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How the bump and grind became the biggest entertainment draw of the century

"Striptease, the National Fetish"

by Franklin L. Thistle


Sir Knight

Vol. 1, No. 12,  July, 1960

ONE DAY NOT long ago, a shapely, well- stacked Los Angeles junior high school teacher named Patricia Ann Carruthers quit her job in a huff and announced that she was going to become a strip-teaser. Miss Carruthers said she had decided to quit teaching because the principal kept riding her about the way she dressed.
     "Everything I did was wrong," she said. "Either my dresses were too tight or too revealing. I couldn't even wear long earrings without criticism. The kids all loved the way I dressed, but one day the principal said: 'Do you realize what you are doing to these junior high school boys?' I decided then that I couldn't be myself any more if I stayed in teaching. So I quit."
     Shortly after she chucked her job as a teacher, Miss Carruthers made her debut as a stripper under the name of Patti White at the El Rancho Club in Los Angeles, billed as "The Ex-Teacher with the Educated Torso." During the months that followed, people from all over Southern California flocked to the El Rancho Club to ogle the former school teacher as she delivered some rather revealing lessons in anatomy.
     When the news broke that a school teacher had quit her job to become a stripper, newspapers all over the country gave the story front page space with big, bold headlines which wasn't the least bit surprising. The story had definite news value, plenty of human interest and it concerned a pretty blonde. But even more important was the fact that the story concerned a stripper--and editors are well aware that most Americans possess more than casual interest in the pulchritudinous practitioners of the striptease.
     Over the years Americans have displayed an increasing interest in the striptease. Today the striptease ranks as one of America's favorite forms of entertainment and comprises a thriving industry which employs thousands of swivel-hipped girls. In fact, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the striptease has become a national fetish. Let's take a look at how the striptease experienced its phenomenal growth and at the daring damsels who have been instrumental in making the striptease so popular.
     The striptease, as we know it today, originated quite accidentally some 30 years ago when a platinum blonde named Hinda Wassau stepped fro the chorus line to do a tap dance at Chicago's Haymarket Theater. No sooner had Hinda commenced her tap routine than one of the straps on her costume came undone. The more she danced, the more the audience got to see of Hinda. Hinda was frantic with embarrassment and didn't know what to do. But the audience did. They applauded like crazy.
     When Hinda finished her number and retired to the wings nearly nude, she expected to be fired on the spot for her unladylike exhibition, unavoidable though it was. But her fears proved to be unfounded. The theater manager rushed over to her, complimented her on her sensational new "act," and told her to use it in the show from that day on. Thus the striptease was born.
     After Hinda Wassau' s impromptu strip performance, the striptease spread like wildfire and soon became the main attraction of burlesque shows. By the mid-thirties the striptease was very much in vogue and the profession of strip-teaser had become well-established.
     The leading luminaries of the striptease in those days were Gypsy Rose Lee and Ann Corio. According to to day's striptease standards, the acts of Gypsy and Ann were quite tame, for they both believed in maintaining an air of reserve.
     But despite Ann's practice of keeping her striptease ultra-refined, Boston's Watch and Ward Society looked upon her anatomical antics with displeasure and succeeded in closing the theater where she was performing for a month in 1933.
     The striptease rolled merrily along during the next decade with only occasional interference from the law. But in 1942 the striptease suffered a momentary set back when the New York Society for Suppression of Vice pressured Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to ban burlesque in New York City. This body blow to burlesque caused syndicated columnist Robert Ruark to write: "The burlesque show, as vital a slice of Americana as the covered wagon, seems just about ready for the boneyard."
     During the next few years, Ruark's prediction was somewhat substantiated in fact as many burlesque theaters shut down throughout the country. One of the first to shutter was Minsky's Rialto Theater in Chicago, followed by the Alvin Theater in Minneapolis and the Empress Theater in Milwaukee.
     The nation's burlesque theaters dwindled from a high of about 60 to a handful, but the striptease by no means suffered the same fate. On the contrary, the striptease only changed addresses and moved on to greener and more profitable pastures. Strippers packed their G-strings, vacated the big, musty burlesque theaters, and moved into the night clubs.
     Actually, this move turned out for the best for striptease fans. No longer do they have to crane their necks or use binoculars from the balcony to get a good view of strippers. In the intimacy of a night club, spectators at ringside tables can now reach out and touch a trembling torso--if the strippers don't object, of course. Most night club strip acts are conducted on a very chummy basis.
     The first name stripper to seek night club bookings was lovely Lili St. Cyr. Lili felt that performing for night club patrons called for a more intimate and dignified expression of her striptease art, so she originated a special bubble bath number which soon became one of the most talked-about acts on the striptease circuit.
     Perhaps the best example of how this policy of employing strippers has paid off for night clubs can be found in Los Angeles. Along the famous Sunset Strip many of the elegant big-time night clubs have been replaced by swanky strip joints. The most successful of these is Chuck Landis' Largo Club, where more than 150,000 customers have ogled a bevy of beautiful babes disrobing in the past year.
     Voluptuous Candy Barr, probably the biggest drawing card in stripdom, packs the spacious Largo Club every time she plays there. Unlike most strippers, Candy employs no so-called gimmicks in her strip routines. She relies solely on her inimitable style of disrobing which includes writhings few reptiles could equal. The lush blonde manages to keep her audiences enraptured on the strength of her fabulous figure and calculated capers.
     Besides the many clubs which feature strip shows, Los Angeles has three movie houses which show strip films exclusively and one burlesque theater, the New Follies. Most of the time these places are jammed to capacity.
     More evidence of how the strip tease has become a national fetish can be seen at the big glamor hotels in Las Vegas. Only a few years ago strip shows were relegated to a few small clubs on the outskirts of North Las Vegas. But strip shows and girlie revues are now a main-stay of Las Vegas night life.
     The demand for strippers and strip shows is just as great all over the country as it is in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Sol Goodman, owner of the Two O'Clock Club in Baltimore, and personal manager for a number of strippers, says: "The striptease is booming. The strippers I handle are getting so many offers they can't possibly fill them all. And according to what I hear from other agents, the situation is the same everywhere else."
     In addition to the burlesque theater and the night club, another entertainment medium which has helped to promote the remarkable growth of the striptease is the legitimate theater on Broadway. In recent years many. Broadway shows have spotlighted the striptease and have made it a familiar ingredient in musical comedy and legitimate drama.
     The movie industry has also done much to make the country striptease conscious. Hollywood has discovered that movie attendance can be boosted considerably by using a strip tease sequence in a film and movie moguls intend to keep right on exploiting the striptease.
     Currently, there is a trend under way to sign top-notch strippers to appear in motion pictures. Stripper Virginia Bell was recently signed to a $1,000-a-week, 18-month contract with Cleota Productions. Peeler Candy Barr is under contract to Titan Productions and will appear in her trouble-filled life story on the screen in the near future. And Tempest Storm is dickering with film producers at the present time.
     Capitalizing on the great popularity of the striptease today, an enterprising stripper named Venus recently wrote a book entitled "The Stripper's School Book," which is a sort of do-it-yourself kit for girls who want to learn the tricks of the trade. According to Venus, the book is selling very well.
     And for those girls who prefer to learn how to strip on the job, ex stripper Lillian Hunt conducts a striptease school at the New Follies Theater in Los Angeles. Lillian teaches the art between regular performances and boasts such alumnae as Patti Waggin and Tempest Storm.
     Never before has the demand for strippers been so great. Variety, the trade paper of the entertainment industry, recently reported: "Chicago, for years a stripper's haven, is now seriously beset by a dearth of peelers. The local American Guild of Variety Artists office receives some eight to ten calls a day from strip operators scraping the barrel for peeling talent. It's estimated that the town and environs could easily employ another 100 strippers."
     Dave Cohn, a New York Theatrical booking agent, says: "The public wants strippers. Not that people are sex-crazy, but they want something a little different."
     Judging from all the indications, it would certainly appear that the striptease has, indeed, become a national fetish. Who knows, maybe in the near future strippers will be taking it off right in your own living room--on television. The day when strippers will be on television may be nearer than you realize.
     Recently a shapely stripper named Rhoda Rodger did a strip tease on a British TV program. When she finished her act, she was wearing only two rosebuds on her chest and a G-string. And the TV network didn't receive a single complaint!
     Remarked Rhoda: "I don't think anybody would have complained even if I had taken everything off!"

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