Review: My Face for the World to See

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been quite a while since I had a burlesque book to review. I was quite excited to see this first edition for sale at The Expo.

My Face for the World to See by Liz Renay (1971).

The first and only time I saw Liz Renay was at the Miss Exotic World weekend in 2006 in Las Vegas. She was carried onto stage on a palanquin born by scantily clad men, in a spectacle worthy of Cleopatra (orchestrated by Grant Philipo, I later learned). In her sultry voice, she said “I’m Liz Renay, rhymes with play”. She made a bit of an impression, let us say.
Opening Night : Liz Renay(Photo by Chris Blakeley)

In this memoir Liz writes of her origins as an artistic child in a fundamentalist family in rural Arizona. She longed for more and attempted to escape with teenaged marriages and motherhood. With her third marriage she moved to New York and became a high-fashion model. When that marriage ended disastrously, she needed a job that would let her take care of her kids during the day. She chose to become an exotic dancer. It was then that she met a number of upstanding Italian-American gentlemen and the seed of trouble was planted.

After winning a Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest, Liz decided to become a movie star and moved to Hollywood. Her New York “friend”, Cappy, made sure she connected with his buddy, mobster Mickey Cohen. Everything was going splendidly at first. Liz had many movie and tv offers and her art was selling well in New York.

Then the federal government swept in and forced her to testify about her relationship with Mickey Cohen. The scandal ruined her Hollywood career and made it impossible for her to work in any industry. She was repeatedly harassed by the authorities and her morals came under question. Eventually she found herself in prison.

According to Liz, she was gorgeous, smart, tough, desirable, and talented. If anything was her fault, it was that she was too trusting and kind-hearted. Everyone was out to get her for her friendship with and loyalty to Cohen. But, you know what? Her story is such an easy and entertaining read, that you’ll forgive more than a little self-aggrandizement.

As to actual burlesque content, it’s a bit thin. The first chapter describes a night in the 52nd St. clip-joint where she became a mob darling. Later she writes of her beginnings in burlesque, including the costume she cobbled together from lingerie & ribbons and the sheet music she gave the band without ever having heard the song. Despite that, what a surprise, she was a hit. The book doesn’t mention her later career, post-prison, or performing with her daughter, Brenda in a mother/daughter strip act.

To close the story, here’s a photo of Jo Weldon at this year’s Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend, wearing a cape from Liz Renay’s estate. (photo by Derek Jackson)


Published in: on 12 June 2013 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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