When the big time burlesque gals
act up for publicity, it's a barrel of laughs and trouble a minute
"The Off-Stage Shenanigans of Strippers"
by Franklin L. Thistle
Vol. 3 No. 8, February 1959
not long ago, actress Anita
Ekberg made a theater appearance in Miami, Florida, along with comedian
Bob Hope to promote the movie "Paris Holiday," in which they both starred.
Among those present in the audience was Evelyn West,
the notorious stripper who once insured her bountiful bosom for $50,000
with Lloyds of London. Evelyn just happened to be sitting in the front
row between a press agent and photographer.
Just as Miss Ekberg told Hope,
in a stage sketch, "I'm just an ordinary girl," Miss West yelled, "You
sure are," and let fly with two tomatoes. Unfortunately for lovely Anita,
Miss West's aim was good. The tomatoes hit Anita halfway down the front
of her black strapless gown.
"What's the matter with her?"
Anita said in amazement. Hope wiped tomato splatters off her dress, muttering,
"Nothing like this has happened since my old days in vaudeville." Amid
an audience uproar, Evelyn West was led away by police to the Coral Gables
police station and booked on disorderly conduct and instigation of assault
Evelyn told police that she
had pelted Miss Ekberg with tomatoes be cause the actress had walked out
during one of her strip-tease performances at a Miami Beach night club.
But the real reason why Miss West displayed such unladylike behavior, of
course, was to get publicity. An effort was made to get Anita to press
charges against the shapely stripper but she decided not to give her the
satisfaction--and the added publicity.
Miss West's rude behavior
came as a shock to most people. But it hardly startled devotees of the
strip-tease, for they have become as familiar with the off-stage shenanigans
of strippers as they have with their torrid torso-tossing on stage. Strip
fans learned long ago that when it comes to getting publicity, most strippers
are only too willing to resort to bizarre behavior in an all-out effort
to make the headlines.
Let's take a look at some
of the off beat and ingenious publicity stunts which the pulchritudinous
practitioners of the peeling profession have perpetrated.
Starr succeeded in creating some blazing headlines several months ago
in a manner which gave even blasé New Yorkers a fright. As you may
know, Blaze is the red-hot stripper who imitates a snarling panther in
her most famous strip act. The incident occurred while the buxom brunette
was staying at a hotel near Central Park during an engagement at a 52nd
Street night spot in New York City. On the last day of her engagement,
Blaze smuggled a frisky panther cub into her room--unknown to the management
Early that evening she left
her hotel room via the fire escape, leaving the panther cub alone and unleashed.
Be fore she went to the club, she slipped into the nearest Western Union
office and sent herself a telegram at the hotel. Having set the scene for
fireworks, Blaze went to a bar across the street from her hotel to await
About an hour later, a messenger
boy knocked on the door of Blaze's hotel room to deliver the telegram.
Nobody answered, of course, but the boy continued knocking because he heard
someone moving around inside. Suddenly he got a response. Sensing danger
because of the knocks on the door, the panther cub started clawing at the
door and growling menacingly. Needless to say, the boy knocked no longer
but ran downstairs and told the desk clerk there was a lion in room 202.
The clerk took one look at the frightened messenger boy and called the
Minutes later, two squad cars
pulled up in front of the hotel with a screech of tires. Four of New York's
finest leaped out and bounded up the stairs to room 202 with the desk clerk
leading the way. The police stood by with drawn guns as the clerk nervously
unlocked the door. The door was kicked open and the cops braced themselves
for the attack of the savage beast. But their alarm was all for naught.
Curled up on the floor was the panther cub...fast asleep.
By this time a crowd had gathered
outside Blaze's room, including reporters and photographers who had been
waiting around at police headquarters for something to break. At the height
of the commotion, Blaze made her grand entrance and nonchalantly inquired
what the fuss was all about. When the dumbfounded and slightly irritated
officers asked her what a panther cub was doing in her room, Blaze replied
innocently, "Why, I'm going to teach it to take off my clothes in my new
The police advised the star
stripper, who by this time was posing prettily for the photographers and
telling reporters the name of the club where she was appearing, that the
proper place for animals was in the zoo. The next morning, pictures of
Blaze and her panther cub made all the New York papers and she was happy--as
was the hotel management when Blaze checked out the next day.
incident which involved a stripper and the police took place recently when
voluptuous Tempest Storm informed Hollywood
police that an ex husband of hers had threatened her life. Tempest, who
is paid $2000 a week for shaking her charms, breathlessly told police that
she couldn't shake John Becker, her third husband, in a 30-minute chase
through Hollywood streets, and asked for protection.
"I'm in fear of my life,"
she told police, "and I want him arrested. I will prosecute."
Tempest, who insured her beautiful
body for $1,000,000 in 1954, told officers she was driving along the Hollywood
freeway when she noticed that Becker, 41, was following her in his pink
convertible. She said Becker honked at her, so she drove off the freeway
at the Sunset Boulevard exit and spent more than a half hour trying to
elude him in traffic. She couldn't, she declared. But at Gower Street and
Hollywood Boulevard, she spotted a police radio car, and when she stopped
to ask the officers to help her, Becker drove off.
The queen of the runways also
told police her ex-husband had been threatening her by telephone and several
weeks before had called her at the Chi Chi in Palm Springs and had told
"You'd better make your last
show to night, as it will be your last one."
After her performance, she
said, he shoved her around and used obscene language in the lobby of the
El Mirado Hotel. She agreed not to prosecute when he agreed to leave Palm
Springs. But since she returned to Los Angeles, Tempest reported, Becker
had repeatedly threatened her by telephone. Flashing her long lashes as
she glanced over the police report before signing it, the beauteous burlesque
queen appeared satisfied that she had taken an action necessary to protect
her much ogled body. Whether Tempest's complaint was a publicity stunt
or really on the level is anybody's guess.
During her reign as one of
the top peelers in the flesh-flashing business, Tempest has always managed
to stay in the headlines. Once she tried to squeeze her highly-touted body
into a specially designed fishbowl at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco.
For some reason (publicity of course) the question had arisen as to whether
big-breasted Tempest was capable of squeezing into such a small space.
Naturally, she decided one night to end speculation on this score once
and for all.
Tempest graciously invited
the press and scores of cameramen to be on hand at the time of her mermaid
audition. When the big moment finally came, the queen of quiver stripped
naked as lensmen fired away from all angles, because Tempest looks good
from any angle. To make a long story very short, Tempest did manage to
fit her fabulous form into the flshbowl.
Ravishing Rene Andre recently
filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court for $100,000 damages over what
she called a beauty treatment that didn't take. Her quest for greater beauty
through "Fountain of Youth" treatments left her permanently. disfigured,
she charged. The suit was directed against Cora Galenti, operating under
the name of Beauty Aids, Inc. Miss Andre said that in answer to an advertisement
in a magazine she asked for treatment as she wanted two small scars removed
from her throat.
Rene charged that employees
of the beauty salon applied a wrinkle removing cream to her neck and shoulders
which left all of her throat burned and scarred and also injured her shoulders.
Rene contended that the treatment--for which she said she paid $1,850--left
these portions of her body "permanently scarred" and that plastic surgery
necessary to remove some of the disfigurements would cost $15,000.
Rene, you may recall, made
news once before when she had an "up lifting" operation to increase the
size of her bosom. After she had dumped her bosom into the hands of a skilled
plastic surgeon, she lost no time in letting the whole world know about
it and claimed she was the first stripper on the West Coast to have such
an operation. She held a press conference during which she showed curious
and open-mouthed reporters her new frontal superstructure.
"It's the simplest operation
in the world," Rene declared happily. "Just two tiny one-inch incisions
are made, one at the bottom of each breast. Then the doctor puts in a flexible
nylon disc, cut in the correct shape, and takes a few stitches, and the
operation is over. You heal in a few days and stop feeling anything at
all in two months. There is no loss of sensitivity. And the operation doesn't
harm you in any way.
Stripper Jody Lawrence got
a good play in the papers due to her recent efforts to organize a union
called the "Benevolent Association of Revealing Entertainers"--BAREs for
short. She declared membership was open to all entertainers who display
their figures. Jody, incidentally, is an alumnus of the University of Washington,
proving that her head is as educated as her trembling torso--a definite
asset for any stripper seeking publicity.
Gay Dawn, one of the loveliest
girls in stripping circles today, once entered the University of California
Sophomore Doll beauty contest under the pseudonym of Dolores Jones. She
represented the Chi Psi fraternity house and had no difficulty winning
the contest over the younger and less well-endowed contestants. Gorgeous
Gay had made arrangements for a friend to tip off the judges as to her
real identity after she was crowned the fairest co-ed. When the judges
learned that they had chosen a professional stripper and not a co-ed, they
speedily disqualified her. But this, of course, didn't faze Gay a bit for
she had accomplished her goal. It was no coincidence that the press had
been alerted to Gay's little gag. The curvaceous cutie soon became the
center of attention for photographers and reporters who dutifully rushed
the hot story and equally hot pictures of Gay to their papers. The tale
of Gay's hoax was splashed all over the front pages and her stock in stripdom
The star stripper of Paris,
a German-born girl from Hamburg named Dodo, who has long been captivating
the patrons at the Crazy Horse Saloon, won international notoriety not
long ago when she refused to pose in the nude for famed artist Ludwig Bemelmans.
Dodo met Bemelmans when he came into the Crazy Horse one night and introduced
himself as the Prince of Bavaria. They became friendly and he eventually
asked Dodo if he could paint her in the nude. Despite the fact that she
strips down to next to nothing every night as a matter of course, Dodo
refused to pose in the altogether, thus shocking blasé Parisians
who don't give nudity a second thought (or so they would have us believe,
"He wanted to paint me in
the nude," Dodo says, "but I have always refused to pose for anyone in
the nude, so he had to come to the club to do his sketches. It became very
expensive for him."
Dodo says she refuses to pose
for photographers or paintings in the nude because one day she hopes to
be a dramatic star or at least get married "and I don't think it's nice
to have pictures or paintings around that would show me in a bad light."
Dodo doesn't want to remain
a strip teaser forever. "It's not that I don't like striptease," she says,
"but what can you do after you've taken all your clothes off?" She feels
that people think just because she is a strip-teaser she lives a loose
"In ordinary life I'm very
shy," she says. "I don't like to have anything to do with men, because
they think that because you work in a cabaret they can say anything they
want to you. To me, striptease is just a game. As far as I'm concerned,
it's a stepping stone to other things. An artist must be seen, and it doesn't
matter how people see you."
So far, Dodo hasn't had the
least bit of trouble getting herself seen--and by the right people who
can help her career. Movie people such as Gary Cooper and Otto Preminger
have be come admirers of Dodo, and Arthur Freed, the MGM producer, even
promised her a screen test. And in the art world, Dodo may become as famous
as Toulouse-Lautrec's Jane Avril. Ludwig Bemelmans has just made five paintings
of her and has been offered up to $5000 a painting. All of which goes to
prove that a girl doesn't have to pose in the nude to make the world sit
up and take notice--the case of Marilyn Monroe
to the contrary.
A stripper not reluctant to
show herself in the nude is Bubbles Darlene. Once, when attendance was
low at the Havana club where she was appearing. Bubbles decided to take
matters into her own hands, so to speak, to pep attendance up a bit. One
bright and sunny day Bubbles casually strolled along busy downtown Prado
boulevard wearing only a transparent raincoat. Traffic became congested
as motorists and pedestrians alike stopped to stare and pinch themselves
to see if they were dreaming.
Police finally arrived on
the scene and escorted Bubbles to the station where they booked her on
the charge of indecent exposure. When she appeared before the judge, Bubbles
turned on her charm and managed to get off with only a reprimand. That
evening when Bubbles showed up for work, the club was jammed and people
were lined up for blocks waiting to get in. It was apparent to the owner
of the bistro that the new boom in business was due to the fact that every
paper in Havana had carried an account of Bubbles' near-nude stroll together
with a sexy picture of her. To show his appreciation, he gave Bubbles a
big raise in salary and extended her engagement.
Probably the most ludicrous
publicity stunt ever perpetrated by a stripper can be credited to six-foot,
four-inch Lois De Fee. Although the statuesque stripper had engaged in
matrimony six times before she reached the age of 25, never did
she literally stoop so low as when she married Billy Curtis, a three-foot
midget, just for publicity purposes.
"It was just a stunt to get
in the papers," Lois confesses. "We didn't--I mean, we were married at
three o'clock in the afternoon in Miami, and the half pint took a plane
for New York at seven o'clock that evening, and we didn't--that is--oh
hell! We didn't. I applied for an annulment the next day."
Tassle-twirling Jennie Lee,
the possessor of some of the biggest mammary glands in burlesque, made
headlines around the world during her recent tour of the Orient when she
went swimming in the nude in Manila Bay.
"The uproar in the papers,"
Jennie says, "was partly due to the fact that I had breast-stroked in my
birthday suit and partly because the bay was shark infested. However, I
told reporters that I saw nothing wrong with swimming in the nude and that
I had handled wolves at home so I guessed I could take care of sharks,
Jean Smyle, professionally
known as "Venus the Body," recently got a lot of coverage in the newspapers
by opening a striptease school in Hollywood for advanced study in the fine
arts of the bump, grind and tassel-twirling. Venus claims she launched
the school to supply a more refined type of striptease for the country's
"Burlesque can't even be classified
as entertainment any more," says Jean, a sultry redhead. "Ninety percent
of the girls stripping today are short, saggy and fat. Because of them,
burlesque is a dying art, and we hope to bring it back."
Jean's school for strippers
offers a 15-week course for $150 with total enrollment limited to 25 blush-proof
girls. Included in the curriculum are such eyebrow-raising subjects as
removal of inhibitions, posturing and posing, exotic technique and walking
with a wiggle. According to Jean, outside measurements are not required.
"We're attempting to bring
graceful dancing back to strip-teasing," she ex plains. "The day of the
girl who walks on a stage just to peel off her clothes is over. We'll still
strip, of course--but with class."
Jean says that she objects
to bumps and grinds, but that most audiences are outraged if they're not
forthcoming. "We're teaching other talents, too," she says. "About a third
of our audiences nowadays are women and they expect more 'art.' And more
money is being paid strippers all the time, so gals have to be versatile.
In Las Vegas the clubs start strippers at $300 a week. For that kind of
money a girl has to do more than undress. Every woman can do that."
Dolores Del Raye, who is best
known for her matador strip-tease act in which she uses a long, nasty-looking
bull whip, dreamed up a clever scheme not long ago to get her name in the
papers. Between engagements in Southern California, Dolores took a jaunt
south of the border to Tijuana, Mexico. Here she attended a bull fight
and put on an unscheduled performance during a lull in the festivities.
While spectators roared their approval, Dolores entered the bull ring to
try her hand at taming a bull.
Dolores confessed later that
she felt mighty naked at the time, although she was fully clothed for the
event, because she had forgotten to bring her trusty bull whip with her.
Her only means of defense against a none-too-friendly bull turned out to
be a red G-string, a prop which she often uses for picture purposes in
lieu of the traditional cape. While flash bulbs popped, Dolores had a chance
to really exercise her dancing ability, as the bull that had been selected
to participate in the publicity stunt showed definite signs of wanting
to get better acquainted with the pretty girl waving the red G-string.
Probably the best-known offstage
shenanigans of any stripper are those of Candy Barr's,
who looks as sweet as her name suggests, although she has won a well-deserved
reputation as being a real pistol-packing mama. Candy, you see, once shot
her second husband because she claimed he was annoying her after she had
filed suit for divorce.
Things came to a shotgun showdown
one night deep in the heart of Texas when Candy was preparing for bed after
a tiring stint of stripping at a Dallas club. Her estranged husband paid
her an unexpected visit and demanded that she let him in. When Candy re
fused, he broke the door down.
"I ran from him," says Candy.
"As I was racing around the house I remember that I had a .22 rifle in
the closet. I grabbed it and ran out into the hall. I started up the stairs
and when I heard him coming up after me I turned around and shot once."
The bullet hit her husband
in the stomach. When police arrived on the scene, Candy was standing over
the body in her negligee. Police took her to jail, but released her when
it turned out her husband was not seriously hurt and refused to press charges.
Upon her release, photographers crowded around to take her picture. "Make
it sexy, boys," Candy cooed, remembering that a stripper's best friend
Veteran stripper Rose La Rose
once married a man who had courted her primarily from the front row during
her stage performances. Soon after she accepted the proposal of her ardent
fan, Rose filed divorce papers claiming that her marriage was just a continuation
of her striptease act.
The daring darling of the
runways elaborated in court and told the judge that after doing five shows
a day she'd come home and be required to give still another performance
at the imperious command of her eccentric spouse. Rose testified that her
husband had a habit of lying in bed and demanding that she perform her
professional anatomical gyrations while he furnished the music by playing
"I'd be crying," Rose said,
"but he just kept yelling 'Take it off! Take it off!'" Rose got her divorce.
There's no question but what
strippers have indulged in some pretty wild off-stage shenanigans. But
don't forget that strippers are also capable of cutting some pretty wild
capers on stage as well. Just trot down to your local burlesque theater
and you'll see what we mean.