Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens
By: Liz Goldwyn
Before pinup beauty Dita Von Teese bathed in champagne or pop star Madonna vogued her way to the top of the Billboard charts with just a cone bra, dames like Zorita, Betty Rowland, and Lois De Fee captivated audiences with their legendary stripteases that still intrigues audiences nearly half a century later. Burlesque, a tantalizing theatrical art form that was resurrected by modern temptresses during the ‘90s in New York City, continues to enchant men and empower women. However, is there more to burlesque than shimmying on stage with nothing more than glittering pasties and fishnet stockings? Filmmaker and writer Liz Goldwyn believes so and has successfully proven with her latest release, Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens, that it still has plenty to reveal.
Pretty Things, a delightful treasure filled with stories, sketches, and hundreds of photographs of past performers, is a love letter dedicated to all the former showgirls that wiggled and strutted on stage in Technicolor costumes as a means to survive. Whether these women were seeking a creative outlet to showcase their love for entertaining or merely to make ends meet, Goldwyn carefully illustrates how many women from diverse backgrounds bumped and grinded their way to what is now one of the most popular theatrical acts in the country. Pretty Things exposes both the glamour and dark reality of becoming a poor man’s Follies Girl with such passion that it’s hard not to fall for any of the leading ladies featured in this gorgeous tribute.
Goldwyn, a researcher who doesn’t hide her fascination with burlesque, uncovers the little known tales of burlesque’s pioneers and how their lives paved the way to today’s popularity for all things tease. In Pretty Things, readers will meet Zorita, the exotic snake charmer and an “out lesbian since the late 1930s,” June St. Clair, a “platinum princess” found dead in a Manhattan hotel room, and Betty Rowland, the fiery haired muse who sued the author’s grandfather, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., for using her stage name in the 1941 film, Ball of Fire. Goldwyn not only speaks to the remaining queens of burlesque, but she also perfectly chronicles their tumultuous, shocking, and exciting tales that will keep you begging for more.
Pretty Things is a celebration of never ending curves, courageous broads, and daring stage acts that make Lady Gaga look like a timid schoolgirl. Best of all, Goldwyn’s Pretty Things reminds us that it’s never too late for a comeback.