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 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

    ONE NIGHT 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 and battery.
    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.
    Blaze 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 of course.
    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 further developments.
    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 police.
    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 act."
    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.
Tempest StormAnother 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 her:
    "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 skyrocketed.
    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, anyway).
    "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 life.Blaze Starr
    "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, too."
    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 theaters.
    "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.Candy Barr
    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 is publicity.
    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 a harmonica.
    "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.

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