As many of you may know the 26th April was the anniversary of arguably the world’s most famous burlesque legend and my absolute favourite star, Gypsy Rose Lee. Immortalised forever by Sondheim in the musical Gypsy, Gypsy Rose Lee was a mystery to most. Part sex-kitten, part shrewd business women, part intellectual and art lover and part political activist Gypsy was a queen of reinvention and spin, always shrouding the truth and never letting it get in the way of a good story.
I love Gypsy for many reasons. First and foremost is her refusal to be silent in an industry and era where woman were not meant to have opinions let alone express them. Her banter with the audience while she stripped was her signature and she often used it to joke and tease the audience with her incredible self taught knowledge of literature, art and politics. Even nowadays burlesque artists are preferred to be silent and those of us who do speak are immediately offered up to the world of compering, Gypsy’s work would have been as unique today as it was back then.
Secondly I love Gypsy for having the drive and vision to take her career from the stage and into writing, film and television being a true entrepreneur and businesswomen.
As well as being very modern in her career Gypsy was totally modern in her attitude to childbearing and determined when she gave birth to her son Eric without being shackled to the kitchen sink and giving up her career.
There are many other reasons to love Gypsy - her support of unions, her tireless performances for serving soldiers abroad, her charity work and her political ideals but there is no doubt she was a troubled woman. Year of mental abuse and manipulation at the hands of her now infamous mother left their mark and whilst it is true to say she is an amirable woman, whether she is likeable is a different question. Nonetheless Gypsy Rose Lee will always be an artist who has inspired me to want to do better in my career and to not be afraid to speak up to an audience!
For some beautiful rare photos of Gypsy Rose Lee and more about her life you will love this: http://life.time.com/culture/gypsy-rose-lee-rare-photos-of-a-burlesque-legend/?iid=lb-gal-viewagn#3
My favourite Biography of her life is Stripping Gypsy by Noralee Frankel which I highly recommend