Foxy Ladies #19: Showgirls

This is one of those posts that really needs to be a series rather than a single entry.  However, with so many topics buzzing around Retrospace, there just isn't the time.  Suffice it to say, the burlesque and striptease have been around since the dawn of man (and that's not hyperbole). It's had its high and low points to be sure; however, it's been an unbroken line from Salome to Blaze Starr.

The Mad Men days of the late fifties - early sixties are perhaps the golden years of American "adult entertainment". Indeed, during this period, there was very little social stigma attached to the gentleman's club.  This bipolar period had both a veneer of wholesomeness on one hand, and the swingin' bachelor on the other.  Taking your lady to the Playboy Club was actually considered a classy date.

Once regulations on films slackened, club owners found it much cheaper to play a roll of film than hire living breathing strippers. Naturally, the remaining adult clubs had to compete with the X rated theaters and subsequently lost any trace of class, and degenerated into seedy strip joints.

Today, they're still here, but the wonderful mojo of the early days are gone. Sure, there's still lots of high end clubs, but the culture surrounding it has changed.  Let me put it to you this way: burlesque clubs in the 50s and 60s often had a buffet... can you even imagine going to a strip club today and eating from a buffet?

A 1961 issue of Bachelor magazine laid out a nice little ode to the stripper, written at the peak of the golden years:
The dance is seemingly one of wild abllndon. The eyes of the audience are riveted upon the wildly gyrating figure. Yet with every movement the dancer is aware of those watching. That's why she's tops!
Mastering the art of dancing and the art of duds-doffing is only half the knack of being a successful exotic. The other half-and possibly the most difficult part is developing the technique of being watched. To toss one's torso to a torrid rhythm, to divest oneself of one's clothes at the same time, and all under the watchful eyes of an attentive audience - this requires the utmost in poise, unself-consciousness and professionalism. Add to that, a sensational 39-27-37 figure, a whirling mass of tantalizing blonde curls and the vibrant personality of the true artist and it's easy to see why the professional dancer constantly performs to a packed house.

Well, there's a lot to be said on the subject. For one, there's a world of difference between burlesque and a striptease; plus there's the whole cocktail waitress thing that warrants its own post as well. Alas, we'll just have to settle for time being with some pictures from the Retrospace Library.

Parental Note: None of these pictures show an actual areola, ass crack or pubic hair.  So, your poor impressionable children should be okay if they decide to quietly stand behind you while you read this post. However, be forewarned, there is quite a bit of skin to be seen.... but this is a post on strippers, so I guess it's to be expected. Enjoy.

This old fella looks mighty pleased to be there. He's got a gorgeous showgirl and a bottle of Schlitz - this is about as good as it gets.
(from a Beverly Hillbillies comic)
What gets me when I look at these photos is not so much the dancer as the spectators.  Frankly, it's a bit surreal to me.  That chick in with white gloves on the right (above) should not be watching this!
Once again, we have a woman in attendance.  I wonder what was going through her mind right then.  A stripper, a room full of gawking guys, and.... her. I'd love to know the backstory here.

May 29th, 1959 - Seven showgirls are arrested in a Calumet City, Illinois raid

Sounds like she should have super powers.

Notice it says that dinner begins at 7:00.  So, you'll be watching a stripper whilst eating top notch cuisine.  What an experience.... I'll bet The Tropics Band really rocked the house.

That must have been quite the experience - to view these ladies accompanied by jazz hep cats, complete with big ass bongos.

These old stripper promotional photographs can be found all over the place (on ebay etc.). They must've been quite common, because there's tons of these floating around out there.... sounds like an idea for another post.


  1. I see stripping and burlesque as two different things.

    There are actually a lot of burlesque shows going on in bigger cities these days.

    I know someone who worked in a strip club. He was always trying to get people to come there and have a steak dinner. I can't imagine trying to eat while a woman is stripping in front of you.

  2. Forget the lady in the white gloves - same picture, other side, woman who's half cut off - she has a DOG in her purse! It looks like a Yorkie. How did she manage to get her lap dog in?

    1. I saw that too. Let's hope it wasn't a prop for the stripper.

      I don't know the image #, but the one with the drummer in the background is flipped horizontally. It's rare to see a left-handed drummer. And the lettering on the floor is backward.

  3. There's much to be said about the lost art of the "forbidden fruit". Women have made an art of the subject over the centuries, and I'm sure it's an integral part of the evolution of the species. Bravo for finding and publishing these remnants of a seemingly more genteel time, and how the eternals remain.

  4. There actually was a strip club not far from one place I worked. They had a pretty good steak lunch on Thursdays for about the cost of a fast food burger. Several of us used to take advantage of it. Of course the girls tried to get their tips, and one drink cost more than the meal, if you had one. It was a pretty good gimmick to get customers mid day, actually. It was surreal at times as well.

  5. Gilligan, another great post.

    How did I manage to get rolled off your "Blogs of Distinction?" Was it something I said? Was I chucked in the re-design?

    Greg VA

    1. Sorry Greg. Not intentional. I was trying to clean up my blogroll and get rid of ones that hadn't put a new post up in months. I guess yours somehow wound up getting "clicked". Anyway, I enjoy your blog and it's back in the sidebar where it belongs.

    2. Thanks G! You're the best.

      Blog on you crazy diamond.


  6. There's a burlesque troupe in the Boston area called Black Cat Burlesque. They tend to incorporate horror movies into their acts.
    Check out their version on The Exorcist: http://youtu.be/lZfFkXxFbm8

  7. I'm embarrassed to mention this (and I only know about it because I get dragged there for work "meetings"), but a local nudie joint has an amazing buffet that's "free" with the $6 cover. All the food (which includes great salads and desserts) is behind protective glass, and served to you cafeteria-style.

    Sure, there's a 2-drink minimum...but the daily beer specials come out to about $2 a pop.

    So, for about $10 (assuming you don't get any "personal entertainment"), you can eat like a king and get a stage show. It's so cheap, you can't afford NOT to go!

  8. "That chick in with white gloves on the right (above) should not be watching this!"

    Or maybe she should.

  9. I'm really late on this blog post but here goes: great work. As for the woman with the white gloves? She looks a little scandalized and it's hilarious. But as a woman today who goes to a lot of burlesque shows, I can tell you that the audience tends to be more women than men and that the men look embarrassed to have their wives and girlfriends looking at them gawking at other women. Unfortunately, these shows tend not to come with food.