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Gypsy: A Memoir Paperback – July 15, 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"... will delight anyone who has a love for the annals of the American stage."
- Newsweek

"This is show business, this America... this is Gypsy Rose Lee!"
- Tennessee Williams

"I found it irresistable. It's quite a performance. I bet some of it is even true, and if it wasn't, it is now."
- John Steinbeck

About the Author

Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970) was the most acclaimed strip tease artist of her day. She later made 12 films and hosted her own TV show. Her autobiography GYPSY spawned the famed musical and two film versions. She also wrote a sequel to G-STRING MURDERS, MOTHERS FINDS A BODY, and contributed occasional pieces to (Yes!) The New Yorker.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Frog Books; 1st edition (July 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883319951
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883319953
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gypse Rose Lee (nee Louise Hovick) had an incredible childhood, one that provided not only material for this wonderful book but the Broadway musical "Gypsy", later made into a classic film. She was the daughter of "Mama Rose", perhaps the most intense and certainly the most famous stage mother of all time. Gypsy spent her childhood in vaudeville, as a chorus "boy" in the act that starred her younger sister "Dainty June" (later June Havoc, Broadway star).
The book is written in a snappy, witty, anecdotal style, which is perfect for Lee's endless supply of anecdotes. Spending her childhood in an endless round of theaters, trains, cars, and cheap hotels, meeting an endless number of incredible characters. Actors, mountebanks, con artists, carnies, all seen through the eyes of a bright and observant child, and recounted by a witty adult with a talent for storytelling.
The book is deeply personal as well. This is THE classic ugly-duckling story as well as the quintessential book about vaudeville in its last days. Gypsy/Louise was very much the "other" child until she was fifteen, her little sister was blonde, pretty, talented, and The Star. While Dainty June was getting thousands a week as a vaudeville headliner Louse was ignored, used in the chorus and otherwise pretty much forgotten by her mother and everyone else. Even she wondered if she would ever by any good at anything, even though she was so bright that she educated herself fabulously with nothing more to work with than a little trunk space for books. Everything changed when June ran away to get married at age thirteen (a story told in her own book "Early Havoc", a good read) at the same time that vaudeville was dying out.
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Format: Paperback
Much like the style of her burlesque, Gypsy Rose Lee's memoir offers just a tantalizing glimpse of the real Louise Rose Hovick.
Breathlessly relating her childhood spent in the popular, family-oriented entertainment of the early 1900s vaudeville variety show circuit with her star younger sister, "Dainty" June, and their shrewd stage manager and mother, Rose, Lee easily engages readers. Pages fly by, from skits in front of local lodge brothers to shows before burgeoning audiences in lavish theaters across the country as they tirelessly shop their ever-polished singing, dancing and comedy act. A faint picture slowly emerges of Lee as a bright, introverted young girl yearning for more attention. Despite the rough road life and her own disappointment, not much self-pity shows.
What does show clearly is Lee's budding business savvy. After her sister leaves the act, Lee turns the tragedy into opportunity with a little peroxide and PR. Cleverly, she also leaves her hair dark, creating a distinguishing detail out of a common hair color. As vaudeville dries up and she transitions to burlesque, she again demonstrates uncanny sense in choosing her famous stage name. A shorter portion of the book details her rise to the top of the burlesque world, a story peppered with desperate scam artists, benevolent gangsters and jealous stars.
Disappointing is the absence of some relevant detail. Dates are rarely specified, which might otherwise allow readers to more easily trace Lee's story and place it in context with other historical events. No discussion is offered about burlesque and the law, or Lee's thoughts about it. Famous vaudevillians such as Abbott and Costello are mentioned, but only in passing. Significant details are also conspicuously absent.
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Format: Paperback
I could not put this book down! I felt that Gypsy Rose Lee was talking to me directly. It was as if I was her friend, and she was just telling me her life story. I was captivated from beginning to end always wondering what the next adventure would be. From their childhood, where they toured Vaudeville to Gypsy's rise to stardom in Burlesque, there was never a dull moment.
Along the way you come across an incredible cast of characters. Starting with Rose Louise Havick (Gypsy's birth name), who lived her younger sister's shadow for years. June (her sister) was supposed to be the star not Louise. Mama Rose, Gypsy and June's mother who wanted nothing more than to have one of her daughters become a star. There are also many famous faces in this book, from Broadway's funny girl, Fanny Brice to gangster, Waxy Gordon. You even meet Gypsy's first love (of course you will have to read the book to find out who that is)!
Gypsy is the ugly duckling who discovered that she was really a beautiful swan. When June ran away to get married at 13, Gypsy's life turned upside down. She went from chorus "boy" to becoming the most well known stripper this country has ever known. And you can bet her mother was there every step of the way. This is a story for anyone who has ever been told they are not good enough. Gypsy Rose Lee was told that...and look where she ended up!
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Format: Paperback
"Gypsy" is an autobiography by one of the most famous pair of sisters of the 1940's: Gypsy Rose Lee, born Louise Hovick, the stripper, actor, and eventual talk show host; sister to June Havoc, the actor, born June Hovick. In it, Lee covers some of the same material as does Havoc in her two-book autobiography: Their vaudeville childhood on the road with their monstrous stage mother Rose,and their adult struggles to continue their showbiz careers, and to deal with their mother. This book, furthermore, is the basis for the brilliant stage musical and movie, "Gypsy."

Perhaps because she was the elder sister, perhaps because she was more business-minded, Lee's book provides a much fuller, more accurate picture of their vaudeville years than do Havoc's. She cites actual contracts, salaries, and the logistics of their never-ending trouping, from Vancouver, Canada to Tiajuana, Mexico; from San Francisco, California, to Portland, Maine. She names the many animals that trouped along with them, including numerous dogs and guinea pigs, a cat or two; Gussie the goose; Waupie the lamb; Gigolo the monkey; and Porky the pig.

She gives more complete versions of incidents than June does, such as the time "Roxy" Rothfels, an influential New York theater owner-impresario, wished to buy June's contract to see that she got training in singing and dancing equal to her talents; he was repulsed by a hysterical Rose. (June's recounting of the story is so sketchy that it's puzzling.) Gypsy, moreover, seems to have monopolized the few pictures of their earliest years for her book; June's books are scantily illustrated.

Gypsy tells us about meeting the handsome young manager of a Detroit bookstore, George Davis.
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