PLEDGE NOW
Gypsy Rose Lee & Burlesque’s Allure

Rebroadcast

The story and power of the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee. They called her the “intellectual stripper.”

Gypsy Rose Lee, whose real name was Louise Hovick, shows off her costume, called 'Eclipse of the Sun.’ (AP)

Gypsy Rose Lee was hitting vaudeville stages across the country when she was four years old. By fifteen, she was headlining as a burlesque performer.

Eventually, she became beloved by Eleanor Roosevelt, the New York literati and longshoremen alike. She was described, in that day, as the only woman in the world “with a public body and a private mind, both equally exciting.”

The legend of her life is the stuff of Broadway show and film, in “Gypsy.”

Her patter to the audience as the clothes came off was of sociology, ballet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Puritans and Noel Coward.

“If Lady Gaga and Dorothy Parker had a secret love child it would have been Gypsy Rose Lee,” says Karen Abbott, author of the new book, American Rose – A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee. “The woman knew how to make a dramatic entrance. She would arrive at opening nights at the Met wearing a full length cape made entirely of orchids.”

But the reality of who Gypsy — born Louise Hovick — was can be as hard to get at, as tantalizing concealed, as the end of her dance.

“Gypsy Rose Lee was a brand before branding existed,” Abbott says. “And part of that brand was to laugh at herself. It was a bit of a self defense mechanism but it was also the way she connected with the audience and the idea that if she laughs first nobody else will be laughing at her.  And she wanted the audience to be just as culpable for watching her disrobing as she was for disrobing.”

This hour in an archive edition of On Point: The story of America’s “intellectual stripper.”

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Karen Abbott, journalist and author whose new book is “American Rose – A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee.” You can read an excerpt.

Listen back to Karen Abbott’s conversation with Tom Ashbrook about her book “Sin in the Second City.”

Honeysuckle Hype, West Coast burlesque producer and performer who performs as “your average food-obsessed 1950s Lesbian housewife.”

More

Gypsy Rose Lee strip routine

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Feb 10, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to the crowd before speaking during a primary night watch party at Concord High School, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The winners and losers in New Hampshire, and the path ahead in the presidential primary race.

Feb 10, 2016
In this Feb. 1, 2016 photo, a technician from the British biotec company Oxitec, inspects the pupae of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a vector for transmitting the Zika virus, in Campinas, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Taking on the Zika virus, from tackling the disease itself, to killing the mosquitoes that carry it to the challenge of birth control.

RECENT
SHOWS
Feb 9, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at a Rotary Club luncheon in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

From New Hampshire, a deep dive, from Trump to Sanders, on how the candidates would approach the U.S. economy.

 
Feb 9, 2016
Host Tom Ashbrook and producer Sarah Platt speak to supporters of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) outside the candidate's Manchester, N.H. campaign headquarters on Monday, February 8, 2016. (Katherine Brewer / WBUR)

We’re live in New Hampshire for the first in the nation primary day, with all the latest on how the big vote is shaping up.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Tom Ashbrook’s Note From New Hampshire
Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016

Fresh off the New Hampshire Presidential Primary results, host Tom Ashbrook reflects on his trip to New Hampshire, and on what comes next in the race to the White House.

More »
Comment
 
Notes From New Hampshire, #6: Bernie v. Hillary — The Electability Debate
Monday, Feb 8, 2016

Bill and Betty are not real New Hampshire voters. But their arguments about the Democratic race for President most certainly are.

More »
Comment
 
Notes From New Hampshire, #5: Ted Cruz — The Advocate
Monday, Feb 8, 2016

Texas Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is an impassioned advocate, Jack Beatty writes — but mostly for himself above all others.

More »
Comment