Monday, 7 February 2011

Gypsy Rose Lee

I thought it appropriate to start this blog with a little tribute to one of the most iconic burlesque performers of all time, and the femme fatale that this blog is named after: Gypsy Rose Lee.

Now, you may have noticed, in the URL, I have spelt "Lee" incorrectly. This is intentional, as some of you may already know, my name is Danielle Rose Leigh, so I had a bit of a play around with it to make the blog feel a bit closer to home.

Anyway, many people have heard of this girl, but few know just why she was so special. Here are a few reasons:

  • In the 1930's & 1940's, when she was at her prime, she spent obscene amounts of money on her costumes, paying a couture designer, Charles James, who also designed for royalty and film stars, to make her clothes in exactly the way she wanted them.

  • She insisted on Louis Vuitton trunks for her costumes and a custom-designed Rolls Royce in which to arrive at her bookings, and all because for her, burlesque was about creating a fantasy and not being the girl next door.

  • Whenever she performed, she received an enormous basket of flowers over the stage lights from "Anonymous", while everyone else suffered booing and hate mail. It wasn't long before Gypsy found out that her mother was behind the flowers and the hate mail: it was at this point that she discovered the art of publicity.

  • She was also famous for chatting her punters up directly, but at the same time mocking them, teasing them by only showing a flash of bare hip bone before giggling and running behind the curtain. Word has it that she got the audience so riled up, she didn't have to strip.

Why do I admire her? Because she didn't blend in. She didn't indulge in opium, as many of her peers did, as she felt that it would make her lose her sparkle and fail to stand out. She was also savvy about becoming a household name, what with the publicity stunt of the flowers and wearing the occassional floor-length cape made entirely of real orchids to attract even more attention to herself.

Gypsy knew how to get what she wanted and cast a spell on the audience, turning the dribbling gentlemen into her toys, rather than succumbing to being their plaything.

(I gathered this information from Burlesque and the Art of the Teese by Dita Von Teese.)

She was even special enough to have her name in lights.

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