BHoF collects costumes, stage props, photographs, and personal effects from performers at every level and from every era. Interested in donating to the museum's collection? Click here for more information.

Featured Artifact: Gypsy Rose Lee’s Pincushion

Gypsy Rose Lee Pincushion

Gypsy Rose Lee was practically born into show business, touring the vaudeville circuits with her sister, Jane Havoc, from before she was old enough to go to school. Their successes were fleeting and hardships enduring, and it behooved the young vaudevillian to learn to sew. Throughout her stage career, both in vaudeville and, later, burlesque, Gypsy sewed her own clothes and costumes, and this pincushion — a cheap, slightly kitschy dime-store model picked up who-knows-where —  must have seen plenty of backstages over the course of her career.

Gypsy Rose Lee's pincushionThe pincushion is bristling with straight pins. Gypsy didn’t trust zippers, and didn’t trust buttons or eye-hooks either. Often, her dresses were sewed with one side seam open, and Gypsy would pin herself into the dress before going on-stage...

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Featured Artifact: Val de Val One-sheet

Val de Val One-sheetVal de Val (1917-2000), billed as “The Liberator” and “The H-Bomb of Burlesque”, began performing in the 1940s. She made two films, French Follies (which also featured our founder, Jennie Lee) and Burlesque in Hawaii (also released as Oriental Vanities) before retiring from performing when she got married in 1957. She went on to become a fine artist and art teacher.

This oversized one-sheet measures 54″ x 41″, with red and blue ink screenprinted onto matte white paper. One-sheets like these were placed behind glass outside theaters to promote the show; we have two in a matched pair, suggesting one for either side of the theater entrance.

Val de Val

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Liz Renay Manuscript Restoration Project Finished

Liz Renay

Portrait of Liz Renay

The Burlesque Hall of Fame offers our sincere thanks to the archive team at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, for their invaluable assistance in restoring a bundle of Liz Renay manuscripts acquired from her estate.

Liz Renay published a number of books in her lifetime, including titles like My Face for the World to See and My First 2000 Men. After her passing, BHoF acquired a large portion of her estate, including costumes, paintings, stage props, personal effects — and a knitting basket filled with typed and handwritten manuscripts, each bundle of pages tightly rolled and secured with rubber bands.

Liz Renay’s manuscripts before restoration

The bundles had been rolled so long and the pages had become so yellowed and brittle that they could not be unrolled without...

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Jada’s Testimony Re: Jack Ruby’s Assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald

JadaHere’s an interesting piece from our archives, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and the ensuing assasination of Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963: a copy of burlesque dancer Jada’s testimony about her employer, Jack Ruby, at one of his nightclubs in Dallas, TX.

Based in New Orleans, Jada was hired to perform at Ruby’s Carousel Club in July of 1963, and was contracted to work there until January of the following year. In her testimony, she describes a contentious relationship with Ruby, who she felt had tricked her into unfavorable terms in her contract and thought was cheating her of some of her pay...

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Shoes worn by Patti Starr

Shoes worn by Patti Starr

We recently added to our collection a selection of stage jewelry, shoes, and a dress, all from the career of Patti Starr. Now in her 90s, Patti Starr performed in the mid-20th century before marrying an oil man and retiring… for a while. She was a close friend of Jennie Lee and was around at the very beginning of the Exotic Dancers League, though she doesn’t seem to have been very much involved. We were able to record an interview with Patti, which we’ll add to our oral history collection, but right now we want to focus on her shoes.

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