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Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show Hardcover – November 1, 2004

3.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"A distinctly American diversion that flourished from the Jazz Age to the era of the Sexual Revolution," striptease emerges as closer kin to vaudeville than pornography in this engaging if sometimes overly detailed survey. Shteir, head of the department of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at DePaul University, offers fascinating details about stripper subculture, past and present, and includes numerous photographs of and quotes from stripping's famous practitioners, such as Gypsy Rose Lee. Readers will learn about "horizontal cootching" and fan dances; the use of trained animals in acts at the 1939 World's Fair ("doves peel her," wrote a Variety columnist of stripper Rosita Royce); the conflicts between big-name strippers and their "cheap" burlesque counterparts; the 1962 federal crackdown on organized crime that dealt a grave blow to striptease. Shteir reaches, throughout, for a larger cultural meaning in the girlie show, and the paradox of stripping's possibilities—it offered women a shot at independence but required them to sell themselves as spectacle to do it—is familiar but still intriguing. The gender politics and cultural theory she employs as analytical tools may limit her audience to those already well versed in such ideas, but Shteir's discussions of the ways that striptease informed American culture and her careful descriptions of the women and their milieu are bright moments.
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Review


"The first serious history of the form...could prove to be a landmark work.... Meticulous."-- Francine Du Plessix Gray, The New Yorker


"Fascinating and well-researched.... Rachel Shteir's accomplished book leaves one longing for the mystery of a white mink merkin from Harry Bosen's New York Costume Shop in Chicago, or the charm of Lili St. Cyr's roaming radium gadget.... Striptease is a genuine contribution to the history of American culture."--Toni Bentley, The New Republic


"Packed with historical detail and contemporary feminist insights.... Happily, Shteir's book provides a record of the golden age of American striptease, and she gives a persuasive account of its democratic verve and feminist appeal. Striptease, Shteir argues, 'gave women a chance to realize the American dream' and a way to 'overcome their working-class origins and make it.' Both flaunting sexuality and making fun of it, the girlie show found an irreverent way to educate Americans about sex. Shteir's scholarly and very entertaining book is part of that great tradition."--Elaine Showalter, Washington Post Book World


"Offers fascinating details about stripper subculture, past and present, and includes numerous photographs of and quotes from stripping's famous practitioners, such as Gypsy Rose Lee.... Shteir's discussions of the ways that striptease informed American culture and her careful descriptions of the women and their milieu are bright moments."--Publishers Weekly


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195127501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195127508
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.4 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,091,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I own a number of burlesque-themed films on VHS, mostly actual stage performances from the 1940's and 1950's. These films are discussed in the book, and I was surprised to find descriptions that sometimes seem drawn from thin air.

On page 287, author Shteir tells us, "For example, in A Night At the Follies (1956), a murder provides an excuse to see undressed women backstage." There is no murder nor any other plot and no visits backstage -- it simply films an actual burlesque show.

On page 287 - 288, stripper Tempest Storm in A Night In Hollywood is described as "guiding audiences through an evening of burlesque striptease, comedy, ragtime and jazz music, and stripping." Storm doesn't guide anybody through anything. She does not appear until the very end of the show, as was the custom for the star, and dances for eight minutes without one audible word.

On page 288, describing female impersonator Vicki Lynn's act in Varietease, "In the last moments, Lynn takes off the wig to reveal her bald head." Actually Lynn has a full head of hair, without any sign of baldness.

On page 289, turning to mainstream movies, Shteir comments on the 1958 hit The Naked and the Dead, and stripper Lili St. Cyr's role. She tells us the movie "pumped up the sex and violence considerably, partly by casting St. Cyr to play Croft's wife." Wrong. Sergeant Croft's wife was played by Barbara Nichols. Lili St. Cyr played Private Wilson's girlfriend, and she was only in the film for two minutes. Shteir does not mention the brevity of St. Cyr's role, but tells us, "St. Cyr plays a selfish, cold, neurotic, sexually omnivorous stripper - a cartoon of a woman." Wrong, wrong, wrong. The only thing right is that St. Cyr played a stripper.
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Format: Hardcover
"Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Shows," is quite simply this author's interpretation of those things she read regarding burlesque...things any one could read on their own, and decipher their own way. Would I consider her to be an expert on the history of burlesque? No! Reading her list of notes I'm not sure she talked to anyone who was involved in burlesque-there are certainly people still alive who worked the venue. My suggestion for those who like the history of burlesque, read books written by those who were there...Gypsy Rose Lee, Georgia Sothern, Ann Corio, Morton Minsky, and even Erik Preminger. There are also excellent books available by noted historians such as David Kruh and Robert Allen as well. There are even a couple historical societies out there that are working to preserve the history of burlesque and the theatres where burlesque shows were performed. But please take this book with a grain of salt. All I did was skim it over, and I'm listing just a few bloopers found...

P 235: "I didn't want to stand behind the counter and serve people, explained Rose La Rose, who before her death in 1957 owned several burlesque theaters in Toledo, Ohio."

However on page 241 the author writes, in 1960 Rose became a pornographer.

Now if Rose died in 1957, as the author states, how can she become a pornographer in 1960? It's well known among burlesque historians that Rose owned two different theatres in Toledo, not SEVERAL, and that she died in the summer of 1972.

Page 238: Tex Guinan? I assume the author means Texas Guinan...

Page 240, she writes: "Buddy Wade's tap shoes caught fire, the sparks ignited her costume, and she burned to death one night at the Old Howard in Boston.
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Format: Hardcover
I would only recommend this book as a fictional Fairy Tale. It is filled with errors and falsehoods. For instance, Rose La Rose's Towne Hall theater was NOT a 'porn theater', in the '60s. I know because I was there. Rose was VERY particular what the dancers did on Her Stage. She insisted on a rehersal, before we got to do a live show. If she didn't like something, she let us know. Any dancer who did Porn was fired on the spot!!! Her theater didn't show any movies between the shows, either. She prided herself on hosting only live burlesque shows.

When I saw the first review on this book, in the Washington Post, I sent in my comments ... which were printed. (Text below.) If anything, my attitude has become more 'fixed' regarding Professor Shteir's book:

Rather than something by a professor expounding upon the 'societal implications of the strip tease', (BORING) I suggest you run reviews on books that were written by people who had actually been there (i.e.: 'Gypsy', recently re-issued) or people who've interviewed the folks that were in Burlesque. Many 'old timers', unfortunately, have passed on and these writings may well be their last impressions of 'the good old days'.

Jane Briggmen recently released "Burlesque, Legendary Stars of the Stage". Many of the people she interviewed are no longer with us. She has just finished "Burlesque, Book II" which will be published in the near future. The second book portrays many of the 'younger' acts (people still alive, but getting on in years ... like myself). She also heads up the 'Golden Days of

Burlesque Historical Society' and is in the process of amassing a very large collection of Burlesque memorabilia that will be given to an accredited University for preservation, in the future:

[...
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