Karen Abbott\’s new biography of Gypsy Rose Lee is fascinating. And if you think you know something about the famous stripteuse’s life from the oft-revived musical which bears her name, lemme tell ya, there’s a lot more to it.
How can you not love a woman who responded to Fiorello LaGuardia’s snipe that she had “a need to take her clothes off,” by saying, “Why Mr. Mayor, you know I would never end a sentence with a preposition”?
Accused of indecency, Gypsy always maintained that her burlesque act was “pure comedy.” Even given her physical charms, this can’t have been far from the truth. Her long-time signature act had her walk on stage in a stuffy and elaborate Victorian gown, held securely together with straight pins. To orchestral accompaniment, she would remove the costume piece by piece, tossing the pins into the bell of a tuba with resonant pings. Sexuality is always best seasoned with a little laughter, as anyone who’s ever been married will tell you.
American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee follows the changing cultural climate of a nation as well as the making of a consummate performer. From a family that calls to mind Dave Peltzer or Augusten Burroughs, Gypsy’s world was a complicated dance to start with. Balancing an arguably psychotic mother and a sister determined to get the hell out (who could blame her?) Gypsy held the family together, for good or ill, longer than was likely. She was the “ugly, untalented” one of the clan, but achieved a professional success beyond any expectations but her own.
…And, as we approach Valentine’s Day, the subversive in me can’t help but laud another kind of misbehavior by recommending The Gallery of Regrettable Food, by James Lileks. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, this is the tasting menu at Chateau Run, Run Away – RUN NOW!
A truly loveable collection of the worst in American cooking, Lileks’ feast for the eyes includes Liberties taken with peas, and plaid sauce. Readers are treated to page-turning fun, peppered with perky 50’s housewives who use Frigidaires to abuse innocent cabbages. The A-1 Steak Sauce Guide to Better Sex is a personal favorite. Lurid and disturbing photos of jello molds occur throughout.
Please note: The canned salmon section should be kept from children and those with cardiac ailments.