Apropos of my previous post, which was last years last post (as if it matters) which managed to feature the combined talents of director Robert Altman, composer/actor/producer/Julie London-marry-er Booby Troup and Striptease icon Lily St. Cry, I thought I'd begin the year's descent into the "eleysian fields of popular entertainment" (a phrase deployed by Albert Lewin writing to Preston Sturges about a script called "Two Bad Hats" which became "The Lady Eve" as quoted in Hendersons "Five Screenplays by Preston Sturges) with a festive celebration of strippers from the past. Jesus, what a train wreck of an opening sentence. Read backwards, it makes more sense than read forwards.

What would the world do without the stripper? They're usually young, friendly and claim to be studying journalism at Columbia University (at least the ones I've met). The history of the "Strip" is one of the more fascinating sideshow exhibits in the show-biz museum and I'm sorry but I don't have time today to get into it. Instead I'll refer you to my friend, J. Fred Wikipedia, who has provided us with a marvelous illustrated article on the subject.

Let's begin the new year with a refreshing look at this often misunderstood art form. I hearby commence the "Festival Of Strippers" with one of the art forms quintessential practitioners, Gypsy Rose Lee and arguably the art forms greatest guest-host, Rita Hayworth. Below are clips of each of them performing the same song, Doris Fischer and Allan Roberts classic jive-tease "Put The Blame On Mame". Gypsy's performance is from a TV appearence in the late fifties and includes a brief glimpse of the great vibraphonist Red Norvo, whose group is accompanying her. What I find truly interesting in this clip is how relatively mild--indeed almost lackadaisical--Gypsy's routine actually is. True, she's older than your usual stripper and this was presumably a cleaned-up version for broadcasting purposes--but is this really what all the fuss was about? As for her voice, let's just say that Natalie Wood's intentionally nervous rendering of Gypsy's debut as a stripper was positively complimentary; Gypsy doesn't really have a voice. Nonetheless, it's the real live Gypsy.

And then there's Rita Hayworth, from the 1946 semi-noir "Gilda". This clip will speak for itself. Though Hayworth wasn't a stripper and as far as i know really only ever performed a striptease this once, she managed to understand the art form and its audience in a way that nobody else ever quite did. Enjoy...

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