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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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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Thank you for your donations!

The BHoF Wall of PastiesA huge sparkly “THANK YOU” to everyone who donated and helped spread the word for our latest fundraiser. Your contributions raised $9500 for the museum, money that will help us develop new programs, take care of our collection, and promote burlesque to new audiences.

If you donated, you will receive an email this coming week with instructions to tell us exactly how you want your name listed on the Wall of Pasties and where to send your pasties (if you chose that option). Please keep an eye out for our email (it’ll be from

If you didn’t donate but want to, you can always donate via our website or text the word BURLYQ to 44-321 from your smartphone.

BHoF is always growing, and your support makes that possible...

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RIP Alexandra the Great “48” (1939-2019)

Promotional photo of Alexandra the Great "48"

Gerri Weise AKA Alexandra The Great 48 was always destined to make a splash. As a teenager she had won Sophie Loren look-alike competition and her resemblance to her idol was indeed uncanny. She got her start in Burlesque at age 25 when Rose La Rose spotted her whilst she was modelling for Xavier Cugat. Acting as her mentor, Rose had Alexandra headlining at The Town Hall Theatre within two weeks of their first meeting.

Alexandra said Rose “taught me only part of what I I knew. I learned the rest and it didn’t take long, believe me you find out quickly what an audience wants!”

As Alexandra the Great. she traveled the world as a headliner into the late 1970s...

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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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