a matador, a bride and Cleopatra.

Lili was dubbed the most famous woman in Montreal in the late ’40s and ’50s, but unfortunately she caught the attention of the city’s top clergy, who condemned her act as filthy and immoral. This led to her arrest for “indecent, immoral and obscene” behavior. She was eventually acquitted, but the theater where she performed was shut down.

St. Cyr also performed in Hollywood (where she was billed as the “Anatomic Bomb”) and where she was ALSO taken to court by someone who considered her act lewd and lascivious. Again, she was acquitted.

Lili St. Cyr
Lili St. Cyr

By the end of the ’40s, the decline of burlesque was in full swing, but it wasn’t dead entirely and the ’50s will give us some icons of its own. But you’ll just have to wait until next week for that!

Please check out these resources to learn more about burlesque history:

burlexe.com
itssimplyburlesque.com
And pincurlmag.com has whole series on burlesque arrests!

As always always always, thanks for reading and we will catch up with you in the ’50s!

xoxo

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque in the 1930s

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque in the 1930s

Last week, we learned that burlesque evolved out of vaudeville, showcasing comedy and variety acts rather than straight-up stripping. This changed in the late ’20s and ’30s, when the advent of movies forced theater owners to up the ante to get audiences into their venues and turned the focus toward striptease. Burlesque also provided affordable entertainment to those who couldn’t make it to Broadway shows during the Great Depression.

Thus, the ’30s are considered the greatest era of burlesque, giving us iconic and legendary performers who shaped and defined the glamour of the genre. Here are just a few of them.

Sally Rand

Chicago actress Sally Rand was a silent film star who couldn’t make in the world of “talkies.” According to legend, she was booked for a last-minute dance job, walked past a store and saw some vintage fans in the window, bought them to make into a dress, but ran out of time and that’s how the fan dance was born.

In 1933, she performed at the Chicago World’s Fair and was arrested for indecency four times in one day. The following year, also at the Chicago World’s Fair, Rand debuted her famous bubble dance, appearing with a giant see-through bubble.

Sally Rand fan dance
Sally Rand bubble dance

Faith Bacon

While Sally Rand is widely credited for inventing the fan dance, that account is in dispute by NYC-based dancer Faith Bacon. Bacon claims she invented the fan dance to get around laws that allowed women to be nude on stage only if they were not moving. The fan circumvented the law because she could cover up while dancing and show herself while standing still. The dance took off and was a hit.

Bacon was arrested during a 1930 raid on a NYC theater, but the grand jury declined to indict her or her fellow performers.

Bacon’s career was cut short after she was injured and scarred in an accident. Later in life, she unsuccessfully sued Sally Rand to stop her from doing fan dances. Bacon ended up committing suicide in 1956 at age 46.

Bringing home the Bacon with a pair of fans
Faith Bacon

Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee might be the most famous burlesque dancer of the period, if not all time. Gypsy inspired the 1959 Broadway musical Gypsy, which was made into a movie starring Natalie Wood in 1962.

Gypsy Rose Lee got her start in vaudeville, having to take the stage to support herself and her mother after her more-talented sister eloped. She became a burlesque dancer accidentally after a supposed “wardrobe malfunction,” in which her dress strap broke. The audience loved it, so she incorporated it into her act. Gypsy became a huge star at the legendary Minsky’s burlesque, known for her wit and innovation.

Gypsy Rose Lee
Gypsy Rose Lee struts

This golden age of burlesque lasted until the end of the decade, when, in a crackdown against “filth,” NYC Mayor Fiorello Laguardia closed the city’s remaining burlesque houses, putting the industry mostly out of business. Thus began the decline of the genre, which would remain in effect until the neo-burlesque revival of the modern era.

But that’s a story for another time, so be sure to stop by next week when we investigate burlesque of the ’40s.

And if you want to read more, we owe a great debt to the following sites:

burlexe.com
rebelcircus.com
musicals101.com

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque in the 1920s

Throwback Thursday: Burlesque in the 1920s

Hi friends! It’s Roaring Twenties week at LFF, so let’s learn a little about what burlesque was like in the Jazz Age.

Well, actually, we need to start a little further back.

Up until the 1920s, burlesque was more about comedy and satire than striptease, owing some of its roots to vaudeville and minstrel shows.

Lydia Thompson. Nice stems.

In 1868, Lydia Thompson who was to become known as the “First Lady of Burlesque,” brought her troupe the British Blondes to America. They didn’t strip, but showed off their legs in tights, which was pretty racy for those uptight Victorians.

By about 1905, there was a system in place in which burlesque performers traveled the country in geographically based “wheels,” or circuits, putting on vaudeville-style variety shows that included singers, dancers and comedians. At the time, comedy was the main attraction and some really famous names – like Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Bob Hope – owe their beginnings to burlesque.

Little Egypt does the hoochie-coochie (and presumably turns herself around)

In the 1920s, movies began to steal audiences, so enterprising theater owners, like NYC’s Minsky Brothers, began introducing striptease to get butts in seats. The striptease is said to harken back to a performance by “Little Egypt” who did the “hoochie-coochie” at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The Minsky Brothers are generally credited with bringing striptease “out of the backrooms and into the theaters.” Under their tutelage and that of Florenz Ziegfield and his elaborate Paris-inspired Follies, the 1920s and ’30s became known as the golden age of burlesque.

Here are some stars of the era:

Josephine Baker

In the 1920s, American Josephine Baker took Paris by storm as part of the legendary Folies Bergère reviews and became a symbol of the Jazz Age after appearing in a girdle of bananas. Baker was “celebrated by all of the great artists and intellectuals of the era, with various circles dubbing her the ‘Black Pearl,’ the ‘Bronze Venus,’ as well as the ‘Creole Goddess.'” She fought for the French Resistance during WWII and later became a civil rights activist, even speaking at the March on Washington with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice, made famous by Barbra Streisand in the 1963 Broadway musical Funny Girl, dropped out of school in 1908 to join a burlesque review. In 1910, she joined the Ziegfield Follies for the first time, performing for two years. She rejoined it in 1921 and danced with them through the 1930s. From the 1930s until her 1951 death, Brice performed on radio as a bratty toddler named Snooks in the eponymous “Baby Snook Show,” which sounds like something that should make us grateful we have Netflix.

Carrie Finnell

Carrie Finnell claims to have invented the nipple tassel, which survives to this day as a burlesque necessity (burlesque-ity?). Using just her magnificent mammaries, Finnell could supposedly swing not just tassels, but bells and lights as well. Whutt??

According to burlexe.com, she also:

is credited with talking Gypsy Rose Lee into peeling on stage. She beat Mae West in a strip-off. She’s also said to have invented the nipple tassel. Definitely a woman worth remembering.

Carrie Finnell (What is she even doing?)

As you can see, the history of burlesque is complex and fascinating and worth looking into much deeper than we can here. If you want to learn more, come back next week when we examine burlesque of the ’30s and check out these sources below:

burlexe.com

musicals101.com

newworldencyclopedia.com

allthatglittersburlesque.com

IMDB.com

(And if you really like history, stay tuned for ticket info for our fabulous April 22 show, Decadent: 100 Years of Burlesque.)

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