Gypsy Rose Lee. Is she forgotten by most of society? A name only familiar by those who vividly remember the world before 1970? Or is Natalie Wood remembered as Gypsy? Shoot, I'm betting a lot of people don't even remember Natalie Wood.

My reason for posting about Gypsy today is because of the photos I'll be posting this week and beyond at my vernacular photography site; old photos of a woman who reminds me of the beautiful Gypsy.

This old tattered paperback was found on a communal book sharing table that used to exist at my post office. Like too many good things, the table no longer exists. The new postmaster came from outside the community and didn't understand small town life.

Gypsy Rose Lee_tattered and lost

Gypsy Rose Lee_bk_tatteredandlost

This edition was published in 1959. The book was originally published in 1957 and was the inspiration for the Broadway musical Gypsy created by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents. This eventually became the movie starring Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell.

I still remember on a horribly rainy night piling into the car with my folks to go see the movie. We were tired of being trapped in the house (remember there were three tv channels and when the weather was bad the antenna picked up very little). We got to the theater to see the marquee turned off. Because of the rain they were closed. So back home we went, never to see the movie on the big screen. I had to wait for several years to see it on tv.

Gypsy had a tv show out of San Francisco in the 1960s that I loved watching. A day home sick from school meant I Love Lucy between 9 and 10 with Gypsy soon to follow. Summer mornings were always spent with Gypsy before heading outside.

She was a classy and funny lady and never vulgar. I can think of a lot of woman these days who barely keep their clothes on and think that's all it takes to be famous. They have no intelligence, style, or humor. And too often if you got them near a hot flame they'd melt.

Gypsy Rose Lee was the real thing. A real lady.
Gypsy Rose Lee was born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle, Washington in 1911, although her mother later shaved three years off both of her daughters' ages. She was initially known by her middle name, Louise. Her mother, Rose Hovick (née Rose Evangeline Thompson), was a teenage bride fresh from a convent school when she married Norwegian-American John Olaf Hovick, who was a newspaper advertising salesman and a reporter at The Seattle Times. Louise's sister, Ellen June Hovick (better known as actress June Havoc), was born in 1913.

After their parents divorced, the girls supported the family by appearing in Vaudevillewhere June's talent shone, while Louise remained in the background. At the age of 15 in December 1928, June eloped with Bobby Reed, a dancer in the act, much to her mother's displeasure, going on to a brief career in marathon dancing, which was more profitable than tap dancing at the time.

Louise's singing and dancing talents were insufficient to sustain the act without June. Eventually, it became apparent that Louise could make money in burlesque, which earned her legendary status as a classy and witty strip tease artist. Initially, her act was propelled forward when a shoulder strap on one of her gowns gave way, causing her dress to fall to her feet despite her efforts to cover herself; encouraged by the audience response, she went on to make the trick the focus of her performance. Her innovations were an almost casual strip style, compared to the herky-jerky styles of most burlesque strippers (she emphasized the "tease" in "striptease") and she brought a sharp sense of humor into her act as well. She became as famous for her onstage wit as for her strip style, and—changing her stage name to Gypsy Rose Lee—she became one of the biggest stars of Minsky's Burlesque, where she performed for four years. She was frequently arrested in raids on the Minsky brothers' shows.

She eventually traveled to Hollywood, where she was billed as Louise Hovick. Her acting was generally panned, so she returned to New York City and invested in film producer Michael Todd. She eventually appeared as an actress in many of his films.

Trying to describe what Gypsy was (a "high-class" stripper), H. L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast. Her style of intellectual recitation while stripping was spoofed in the number "Zip!" from Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, a play in which her sister June appeared. Gypsy can be seen performing an abbreviated version of her act (intellectual recitation and all) in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen.

In 1941, Gypsy Rose Lee authored a mystery thriller called The G-String Murders which was made into the 1943 film Lady of Burlesque starring Barbara Stanwyck. While some assert this was in fact ghost-written by Craig Rice, there are also those who suggest that there is more than sufficient written evidence in the form of manuscripts and Lee's own correspondence to prove she wrote a large part of the novel herself under the guidance of Rice and others, including her friend and mentor, the editor George Davis. Lee's second murder mystery, Mother Finds a Body, was published in 1942.

After the death of their mother, the sisters now felt free to write about her without risking a lawsuit. Gypsy's memoirs, titled Gypsy, were published in 1957 and were taken as inspirational material for the Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable. June Havoc did not like the way she was portrayed in the piece, but she was eventually persuaded (and paid) not to oppose it for her sister's sake. The play and the subsequent movie deal assured Gypsy a steady income. The sisters became estranged. June, in turn, wrote Early Havoc and More Havoc, relating her version of the story.

Gypsy Rose Lee went on to host a morning San Francisco KGO-TV television talk show, Gypsy. She was diagnosed in 1969 with metastatic lung cancer, which prompted her to reconcile with June before her death. "This is my present, you know," she reportedly told June, "my present from Mother".

The walls of her Los Angeles home were adorned with pictures by Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, and Dorothea Tanning, all of which were reportedly gifts to her by the artists themselves. Like Picasso, she was a supporter of the Popular Front movement in the Spanish Civil War and raised money for charity to alleviate the suffering of Spanish children during the conflict.

She also founded one of the first kennels dedicated to breeding Chinese Crested dogs in the U.S, "Lee", which was sold after her death to Mrs. Ida Garrett and Debora Wood. Gypsy Rose Lee died of lung cancer in Los Angeles in 1970. She is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

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