Review: Banned in Boston

Dear Constant Reader,

I realized that I had reviewed a number of books in the Library at Stately Babydoll Manor elsewhere. I’ll be sharing them here with you, probably updated as I re-read the books and see them through a filter of more years in the business.

Banned in Boston: Memoirs of a Stripper by Lillian Kiernan Brown (2003).

This is a rather charming memoir of the short burlesque career of Lily Ann Rose. It’s got some good information about burlesque in Boston and the northeast in the late 1940’s. Lily Ann was a chorus girl, a soloist, Sally Keith’s protégée, banned by the Watch & Ward committee, and arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior — all before she was 17. She’s honest about the ups and downs of the life of a burlesque performer and has some amusing stories (believing her grandmother’s warning that kissing made babies) and some horrible ones (assault by a man she trusted). The descriptions of acts, hers and others, are always treasures.

Ms. Brown occasionally repeats herself (she tells the same story about stripping for Ann Corio when she was three years old twice, in almost exactly the same words) and she has the naive tone of the teenager she was at the time that she’s recalling. Like I said, the book is charming, clearly a labor of love. My main complaint is about the layout of the book itself. The text is double-spaced like a school essay and filled with errors, like double periods, stray quotation marks, and other misplaced punctuation that a capable editor should have caught. It made me kind of crazy and I actually read it with red pen in hand.

Since I originally wrote this review, I had the privilege of talking with Ms. Brown and learning a little more about her career, which did not end when the book does. She continued stripping in Boston burlesque houses for a few more years, and after her retirement, managed to keep her early career a secret from her family for decades. She has one gown left from her burlesque days, which I wrote about in The Berlesker.


Published in: on 7 January 2015 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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