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. In 1955, Novita began dancing in burlesque shows, where she was dubbed “The Pixie of Burlesque” and performed with legendary performers including Lenny Bruce, Scatman Caruthers, and Gene Kelly.
In 1957, Novita married “Red” Mitchell and gave up burlesque, continuing to perform as a singer and dancer, performing with the likes of Gene Kelly, Lenny Bruce, and Red Skelton and remaining an active member of the EDL. In the 1960s, Johnny Mercer wrote a song for the movie “Rosie” about her, presenting her with both an acetate copy of the recording and signed sheet music for the song. (Acetates are records cut in the studio, typically used for testing the transfer before mass-producing records.)
Novita continued to paint and sculpt, and by the ‘90s was working as a college art teacher. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and given little chance of survival by doctors, Novita remained committed to the arts, saying of the illness that it “put me in focus of what I should be doing the rest of my life.” Her recent artwork, which can be seen on her website, includes pastels and paintings of Jazz legends and burlesque dancers, as well as bronze sculptures of mythical creatures.
She was 83 years old.