Blog Archives

Who’s Who in Burly-Q: Jean Idelle

Jean Idelle with her fans

Jean Idelle with her fans

Jean Idelle, often called “the Sepia Sally Rand,” was the first black exotic fan dancer. She was active from 1950 – 1963 and performed internationally during a time of intense segregation. Jean was instrumental in integrating whites-only dance clubs. Her famed fan dance broke racial barriers long before the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and she was known to travel with a chauffeur and security guard for protection.

Jean was discovered at 20 years old by a Broadway talent agency while attending the famous Katherine Dunham School of Dance. Although she had never even laid eyes on a burlesque show, she began working with a choreographer who trained her to become a burlesque fan dancer.

She soon became the headlining attraction at Minsky’s Rialto Theatre in Chicago and o...

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Who’s Who in Burly-Q: Bettie Page (1923-2008)

Bettie Page

Bettie Page fetish photo

As the “Queen of Pinups,” Bettie Page rarely needs an introduction. Her trademark jet-black hair, blue eyes, and bangs influenced generations of pinup models and burlesque performers to come, and her physique still inspires countless artistic renditions.

Much of Bettie’s life has become pop culture history. She was born on April 22, 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating salutatorian of her high school, she moved to New York City with dreams of becoming an actress.

She worked secretarial jobs to support herself and soon became a popular “camera club” model known for her lack of inhibition and playful demeanor.

In the early 1950s, she began working with photographer Irving Klaw...

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Who’s Who in Burly-Q: Blaze Starr (1932 – 2015)

BLaze Starr on the cover of Man magazineBlaze Starr is an iconic redhead, with a sultry voluptuous figure and charisma that has stood the test of time. Born on April 10, 1932 in Wayne County, West Virginia, Starr was raised in a large family and was the second oldest out of 11 brothers and sisters.

Starr left home for Washington D.C. as a young teenager. She was discovered by a promoter while working at the Mayflower Donut Shop. The promoter convinced a young Starr to wear a red and white cowgirl outfit and perform a striptease while playing the guitar. According to her 1974 autobiography Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry, Starr was so embarrassed that she covered herself with her hat and threw up when she got offstage!

After a few rough years in Washington, D.C...

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Who’s Who in BurlyQ: Toni Elling

Toni EllingThe elegant and classy Toni Elling is a burlesque icon who broke down many barriers as an African-American woman performing in the 1960s and 1970s. Born in 1929 and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Elling worked as a telephone operator for nine years before her big career switch. Reportedly fed up with being passed over for promotions based on the color of her skin, the 32-year-old Elling decided to pursue burlesque at a time when many of her peers were retiring from the tassel twirl.

Toni Elling

Elling derived her stage name from her famed friendship with jazz great Duke Ellington, and is affectionately called “the Satin Doll” and “The Duke’s Delight”. She also hung out with Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Wilson, and boxer Joe Lewis, to name a few...

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