Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review - American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

I was raised in a family of performers.  My childhood was surrounded by music, movement, feathers, colored lights and sequins.  My Grandmother, Alice, owned a dance academy.  My mother and aunts all danced and taught lessons and my father was a drummer.  Alice was a visionary.  She was a brilliant choreographer and her mind was filled with beautiful dance routines, costumes, stage props and lights that she would jot down in the notebook she was never without.

I'm not sure if this environment is what colored my perception of life, or if it's just naturally in our family to want to perform (if you've spent any time around us in a group of two or more, you'd probably put your money on the latter.  We have a tendency to draw attention ;) but I grew up with a love of the stage, showmanship, glitz and glamour.  I wear vintage because it's unique and because it feels like I'm putting on a new "character" when I get dressed, and I have a passion for ballet, chorus lines, follies, vaudeville and old school burlesque.

Which brings me to the subject of our book review, Gypsy Rose Lee.  I love Gypsy because she was a thinking man's burlesque artist.  People did not come to see her just because she was beautiful, but because she had wit and charisma.  One of the quotes from American Rose states:

“She took a full fifteen minutes to peel off a single glove...and she was so damned good at it I would’ve gladly given her fifteen more.”

I think this says it all.  She was a woman who knew her craft and performed it better than anyone else.

Her childhood was a hard one.  Louise (as she was known then) was the "ugly duckling" while her sister June was the talent.  Her mother, Rose, travelled with the girls, putting them in vaudeville acts that showcased June while putting Louise in the background.  At 15, Louise married one of the other dancers in the act and struck out on her own.  After trying to go it alone in vaudeville, she finally found her place in burlesque, changing her name to Gypsy and crafting her act around her wit and humor and becoming famous for her "intellectual" strip routines.

Gypsy also tried her hand (with little success) at acting and penned a mystery novel, The G-String Murders, that was made into the movie Lady of Burlesque starring Barbara Stanwyck. 


In American Rose, Karen Abbott does an excellent job of telling the story of Gypsy's life.  She makes you feel for the child with the overbearing and abusive mother, exposes the vulnerable side of the queen of burlesque and creates an image of the whole woman and the events that shaped her into a star.

(Not to worry, this is pretty G-rated..another one of my favorite things about Gypsy ;)

Hugs and Smooches,


  1. my sister just bought me this book and I can't wait to read it! it's exciting that you wrote a review about it! I stopped half way through your post so I wouldn't spoil it ;-)

    This vid is hilarious, too. Gosh, I could be an "exotic dancer" with these moves, hehe.

    Love reading about your past! Sounds interesting and fun.

  2. That's great! Let me know how you like the book :) I'm reading another one written by Karen Abbott called "Sin and the Second City" about Ada and Minna Everleigh, who ran a brothel in the early 1900's..there may be a book review on that in the future ;)

  3. Your childhood of sequins and feathers, your incredible grandma Alice -- how wonderful is that?

    I've heard of Gypsy Rose Lee of course but your review makes me want to learn so much more. Putting this on my to-read list.

  4. Wonderful! Let me know how you like it :)


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