Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheers to Gypsy Rose Lee

Tomorrow Gypsy Rose Lee would have turned 100. She was a burlesque dancer and producer, an accomplished seamstress and costume designer, the author of a play and several books (a couple that were turned into movies), she acted in films and TV, had her own television talk show and her life story was turned into one of the most popular and successful musicals of all time, Gypsy (which is about to be relaunched on to the big screen by Barbra Streisand).

I've always felt a great connection to Gypsy- I feel like I share her DIY attitude and her desire to do more and be more. Plus burlesque changed both of us for the better. For her it took an awkward girl who had no place in Vaudeville, gave her a stage and made her a star --and for me burlesque transformed my very shy and awkward self into an elegant, confident woman. We both cultivated stage personas that eventually we mostly transformed into, onstage and off. Burlesque made us both published writers, and while it defines who we are to the general public, we both have used that fact to achieve greater goals rather than letting it limit us, as it could.

When I went out to Exotic World in 2005 to help them pack up and make the move to Vegas, photographer Don Spiro was recording the museum pieces before they were stored away, and asked me to model Gypsy's gorgeous drapey green velvet dress and black shoes. Gypsy was just a half inch taller than my 5'9 and I have a similar frame, so the dress fit me perfectly, though her size 10's were a size large for me. I remember feeling slightly electrified thinking that I was literally standing in Gypsy's shoes and dress.

Author Karen Abbott just released an in-depth and entertaining biography of Gypsy American Rose:A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee and she'll be here in Denver on February 5th at the Tattered Cover in Lodo, where yours truly will be recreating a couple of Gypsy's numbers! If you happen to be in New York tomorrow, celebrate Gypsy's birthday with Karen and some of the city's finest burlesque performers at the New York Public Library.

And for a quick peek at this amazing woman, this terrific article from Life Magazine from December 14, 1942 catches her at the height of her success (plus check out all the holiday and booze ads- fantastic!).

She was an incredible woman and as I'm also a cocktail girl, I suggest lifting a glass to toast the great lady, maybe a gin and tonic (her favorite) or this cocktail, known as 'The Gypsy': Equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, and a maraschino cherry. Cheers to Gypsy!

1 comment:

  1. Love Gyspy Rose Lee! I saw a college production of the musical when I was 10 or so, and I think it may have been the start of my love for burlesque and vintage!