Interview with Judith Stein

Judith Stein

In honor of Women’s History Month, and inspired by the #5WomenArtists project led by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, we are asking burlesque artists to share with us their thoughts on their art form. First up is Judith Stein, “The Lady Divine”, who performed throughout the 1970s across North America and as far away as Micronesia and New Zealand. Known for her humor, Judith Stein has become “Mama Beaver” to a whole generation of new performers.

BHoF: Why did you choose burlesque as your art form?

Time, money, and adventure!

Back in the very early 70s I was an impoverished university student who needed a job that would mesh with my class schedule. Someone suggested I apply as a go-go girl, working nights in a small bar in Eugene, Oregon.

Having never seen a stripper, e...

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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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Sally Rand (1904-1979)

Sally Rand portraitNot many performers come to burlesque after having had a successful career elsewhere, but that’s exactly what Sally Rand did. Rand started in the theater as a teenager in Kansas City and enjoyed some success. Deciding to make her name in Hollywood, she joined the Ringling Bros. Circus and traveled west until she reached California, where she quickly started racking up bit parts before joining a stock company headed by young Cecil B. DeMille, who put her in leading roles in his silent films.

Rand’s beauty and physicality worked to great advantage in the silent film era. Unfortunately, a severe lisp pushed her out of the movies after talking pictures became the norm...

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RIP Novita, The Pixie of Burlesque (1932-2015)

Novita, The Pixie of Burlesque

We are saddened today to announce the passing of Novita, The Pixie of Burlesque. Novita was one of the founding members of the Exotic Dancers League (EDL) in 1955, a section of the American Guild of Variety Artists (which Novita had been a member of since age 13) dedicated to earning better pay and working conditions for exotic dancers, which in 1965 gave birth to the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Born Rose Marie Locke in Houston, Texas, Rosie Mitchell, or Novita as she would come to be known (a name given her by her mother), began dancing at age 3. By grade school, she was performing regularly and beginning to distinguish herself as an artist, ultimately winning a scholarship to the Denver Art Institute...

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Tempest Storm

For this “Who’s Who in BurlyQ”, we turn to Kaitlyn Regehr, burlesque expert and co-host on the Canadian and UK program “Re-Vamped”, PhD candidate in performance and women’s sexuality at King’s College London, and producer of Tempest Storm: Burlesque Queen, a feature documentary exploring Tempest’s life and her huge impact in not just burlesque but popular culture as a whole. Contribute to the making of the film by donating to their Kickstarter campaign by October 9, 2013.

Teaserama posterIndisputably one of the best known burlesque dancers from the ‘50s and ‘60s and listed in the top 50 of Playboy’s most glamorous women of the century, Tempest Storm is truly an icon in the history of burlesque.

Born Annie Blanche Banks in Eastman, Georgia, in 1928, Storm’s ambition and talent (as wel...

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