Mama Rose's Turn: The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother

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Overview

Hers is the show business saga you think you already know—but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Rose Thompson Hovick, mother of June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee, went down in theatrical history as "The Stage Mother from Hell" after her immortalization on Broadway in Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Yet the musical was 75 percent fictionalized by playwright Arthur Laurents and condensed for the stage. Rose's full story is even more striking.

Born fearless on the North Dakota prairie in 1891, Rose ...

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Mama Rose's Turn: The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother

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Overview

Hers is the show business saga you think you already know—but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Rose Thompson Hovick, mother of June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee, went down in theatrical history as "The Stage Mother from Hell" after her immortalization on Broadway in Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Yet the musical was 75 percent fictionalized by playwright Arthur Laurents and condensed for the stage. Rose's full story is even more striking.

Born fearless on the North Dakota prairie in 1891, Rose Thompson had a kind father and a gallivanting mother who sold lacy finery to prostitutes. She became an unhappy teenage bride whose marriage yielded two entrancing daughters, Louise and June. When June was discovered to be a child prodigy in ballet, capable of dancing en pointe by the age of three, Rose, without benefit of any theatrical training, set out to create onstage opportunities for her magical baby girl—and succeeded.

Rose followed her own star and created two more in dramatic and colorful style: "Baby June" became a child headliner in vaudeville, and Louise grew up to be the well-known burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. The rest of Mama Rose's remarkable story included love affairs with both men and women, the operation of a "lesbian pick-up joint" where she sold homemade bathtub gin, wild attempts to extort money from Gypsy and June, two stints as a chicken farmer, and three allegations of cold-blooded murder—all of which was deemed unfit for the script of Gypsy. Here, at last, is the rollicking, wild saga that never made it to the stage.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
02/01/2014
Known best (though inaccurately) as the overbearing stage mother in the musical Gypsy, Rose Thompson Hovick struts to center stage in Mama Rose's Turn. Given the half-truths and embellished stories in books by and about Gypsy Rose Lee and her sister, June Havoc, parts of this book are based on "speculation" if not prevarication, despite judicious attempts at fact-checking. Rose was a hard-drinking "ball-buster" who ignored personal boundaries. She worked hard and thrived on a certain amount of chaos. Historical researcher Quinn (coeditor, The Ziegfeld Times) gives voice to Rose with quotes from letters, newspaper stories, interviews, historical archives, biographies, and autobiographies. The author's writing is generally calm and factual, occasionally bursting (as Rose might have done) with resentment that pours out "like a molten volcano" or a temper that goes "berserk" whereupon Rose "slugs" one daughter. There was a "gigantic row" and a "problem with booze" before Rose was kicked out of a nursing home and died in 1954 at age 63. VERDICT Readers with an interest in Gypsy Rose Lee, vaudeville, burlesque, or dysfunctional families will be the natural audience for this title. Consider for larger collections.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617038532
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 11/1/2013
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 297,027
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Carolyn Quinn

CAROLYN QUINN grew up in Roselle and Scotch Plains, NJ, a member of an outrageous and rollicking extended family. She became interested in theatrical history at the age of twelve after participating in a theater arts workshop and later obtained a B.A. in English and Theater/Media from Kean University. Carolyn wrote "MAMA ROSE'S TURN: The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother" after extensively researching the life of Rose Thompson Hovick, whose colorful and unorthodox parenting style inspired the musical Gypsy. She is Co-Editor of The Ziegfeld Times for The Ziegfeld Society. Carolyn lives in New York City and can be contacted through her website, www.carolynquinn.net. "MAMA ROSE'S TURN" is her first book. She wants readers to know that she had an absolutely fabulous time researching it!

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    Fascinating look at the legendary mother of June and Gypsy.  

    Fascinating look at the legendary mother of June and Gypsy.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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