Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Gypsy Rose Lee
For those who don't know, I am a freelance journalist until I can find a more permanent position. It has kept my foot in the door, since I got laid off from the newspaper one year ago.
I recently got the chance to review the stage production of Gypsy here in town. The musical was spectacular. Rian and I were very impressed. It also made me incredibly interested in the real-life woman it is based upon: Gypsy Rose Lee, one of history's sexiest women.
Gypsy Rose Lee was born in Seattle in 1911. She had a younger sister named June. The girls' mother, Rose, was a heinous stage mother who forced her daughters into vaudeville. She took them all over the United States, desperately trying to make them child stars. She wanted fame and she wanted fortune.
Their mother had always dreamed of being a famous actress when she was younger, but never made it. So, she was forcing her dream on her children.
Unfortunately, it didn't pan out. June, miserable with the situation, eloped at the age of 15. Gypsy Rose didn't have the same dancing and singing talent as her sister, much to her mother's dismay.
In her teens, it became apparent that Gypsy Rose had a knack for burlesque.
She quickly became the world's most famous striptease artist. Her wit, class, and sharp sense of humor made her a huge star.
She also wrote mystery novels and acted in movies on the side.
She had a complicated love life. For example, to make the man she loved jealous, she married another guy. Then, while married to that guy, she got pregnant with another guy's baby! (And that was the drama surrounding just ONE of her eventually three marriages).
As an adult, Gypsy Rose and her sister continued to get demands for money from their mother, Rose, who ended up running a boarding house for women in NYC.
Things took a turn for the worse when Rose shot and killed one of her guests (her female lover!) who had reportedly made a pass at Gypsy Rose. The incident was explained as a suicide and Rose was not prosecuted.
Rose died of cancer in 1954.
After Rose's death, Gypsy Rose felt free to write her memoirs about life with her crazy showbiz mama.
The memoirs were eventually turned into the huge Broadway success, Gypsy.
Unfortunately, June was upset at the way she was portrayed in the musical and the two sisters stop speaking to each other.
When Gypsy Rose was eventually diagnosed with cancer herself, in 1969, she reconciled with her sister. She died a year later.
If you're interested in the musical Gypsy, there is a film version out there, starring (coincidentally) Natalie Wood. I have not seen it yet, but it is quite famous. I'm going to watch it later this week. I hope you will too!