Review: The Costumes of Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to review this glorious book. Scratch brought me back a freshly-released copy from the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in 2019, so it’s recently celebrated its third birthday.

The Costumes of Burlesque 1866-2018 by Coleen Scott, 2019.

Coleen Scott (aka Rosey La Rouge) is a costume designer with a passion for burlesque. Her first book, The Pastie Project*, focused on that specialty adornment unique to burlesque. This tome shows everything.

It’s a chronological look at burlesque costumes from the 19th century until the present day, with each chapter spanning a couple of decades. Every chapter is illustrated with images of burlesque performers in costume and color photographs of extant costumes. The absolute best part is that Scott shows you all the layers when possible. It’s one of the challenges of displaying burlesque costumes (as I well know from mounting exhibits at the American Burlesque Collection), seeing only one part in isolation does not give you a full appreciation for the design of these costumes.

There are not a lot of extant early burlesque costumes, so she fills out the first chapter with images of performers and existing costumes for similar performances — ballet, cancan, circus, bellydance, Loie Fuller. As the chapters progress, more and more extant costumes are included (many from the collection of Nez Kendal) and we get to see details, sometimes even the insides. Still, photos of performers, posters, and other ephemera probably outweigh costumes. She touches briefly on a variety of costume styles, like half-and half acts and drag.

The very last chapter — Modern Burlesque Costume Design — features layer by layer photos. Dirty Martini, Cheeky Lane, Gin Minsky, and Darlinda Just Darlinda wear their costumes and strip for the camera, showing every piece as they go from full ensemble to pasties. They’re each on a plain white background which highlights the costumes in a way that’s impossible on stage. There are also close looks at individual components. It’s probably the best view of each costume possible, short of having the  owner show it off in person.

[Please note that while most of Gin Minsky’s quick-change costume was made by Garo Sparo, her Screen Siren G-string was created by Manuge et Toi Designs and the blue gown was rhinestoned by Canova Studio, who were not credited. I’ll assume that was an oversight.]

It’s a lovely book to just flip through and look at the gorgeous photographs, but the text is enlightening too. There are interviews with Legends, current performers, and costume designers. There are notes at the end of each chapter and a bibliography in the back. Throughout the book words in red can be found in a helpful glossary of terms for those unfamiliar with burlesque and its specialized language.

It’s impossible for one book to be completely comprehensive on any topic, and there are, of course, omissions, but Scott covers a lot of ground and has created a beautiful work. It’s not inexpensive, even in softcover, but worth it.

M2

*Which I don’t own…

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 20 July 2022 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Dollface Vintage

Dear Constant Reader,

A while ago I reviewed Cherry Dollface’s second book, but the first one has still been sitting on my shelf, unreviewed. So here we go, out of order!

Dollface Vintage: An Everyday Gal’s Guide to a Vintage Lifestyle! by Cherry Dollface, 2017.

This is an overview of ways to live a vintage lifestyle, according to Cherry Dollface plus tips from some experts. She shares her thoughts on hair, makeup, style, decor, and entertaining, demonstrated with photos.  Most individual topics within those categories are restricted to a page or two, so don’t expect exhaustive information on every possibility. Every topic has a section of tips, including some “dos and don’ts” and my favorite, ways to save money.

My favorite part was the mix and match photos of retro wardrobe basics and then the tips for dressing for hot and cold weather events while keeping your vintage chic.  However, the makeup how-to was a little disappointing as the photos were taken from too far away to really see the details of how she made up her eyes. The entertaining section has a few recipes for appropriate cocktails and menus ideas, but for actual dishes you’ll need to check out Dollface Kitchen.

It’s a light look at how to incorporate vintage into your lifestyle, as little or as much as you like, in your personal style, without breaking the bank. The emphasis is not historical accuracy, but a retro flair. There’s an over-all focus on practicality, which I appreciate.

The print edition is currently unavailable, but you can get a digital version, which has links to some of Cherry’s videos and some bonus features. I can’t tell you what they are as I only have the physical book…
M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 13 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 16 November 2021 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: The Burlesque Handbook

Dear Constant Reader,

 I cannot believe I haven’t reviewed this book until now…

The Burlesque Handbook by Jo Weldon, 2010.

The Burlesque Handbook was published over ten years ago, but it has never been out of print. It was the first practical guide to being a burlesque performer and remains the best. As Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, Jo has been teaching burlesque to all levels from beginners to professionals. Her classes and related material over the years became the foundations of this book. I still have her 12-page pink “Burlesque for Beginners” handout from 2005, which grew up to become this wonderful resource.

The book is packed with useful information from classic moves to music to backstage etiquette to creating a character. There are even templates and illustrated directions for making pasties. There’s an entire chapter on fan dancing! I found the worksheets in the appendix to be incredibly valuable. Even someone who has been doing this for a while can find it useful to stop and question their own creative process.

Besides drawing on her personal experiences, Jo quotes from the “Council of Ecdysiasts” — veteran performers — for varying perspectives on a topic. She also draws upon the wisdom of Burlesque Legends, sharing their words and their stories. It’s great to have advice from a range of performers both present and past.

Jo is also a photographer, so it’s no surprise that the book is peppered with photos (black and white, occasionally with red accents). Some are of Jo and some were taken by her over her many years on the scene. The burlesque moves she describes are illustrated by clarifying step by step photos. Other performers are featured along with appropriate topics. There are even a couple of photos taken at The Expo.

The book is focused on burlesque performance — how to get ready for the stage and look great once you’re there. You’ll have to look elsewhere for information and advice on bookings, producing, hosting or promotion. I don’t have a problem with that. Trying to cover absolutely everything would made for a less focused book. Besides, Jo covers some of those topics in articles and essays elsewhere. 

To give you an idea of just how useful it is, I have a copy on our library bookshelf (thanks, Scratch! I know it’s really your book) and one on my Kindle, so I’ll always have it on hand for reference. I’ve been recommending The Burlesque Handbook to every burlesque performer for more than a decade and I’ll continue to do so.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 14 October 2021 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Mama Rose’s Turn

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m winnowing down my to-be-reviewed pile! Here’s a book about a controversial figure in burlesque, who was responsible for launching one of the great careers.

Mama Rose’s Turn: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother by Carolyn Quinn, 2013

Rose Thompson Hovick, the mother of Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc, has been portrayed as an amusing eccentric (Gypsy Rose Lee), a brash, overbearing stage mother (Gypsy: A Musical Fable), an abusive narcissist (June Havoc), and even a remorseless murderer (Karen Abbott). Most sources agree that she was beautiful, petite, charming, manipulative, and needy. But who was she really? This book attempts to answer that

The story begins with Rose’s paternal great-grandparents arriving in the midwest from Germany. The generations before Rose was born were full of independent women. Her maternal grandmother ran businesses after her husband (and both her young sons) died. Rose’s mother had a talent for millinery and would frequently leave her daughters (her only son also died young) to head north and sell her fancy hats in the Yukon. This probably shaped Rose’s unconventional views of how to raise her children.

Rose married Jack Hovick when she was a pregnant teenager. That baby, Rose Louise, would grow up to be Gypsy Rose Lee. The painful delivery of a very large infant in a half-finished house in the middle of winter put Rose off the idea of more children. When she found herself pregnant again, she tried various ways to make herself miscarry, but her second daughter, Ellen June, was tenacious, although very small at birth. It was the unwanted daughter who proved to have incredible talent and Rose pushed for a performance career for the dancing prodigy, despite that June was barely a toddler. She filed for divorce and created a vaudeville act around her girls.

I’m not going to rehash the careers of Baby/Dainty June and Rose Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee. You can read Early Havoc and Gypsy for that, which is what the author of this book appears to have done. She also cites newspaper articles or  letters from the GRL Collection at the NY Public Library or emails from someone’s descendant, but mostly she relies on those books, especially for this part of Rose’s life

After Gypsy hit it big in burlesque, and later June on Broadway, they supported their mother (as well as her mother and sister in Seattle), but it was never enough for Rose — she wanted more money and more attention. When Gypsy set her mother up in a 10-room apartment, Rose opened a speakeasy where lesbians could safely socialize and buy overpriced bathtub gin and spaghetti. Later she moved to Gypsy’s country estate and turned it into a sort of resort. Scandal erupted when a young woman was killed with a rifle there. It’s still unclear if it was suicide or murder, although Quinn is firmly in the suicide camp. 

After that, the rift between mother and daughters grew larger, although they continued to support her financially, if not emotionally. Despite the money from her daughters, she was constantly coming up with business ventures — raising chickens, running a children’s summer camp, planning a restaurant with her sister, and more. For the rest of her life Rose tried to be a part of her daughters’ lives, often by threatening them, demanding more money, trying to disrupt their careers, and even suing them for lack of support. Gypsy would have periods of closeness with her mother and then Rose would do something that would alienate her again. 

Near the end of her life, suffering from cancer, she found a surrogate family with the local plumber.  He and his wife helped care for her and their daughter called her “Aunt Rose”. Despite being ill and frail, Rose took pleasure in being able to create a lovely Christmas celebration for the girl, like she did on the road with her vaudeville children.

In death, Rose took revenge on her daughters by leaving her entire estate to her sister, including the house Gypsy had paid for. Gypsy countered by publishing the memoir she never would have released while her mother was still alive. 

The author makes her biases clear from the prologue. She was captivated by the character of Rose in the musical Gypsy, as the ball-busting stage mother. She dislikes June Havoc and repeatedly dismisses June’s version of events. Despite using June’s two books as source material, she considers June an unreliable narrator and frequently calls her a liar. She calls a few other people liars as well, when their recollections don’t match up with her narrative.

Quinn glosses over Rose’s outrageous actions, like thefts, scams, threats, and sabotaging other performers’ acts, as “games” and “stunts”. Neither girl had a valid birth certificate or even knew exactly how old they were, but that was just part of Rose’s cleverness in marketing and evading child labour laws. There’s always an excuse for her behavior — she was emotionally distraught, hormonal, drinking too much, etc. — and that her daughters should have been more sympathetic and loving. After all, they had been the center of her life for years, why shouldn’t she be the same to them?

Keeping that bias in mind, it is still the only biography of Rose Thompson Hovick out there (that I know of). It looks not only at Rose, but her family, back a couple of generations, and how their lives may have shaped her view of the world. Rose was a complicated woman and more than just her brassy alter-ego, belting out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 17 August 2021 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: In Intimate Detail

Dear Constant Reader,

Another book review! I need to work my way through this pile with more alacrity as I would really like more space on my desk.

My love of lingerie began as a teen. I hated wearing pantyhose. As a short girl with long legs, I could never find a pair that fit me properly. If the waistband was in the right place, my toes were always poking through the fabric. The other option was to have the crotch at mid-thigh. I begged my mother to let me wear stockings. Despite rolling her eyes at my quaint request, she gifted me with my very first garter belt and I’ve never looked back! So, I was delighted to page through this book by the founder of The Lingerie Addict.

In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear and Love Lingerie by Cora Harrington (2018)

This book covers all the main categories of underthings: bras, undies, shapewear, hosiery, and loungewear. The first several chapters introduce you to the lingerie by type. Have you ever wondered the difference between a balconette and a demi-bra? How about what exactly is a tanga? Each chapter has helpful hints (my favorites!) in the margins and lovely watercolor illustrations. Each one also starts with a brief history of the subject — you know how much I love history!

Each chapter has lots of information to help you make the best choices for the lingerie that’s right for you. Practicality for a situation as well as beauty is a key factor. The chapter on bras has extensive information on breast shape and how to choose a well-fitting bra. The shapewear chapter touches only briefly on corsetry, but that’s fine. Corsets are such a complex garment, they could be, and should be, a book unto themselves. 

Then there’s a chapter about shopping for lingerie. She gives advice for shopping in person and on-line, but also specialty items, like vintage lingerie and how to buy gifts for others. The main take-away in all categories is if you don’t absolutely love the item or the experience, walk away. Shopping for lingerie should be as enjoyable as wearing it.

The last chapter is on one of my favorite topics — care and storage. There’s how to wash your lingerie and how to keep it so it stays beautiful and wearable for a long time as well as how to organize you lingerie wardrobe. She also broaches the important topic of getting rid of lingerie that’s no longer in good condition or doesn’t suit you any more. If it’s beautiful, but you don’t wear it, it’s not doing you any good.

It’s an all-around good compendium, touching on many topics. There are is a lot of ground covered, so by necessity each section is brief. If you need a direct burlesque tie-in, the foreword is by Dita Von Teese.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 22 July 2021 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Grizzly Pulp #1

Dear Constant Reader,

Pulp novels and burlesque shows have a lot in common — they were inexpensive, guilty pleasures, rather racy, a little silly, a lot over the top, entertaining in an expected way.

Grizzly Pulp is bringing back the pulp novels staring confidential investigator Tokey Wedge! Who? That’s what I asked too. The good folks at Grizzly Pulp sent me a copy of their first offering (and some cool barware) to check out and I thought I’d share my review with you. Do not expect high art.

239819.nympho-promobook-2Nympho Lodge (Grizzly Pulp #1) by Jack Lynn, originally published 1959.

Janice Bradley is afraid. Her husband is about to divorce her, but she won’t give up The Wagon Wheel, a resort they own jointly. Now she’s received a threatening note hinting at arson. She fears her husband might kill her to get control of the property, so she hires Tokey to be her bodyguard. The contested resort is full of gorgeous women with hot bodies and soon it’s also full of cold bodies… the dead kind. Everyone is a suspect, including Tokey. In the tradition of pulp novels, do not expect a happy ending.

Tokey is short and scrawny, but a tough fighter and a good shot.  Almost all the women are tall, busty, lusty and desperate for Tokey. He spends the entire book fending off their advances, except when he doesn’t. The plot is full of twists and turns, but if you know the pulp formula, you’ll probably figure out the murderer.

This book is ridiculous. It’s a parody of the hard-boiled detective novel. Do note that on the cover it’s not a “Case” or an “Adventure”; it’s a “Swinger”. That should tell you all you need to know. It’s full of lurid violence and sex described in overblown prose. Wild similes abound, as do sentence fragments and the occasional 50 cent word. The prologue has nothing to do with the main plot. The writing is absolutely of its era (late 1950s) in terms of language and attitudes. 

That’s not to say it’s not fun. It’s a quick read with constant action. I love the fact that Grizzly Pulp has printed it on, well, pulp paper. They’ve also been kind enough to wrap the book in a plain black dust jacket, marked only “Grizzly Pulp #1”. That saves some embarrassment, if you’re perusing Nympho Lodge in public — maybe on the beach or poolside. It would be a fine vacation read. Just be warned that you can whip through it in no time, like a bag of potato chips.

The original plan was to sell the first six books in the series at dive bars (how fun!), but the pandemic screwed that up. You can read a sample from Nympho Lodge and buy the book at Grizzly Pulp’s store. If you know an indie bookstore that would like to carry these, drop Grizzly Pulp a line! Nympho Lodge is currently the only book available, but the next ones should be coming out soon. Keep your eyes peeled for Mad for Kicks — “Tokey takes on a GANG of thrill-mad BEATNKS on a shocking binge of MURDER AND PERVERSITY!”

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this. 

 

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Published in: on 16 June 2021 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Forbidden City, USA

Dear Constant Reader,

I know I haven’t been so communicative this month. I’ll try to make it up to you next month, but for now, here’s a quick review.

Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970 by Arthur Dong, 2014.

This book is on the same topic as Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs, but it’s also a companion to a documentary, released in 1989. The pages are packed with photos, menus, press clippings, some with wording that may have been cute then, but is cringe-worthy now. The real meat is the interviews with the singers, specialty dancers, and showgirls.

I was most interested in the interview with Noel Toy, the Chinese Sally Rand, who features in my new class, Fan Dance Uncovered (join me on Saturday!). As a nude dancer and later as a stripteaser, she’s the only performer interviewed who did who we would consider burlesque acts. Ivy Tam, a founding member of the Grant Avenue Follies, does mention Coby Yee and scoffs at anyone dismissing her as “just a stripper”. A couple of the others are clear to point out that nobody showed everything, not like American burlesque.

The performers (and one club owner and a choreographer) tell their stories in their own words, which is so precious since so many are no longer with us. They talk about hard work and fun, but also adversity from the more traditional member of their community and war-time prejudices — some of the “Chinese” performers were actually Japanese.

I’ll be looking up the documentary. Reading first-person histories is great, but actually hearing and seeing them is even better.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 27 May 2021 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Marinka: From Havana To Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

Like the rest of the burlesque world, I was saddened to hear of the death of Marinka, Queen of the Amazons and grateful that she shared the story of her life.

Marinka: From Havana to Burlesque by Marinka Melanie Hunter and Lily Star, 2020.

In this memoir, Marinka is honest about her life, particularly her big secret, which she kept for so long. In her introduction she says “If I had done this when I was 30, it would have been a sensation instead of my story.” I’m certainly glad times and attitudes have changed enough that she felt she could finally be completely honest and tell her whole story without it being lost behind the sensational nature.

Growing up in Havana, as the thirteenth child of wealthy Spanish immigrants, Marinka was different from other children. A fortune teller declared the five-year-old was born under a “different star”.  Marinka’s parents were worried by their youngest’s effeminate behavior. In 1959, when Castro took power in Cuba, Marinka’s parents thought New York City, where Marinka’s godparents lived, would be a safer place for their flamboyant teenager.

Once in New York, Marinka could finally live as she truly was, as a woman. She became acquainted with the underground gay and drag scene. After being declared “the most beautiful drag queen in New York City” at a ball, she was hired as a female impersonator at The Powderpuff Revue and also learned to belly dance. At this time she used the stage name “Sully”.

Very soon she became an exotic dancer. Her agent had dubbed her “Tina Darling”, but she wasn’t comfortable with it. She heard the name “Marinka” and knew that was who she was. She began working in “mixing clubs” (including the Teddy Bare Lounge and Two O’Clock in Boston), where the dancers would sit and drink with the patrons between acts.

One of her tours took her to Ohio and the Toledo burlesque theatre run by legendary performer and impresario Rose La Rose. Rose took one look at the striking beauty and asked why she wasn’t a feature. Marinka didn’t think she had the act or the experience to become a feature, but Rose La Rose thought otherwise. First, Marinka had to return to New York for something very important.

In December 1969, Marinka entered a hospital for the moment she had been dreaming of — gender confirmation surgery, or as she called it then, a sex change operation. A warning here: she describes her surgery and recovery from it in a fair bit of detail. After jumping through a few legal hoops, she was able to update all her official paperwork to reflect who she really was and chose the name Maria Arias. I’m unclear when she started using the name Melanie Hunter.

Marinka’s burlesque career was taking off. She returned to Toledo and Rose La Rose helped her create a feature act and gave her the move that became her signature — “fucking the curtains”. I loved this chapter because it detailed the different sections of a feature’s act.

From there she became a much sought after headliner. She was a regular at the resorts in the Catskills for many years as well as performing overseas. Bob Fosse cast her in All That Jazz  — you can see her in the burlesque club flashback and in the finale — and that led to an appearance in Playboy. More movie work followed, but only as an extra. Unfortunately, Hollywood was uncomfortable with a transgender actress and she never could land a larger role. But burlesque loved her and she continued performing.

Marinka had many loves and marriages and her share of heartbreak. Like so many burlesque Legends, she fell in love with some charming men who spent her hard-earned money and resented her work in burlesque. She’s not bitter about them, just sad at how things turned out. She had happier relationships too, including at least one with a celebrity.

The pacing of the book is a little uneven. She’ll spend one chapter on a particular incident and then cover a longer span of time in the next. The last chapter of the book compresses a couple of decades into a few pages, as she moved from Switzerland to Florida to Las Vegas and began to have health issues.

There are many sections of photos, from early headshots (when she was known as Sully) to her appearances at The Burlesque Hall of Fame. There are also candid shots with her friends and family, plus a few press clippings.

As always, I recommend the memoirs of Legends, because it is so important to know our past. This book is useful as a look back to burlesque history, but it also happens to be enjoyable and entertaining. The tone is very conversational and her story moves along smoothly. Most importantly, it’s the very personal story of a woman who always knew who she was.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 15 April 2021 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Century Girl

Dear Constant Reader,

Today I have for you a fascinating story of the youngest dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies, told in an equally interesting way.

Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies by Lauren Redniss, 2006.

Doris was born in 1904 to a mother, who, her own show biz aspirations thwarted, was determined to make stars of her seven children. When Doris was 7, she and her sisters, Pearl and Mary, made their professional debut in The Bluebird. Adding their little brother Charlie to the cast, the Eaton children toured the country with the show, with Mary and Doris eventually taking the leads. The children were now firmly ensconced in the world of theatre and continued performing.

In 1918 Pearl was in the Ziegfeld Follies and after summer school let out, 14-year-old Doris joined the chorus. Under New York law performers had to be 16 to be in a “musical comedy”, so Doris used the name Lucille Levant until she was old enough. She found her place as a specialty dancer, while Mary became the prima ballerina and Pearl performed in the racier Midnight Frolic. Even brother Charlie did comedy sketches at the Follies with Fannie Brice and W.C. Fields.

Doris began performing in silent films as well. She got married in Hollywood, but was widowed less than a year later at 19. For several years she shuttled between the films of Hollywood and the New York stage. Her mother’s Manhattan apartment hosted all manner of show business luminaries, like George Gershwin and Fred Astaire, on their nights off. Everything was going splendidly for the performing Eatons, until…

…the Great Depression destroyed the lavish shows like the Follies and diminished Broadway. Ziegfeld died. There was no work for performers. Doris was even considering becoming a taxi dancer when a fortunate phone call sent her to Arthur Murray’s dance studio. She became an instructor, then a promoter, and opened the first franchise, in Detroit. She wrote a dance advice column for the local paper and the number of her studios grew. Her brothers helped her run them, but unfortunately, her sisters did not join her. Their stories do not end well.

Doris met her husband, Paul Travis, through her dance studio empire, which she continued to manage, even as the couple ran a turkey farm. Ever the performer, Doris began hosting a weekly social dance show on TV in 1952. Everything was going well until social dancing died out in the 1960s. Doris extricated herself from the business and started over. Again. She and Paul moved to Oklahoma and managed a horse ranch. She went to college and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Doris returned to the stage where it all began in 1997. She was invited to the opening of the refurbished New Amsterdam Theatre. Five former Follies Girls attended, but Doris was the only one who could still dance. She performed “Mandy”, a soft shoe number she had danced in 1919, when she shared that very stage with Eddie Cantor.

I said at the start the method of telling Doris’s story was just as interesting as her life. It’s like flipping through a scrap book. Every page is filled with photographs, line drawings, and newspaper clippings, illustrating Doris’s life. The handwritten text wanders through the images of Doris’s long life. It’s probably just easier to show you.

This creative biography pays loving tribute to Doris Eaton’s long life of dance. Much of it is in Doris’s own words, looking back over a century. If you’re only interested in the Follies, that’s section II — the shows, the performers, Ziegfeld himself, and of course, the experiences of Doris and her sisters.

(Affiliate links in this post benefit the American Burlesque Collection, a 501(c)(3) non-profit)

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 4 March 2021 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

Time for another review. I’m tired of having a stack on unreviewed books on my desk!

Burlesque: The Baubles…Bangles…Babes by Martin Collier (1964).

This is a little paperback, just 150 pages, printed on cheap pulp paper that’s now crumbling. The only vaguely high-end thing about it is a several full page photographs and a fold-out page in color. This
“story of an unique American institution” was written when the business was limping along and its part-nostalgic, part-snarky, part-affectionate tone reflects that. The back cover promises “An under the bangles look at a dying art that still has lots of snap left!”

The book focuses on comics and strippers, presenting them in alternating chapters. The chapter titles vaguely classify the performers, but it’s a thin rationale. Sherry Britton, Sally Rand, Lili St. Cyr, and Lilly Christine are profiled in a chapter called “The ‘Non’-Strippers.” Most of the performers profiled are still well-known today (Gypsy Rose Lee, Rose La Rose, Dixie Evans), with a few less famous, like Brandy Martin and Penny wolfe.

The most valuable parts of the book are interviews with performers, including transcribed recordings made by Ann Corio and Redd Foxx. Reading about burlesque from the lips of these legends is worth seeking out this book.

It ends with a fairly gloomy prediction about the future of burlesque — there are more strippers, but fewer talents, too many gimmicks. He does predict burlesque will still be alive in 1990, if nowhere near what it once was.

If you can find it, give it a read, but don’t pay too much for a copy.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 2 September 2020 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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