Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gypsy Rose Lee

If you like burlesque, chances are big you've heard the name Gypsy Rose Lee before. But for the ones who just read that name for the first time here, I can tell you she was (and still is) a legend in the world of burlesque! She was born as Ellen June Hovic in Seattle, in 1911, and later became a star on the scene, from which she enthralled her audience - sometimes without even taking that much off! She also acted in a few films, and wrote some successful mystery novels - as well as her autobiography Gypsy. I'm not going to give you her whole history here. If you want to know her more closely I strongly suggests reading that autobiography though. Highly entertaining! The real reason for this post is to show you thirty-one rarely seen - and mostly unpublished - photos of Gypsy, that I found on LIFE's web site. The pictures were taken during May 1949 by George Skadding. Enjoy!

Original LIFE caption: "Gypsy dictates a letter to her secretary, Brandy Bryant, who doubles up by doing a strip bit in the show."

Gypsy to the right, dressing another performer.

Again dressing another performer.

Writing in her dressing room.

Coaching another performer.

Gypsy in the center.

Handsome audience. Dreaming...

Original LIFE caption: "In a reverse strip tease act, Gypsy introduces near-nudes like Florence Bailey, and dresses them on the stage."

Autographing programs after a show.

Posing for PR pictures with the carnival's "midget", K. O. Erickson.

Gypsy and her third husband, painter Julio de Diego.

Outside her trailer with her 4-year-old son Erik.

Original LIFE caption: "Gypsy's friends in carnival include a sword swallower, a fire-eater and this cheerful bearded lady, Percilla Bejano, whose husband is the Alligator Man."

Original LIFE caption: "Gypsy's husband Julio...paints the entrance while Gypsy and son watch. His attraction (in the carnival) is called Dream Show." 

Riding the Little Dipper with husband and son.

Gypsy, Julio, Erik, and cotton candy.

Gypsy, Julio and Erik.

Gypsy and Julio.

Original LIFE caption: "Between shows Gypsy and family manage to sneak off for sundown fishing on WolfRiver where Gypsy caught a catfish."

In the notes of writer Arthur Shay, who spent a week with the star in Memphis, Tennessee, during the same month these pictures were taken, you find a quote from Gypsy saying: "Funny thing about show people - or just plain fans. They think is you're not in Hollywood or on Broadway making a couple of thousands a week - taking guff from everybody and his cousin in the west, and sweating out poor crowds on Broadway - you're not doing well. On the contrary, I've been touring the country playing nightclubs and making twice as much as I made in the movies, and having more fun! I get a lot more fishing done, for one thing, and I can live in my trailer and see the country."

All photos by George Skadding - Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.


  1. She's quite marvelous...I like what she said about what she does at the end about Hollywood and Broadway, I know there are many who think that way, but I think she proved it wrong, even now after being gone..such a beauty and I admire her drive and direction. xxx Hope you have a great day flower! xx

  2. I've never heard about Gypsy Rose Lee until now but she really is quite the hotty!

  3. Amazing lady. Fantastic photos. Thanks. M x

  4. Wonderful pictures of her! Great selection! :) x


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