A true icon of America at a turning point in its history, Gypsy Rose Lee was the first—and the only—stripper to become a household name, write novels, and win the adulation of intellectuals, bankers, socialites, and ordinary Americans. Her outrageous blend of funny-smart sex symbol with the aura of high culture—she boasted that she liked to read Great Books and listen to classical music while taking off her clothes on-stage—inspired a musical, memoirs, a portrait by Max Ernst, and a species of rose. Gypsy is the first book about Gypsy Rose Lee’s life, fame, and place in America not written by a family member, and it reveals her deep impact on the social and cultural transformations taking shape during her life.
Rachel Shteir, author of the prize-winning Striptease, gives us Gypsy’s story from her arrival in New York in 1931 to her sojourns in Hollywood, her friendships and rivalries with writers and artists, the Sondheim musical, family memoirs that retold her history in divergent ways, and a television biopic currently in the making. With verve, audacity, and native guile, Gypsy Rose Lee moved striptease from the margins of American life to Broadway, Hollywood, and Main Street. Gypsy tells how she did it, and why.