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 A former burlesque dancer tells her story exclusively to Java's Bachelor Pad

"The Life and Times of April Daye"


    I had been totally star-struck since 18 months of age. I was always putting on shows; hanging up curtains, tying bright fabrics around my skinny body and doing "dances."
     I wanted to perform more than anything.
     In 1954, I was 18 and I could not wait to finish high school. I quit and began to work for Arthur Murray’s in a dance studio on Grand Ave. in St. Louis.
     I met Genni Adams who was 12 years older than me. Her dream was to be a model in NYC. Did I want to go with her? I did.
     We hitched a ride with a truck driver friend of hers, and away we went.
     Ginny knew her way around. We lived at the Madison Square Hotel on 26th and Madison, at the same time that Jayne Mansfield lived there. Jayne was the "bad girl" in the hotel. We were the good girls.
     I worked at the Latin Quarters and the Copa Cabana first as hat-check, then as a camera girl. Then I was put in a little black skirt and ruffle panties, and carried a cigarette tray selling to all the fancy people in the elite audience.
     I finally got in the chorus. That was my first exposure to real show biz.
     I was in NYC for two years. When I came home to visit, I met a famous burlesque dance, Anne Stevens. She was like a beautiful movie star. She was the mistress of Bully Rich the infamous owner of the Jungle Club in Kansas City, Missouri. These were the days when Kansas City was a wild mob town.
Anne had tons of money. She dressed like a movie star. She actually drove a pink Cadillac with the high back fins. She had seven mink coasts, $3,000 alligator bags, and fancy clothes. She was a beautiful, elegant dancer. She was one smart cookie.
    I became her protégé. She introduced me to Mike Riaff in St. Louis, a well known agent. I was booked the very next weekend in New Port, Kentucky in an infamous club called the Glen Rendezvous. It was a fancy bust-out joint. The dancers hustled champagne at $100 a bottle.
    There was a sign-in sheet in the girl's dressing room that I thought was an attendance sheet. I wanted to fit in, so I signed it every night like many of the other dancers. I later found out it was a tally sheet for "tricks" the girls turned to cut the owner in on the money. The girls didn't have to go far to turn their tricks because there was a cathouse on the 4th floor of the club!
    I hung around with Bob Alexander, the fill-in trombone player for Tommy Dorsey, at the Pennsylvania hotel during the summer. I met everyone. I loved it. I loved the attention. I worked the Moulin Rogue next door to Club 21. My photo, a large theatrical pose, was outside the club for many, many years.
    It seemed each club owner had his favorite girl as his mistress. That made it easy for to avoid the owners…which I made a career out of doing. I was only interested in performing, getting professional experience, and advancing in the money I could make.
    Touring with Anne Stevens and having the advantage of learning directly from a true "star," I became an expert traveler and survivor. I also advanced to a feature performer after only three months at the Glen Rendezvous.  I was a trained dancer, which set me apart from the other girls. That was my edge. I was also extremely young, very good-looking, and very aloof. This was my survivor training from Anne Stevens, and it worked. The more aloof I acted, the better I was treated, and the club's stopped trying to force me to "mix," which I stunk at. I was a clumsy champagne dumper, and I would not turn tricks. No way. Never did. Never would. I was a performer and a star in my mind long before I made it happen for real. This attitude helped me and I was aware of it. I was never in trouble. I didn't drink. I didn’t go with the owners, the musicians, the girls, or the booze.
    The sleaze was not for me. I was a loner and spent all my time in the dressing rooms beading my wardrobe and practicing the intricate costume maneuvers I liked to incorporate into my acts.
    I was always embarrassed to be working in burlesque. I entered the art-form when it was in major decline and had become sleazy. The theaters were dirty, worn, dusty, cold, and filled with obscene men with raincoats over their laps. That used to bother me as I was never interested in the porn industry. I was a dancer.
It was hard for agents to find real class acts that would not cause the clubs to get raided for their obscene dancing and actions. So, I found a niche and I worked it well for years. I worked for Blaze Starr at the 2 O'clock Club. Sol Goodman booked me in. I lasted 3 nights. The first time Blaze saw me work she fired me because I was younger, prettier, had a much better figure, and had way too much class for her.
    I met and worked for Rose La Rose. I filled in for Tempest Storm at the Stardust Club in St. Louis. I knew Hope Diamond, Mitzie Duray, Rita Atlanta, Jill Huntley, Earlene the Tassle Queen, Tura Satana, Johnny Mathis. I worked with Jerry Vale in Boston, Tubby Boots, Monkey Kirkland. I met everyone. It was a blast for me, as long as they allowed me to remain apart from the sleaze. And they did because it served their own purposes. I was sorta the dancer they booked in when the owners wanted to go on vacation because they knew nothing bad would happen if April Daye was on the bill for the two weeks they were gone. I liked that. They liked that. So it worked.
    I was able to work some notorious, high paying clubs without being hassled by owners or customers. The bouncers had the word: "Keep your eye on April Daye and tell the cook to give her doggie a steak every night."
    I met Gorgeous George in buffalo. Buddy “Nature Boy” Rodgers tried his best to seduce me in the Maxwell house hotel in Nashville. I was scared to death of him, he was so large but he accepted my "no." Boy, was I glad.
    I knew, Busty Russell, Chesty Morgan, Morgana, Santana, all the star performers of the late 50’s, the 60, and the 70’s.
    I have a million road stories, 'cause moving around so much you do meet everyone...and, "poof"...then your gone. I liked that.
    I was able to work the best clubs in the country. I traveled constantly. I was once on the road for a full year. When I went home, my mother said I slept for 2 days. She came into my room, worried I was dead, but I was only exhausted. Dancing is very, very hard. But, I must say, it has enabled me to hold my figure, right up today. I still have some of the muscle tone, and people do not believe my age, so I never tell them.
    I danced professionally until I was 45 and only quit because of a serious leg injury, made worse by the dancing. I was finally forced to retire but I never wanted to. I am multi-talented and had a large career under different names in different cities. I am also a well known fine art painter, a recording artist, and a recognized jazz and blues singer.
    Now I realize how unique my life actually has been. Such fun. I wouldn't have done it any other way. There is so much more to tell, but that will be in the book. Someday. But, somebody else is gonna have to write it.

                Hope you enjoyed the insights,

                                        April Daye aka Gypsy Eden

(Editors note: You can contact Ms. April Daye here: novaquantum18@gmail.com. She loves to hear from her fans.)

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