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Behind the Velvet Curtain: The Tale of the Tease

March 14, 2002|Dean Kuipers

You fell for the tease, and now you want more. Luckily, time hasn't quite forgotten the golden age of real burlesque, an underworld peopled with glamour girls, graft and secret arts thriving on the edges of daylight society. A number of great resources can take you deeper into the tale of the tease. From live revival shows to strange desert gatherings to academic treatises, a whole noir culture lies just behind that velvet curtain.

Local Live Shows

The Velvet Hammer. One night only, March 29, 9 p.m. El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wilshire Blvd. (323) 936-6400. Featuring "Fifteen Fellini-esque Females" (their quote) and special guest star Ann Magnuson. Plus a vaudevillian cast of comics and jugglers, live music by the Millionaire and his Maharajahs of Melody and DJ Senor Amor. Tickets: Wacko, 4633 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Squaresville, 7312 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Meow, 2210 E. 4th St., Long Beach, or online at Get a sneak preview at

Moulin Rouge Mondays at Jumbo's Clown Room. Monday, 11 p.m. 5153 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. (323) 666-1187. Get there early, the last time this monthly show went off, ladies and gentlemen were squeezing in the door. And why not? With acts like a naughty "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by gals who can actually tap, cheap beer and no cover, you'll be back.

Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 26, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Pussycat Dolls--An item in the March 14 Calendar Weekend gave incorrect dates for the Pussycat Dolls show at the Roxy. The burlesque/cabaret-style shows begin May 9 and continue on Thursday nights through the month.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 28, 2002 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Pussycat Dolls Show-An item in Calendar Weekend on March 14 about the upcoming Pussycat Dolls show at the Roxy had the dates incorrect. The burlesque/cabaret-style shows begin May 9 and continue on Thursday nights through the month.

Pussycat Dolls. Every Thursday in April at the Roxy, 9009 Sunset Blvd., L.A. (310) 276-2222. Created as a regular feature for the Viper Room, these model-looking dancers don't do real burlesque, they're more like slumming strippers. But for those who need their show glossy and pornified, this is your ticket.

Burlesque Contests and Conventions

The 46th Annual Striptease Reunion & Miss Exotic World Contest. June 1, 2 p.m. The true test of the devoted burlesque fan and fan-dancer is whether or not she's made the pilgrimage to the Exotic World/Burlesque Hall of Fame near Barstow. This freaky museum, founded by famed peeler Jennie Lee and now owned by Dixie Evans, "the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque," is jammed with photos and memorabilia, from costumes worn by Gypsy Rose Lee to Sally Rand's shoes. Dixie herself will show you around and hosts the Miss Exotic World. Open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 29053 Wild Road, Helendale, Calif. 92342 (760) 243-5261.


The following are all in print and available on or at bookstores unless indicated.

The Queens of Burlesque: Vintage Photographs of the 1940s and 1950s. By Len Rothe (Schiffer Publishing, 1998), $18.95. A nostalgic pictorial essay made up of publicity stills and lobby card shots of the top stars that, as one reviewer remarked, challenges the notion that Doris Day was the ultimate 1950s woman. Rothe's second book, "The Bare Truth: Stars of Burlesque From the '40s and '50s" (Schiffer Publishing, 1998), $19.95, is more of the same.

Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture. By Robert Clyde Allen, Alan Trachtenberg. (University of North Carolina Press, 1991) $49.95 in hardcover.

This is a sociological study placing early strip acts in the general evolution of American theater since the 1840s and its patterns of gender representation. One of Michelle Carr's favorite books.

Girl Show: Into the Canvas World of Bump and Grind. By A. W. Stencell (E C W Press, 2000), $23.95. A journey to the heart of turn-of-the-century traveling carnival sideshow girls, with a lengthy text and 200 photos, including such spinetinglers as "Tirza--The Wine Bath Girl." It explores these acts' origins in Europe, first appearances in the U.S. and post-World War II heyday.

Va Va Voom!: Bombshells, Pin-Ups, Sexpots and Glamour Girls. By Steve Sullivan (Unknown, 1995). A full review of the pinups, strippers and Hollywood sexpots of the 1940s through the 1960s, including Mamie Van Doren, Betty Brosmer, Jayne Mansfield and Blaze Starr. Also see Sullivan's other, similar book "Bombshells."


Take It Off!: Strip Tease Classics. (Rhino Records, 1997), $17.98. A compilation of incredible jazz and big-band swing-era bump 'n' grind classics by various artists, like "Lonely Little G-String" and "Take It Off" by the Genteels.

Las Vegas Grind, Pt. 1 (Crypt, 1995) $13.98. Faster-paced, more go-go attack on stripper classics, like "The Strip" by the Upsetters and the DynaSores' "Jungle Walk." With 31 songs packed onto this disc, there's bound to be something for the strip connoisseur.


"It's Burlesque," A&E documentary. Covers the history of burlesque from late-1800s belly dancer Little Egypt to Josephine Baker, Tempest Storm to the Velvet Hammer. Camille Paglia, who appeared in the documentary, called it "one of the most well-crafted, historically rich, limits-testing and fun shows about sex that has yet appeared on mainstream American television."

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