Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America
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Burlesque was one of America's most popular forms of live entertainment in the first half of the 20th century. Gaudy, bawdy, and spectacular, the shows entertained thousands of paying customers every night of the week. And yet the legacy of burlesque is often vilified and misunderstood, left out of the history books.
By telling the intimate and surprising stories from its golden age through the women (and men!) who lived it, Behind the Burly Q reveals the true story of burlesque, even as it experiences a new renaissance. Lovingly interviewed by burlesque enthusiast Leslie Zemeckis who produced the hit documentary of the same name, are former musicians, strippers, novelty acts, club owners, authors, and historians--assembled here for the first time ever to tell you just what really happened in a burlesque show. From Jack Ruby and Robert Kennedy to Abbott and Costello--burlesque touched every corner of American life. The sexy shows often poked fun at the upper classes, at sex, and at what people were willing to do in the pursuit of sex. Sadly, many of the performers have since passed away, making this their last, and often only interview. Behind the Burly Q is the definitive history of burlesque during its heyday and an invaluable oral history of an American art form. Funny, shocking, unbelievable, and heartbreaking, their stories will touch your hearts. We invite you to peek behind the curtain at the burly show.
Includes dozens of never-before seen photographs: rare backstage photos and candid shots from the performers' personal collections.
Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade imprint, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in history--books about World War II, the Third Reich, Hitler and his henchmen, the JFK assassination, conspiracies, the American Civil War, the American Revolution, gladiators, Vikings, ancient Rome, medieval times, the old West, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
with two Russian wolfhounds. But as much rivalry as there could be among the strippers and comedians, there was a feeling of us-against-them. The burlesque performers looked out for one another; they stuck together. “You knew about the stigma, but we’re in a group all by ourselves,” Dixie said. “There was some protection and comfort in that.” “They made the best of it. They were pretty good to one another. They stuck by one another,” said Alda. Backstage friendships formed an intractable bond
bump. You couldn’t do two. You couldn’t do a series of bumps. You had to have two-inch piece on [the] front panel. I didn’t use fringe. It had to show that you had like a bikini bathing suit fuller than what they wear now. If you were a blonde, you had to wear [a] brunette [G-string], you couldn’t wear black; blonde you couldn’t wear a nude one. Every blonde was not bleaching there. You carried two sets of nets, flesh or black with ruffle to show you had it on.” “If you touched a curtain on
stripper. I would have made a fortune.” Carmela Rickman (d. 2008)—The Sophia Loren of Burlesque. Billy Rose (1896–1966)—Producer, married burlesque performer Fanny Brice. Lily Ann Rose (b. 1933)—She started stripping when she was fourteen in Boston. Her mother and aunt both worked burlesque. Rose La Rose (1919–1972)—Considered the “bad girl” of burlesque, Rose was a stripper who ended up owning her own theatres in Ohio, where she mentored many young girls. Betty Rowland (b. 1916)—She was one
recalled Susan Weiss, Sally’s niece. Her father was Sally’s brother, the second-youngest in the line. The family home for Sally and her siblings was a crowded two-bedroom apartment in Chicago. It was a “difficult life,” Weiss said. “As a kid, she’d take the tassels off the window shades and play with them,” Weiss said. An auspicious beginning for a woman who would become hugely popular by swinging her tassels for sold-out crowds in Boston. At fifteen or sixteen, Sally got her start by entering
hadn’t been there for her, hadn’t protected her from abandonment, hunger, rape, humiliation, and sadness. Even though she “hated burlesque,” it didn’t mean she did not like working in the nightclubs stripping. She did. But the clubs were very different than the theatres. Sherry moved into nightclubs, appearing at Leon & Eddies on 52nd Street for six or seven years straight, starting at the age of sixteen and breaking all attendance records. Nightclubs had “vaudeville acts and I sang and danced