How the bump and grind became the biggest entertainment
draw of the century
"Striptease, the National Fetish"
by Franklin L. Thistle
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
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
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
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
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!"