American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

by Karen Abbott
3.3 78


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American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott


America was flying high in the Roaring Twenties. Then, almost overnight, the Great Depression brought it crashing down. When the dust settled, people were primed for a star who could distract them from reality. Enter Gypsy Rose Lee, a strutting, bawdy, erudite stripper who possessed a gift for delivering exactly what America needed. With her superb narrative skills and eye for detail, Karen Abbott brings to life an era of ambition, glamour, struggle, and survival. Using exclusive interviews and never-before-published material, she vividly delves into Gypsy’s world, including her intense triangle relationship with her sister, actress June Havoc, and their formidable mother, Rose, a petite but ferocious woman who literally killed to get her daughters on the stage. Weaving in the compelling saga of the Minskys—four scrappy brothers from New York City who would pave the way for Gypsy Rose Lee’s brand of burlesque and transform the entertainment landscape—Karen Abbott creates a rich account of a legend whose sensational tale of tragedy and triumph embodies the American Dream.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812978513
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/13/2012
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 359,261
Product dimensions: 5.26(w) x 9.94(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in New York City with her husband and two African Grey parrots who do a mean Ethel Merman. Visit her online at 

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American Rose 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 78 reviews.
Chuck-Mosberger More than 1 year ago
What did Gypsy Rose Lee ever do to Karen Abbott? The author drives home the message that Miss Lee had no talent. That her heroine could captivate an audience for decades, write two best sellers, appear on Broadway, in films, television, nightclubs, entertain our troupes in Viet Nam and single-handedly raised her son in a time when most middle-class women worked only in their homes, apparently is not proof enough of Gypsy's abilities. The most creative of writing exhibited in this book occurs when Ms. Abbott has Gypsy's mother, Rose, powder her face and clutch a wad of tissues in her fist in 1918. Rose must have been a magician since facial tissues originated in 1924. Didn't anyone check the "research"? The obscene quote included at the beginning of Chapter 23 is attributed to Otto Preminger. When one looks it up in the Notes and Sources section, one discovers that it is no more than hearsay told to the author by a former employee of Mr. Preminger (whom Abbot interviewed in 2008 about Mr. Preminger's relationship with Gypsy Rose Lee in 1944). This is the shabbiest of reporting. Much of the information in this work was derived from interviews with the 94 year-old June Havoc, Gypsy's sister. After more than 40 years, could June's memories be somewhat clouded or less than accurate? They certainly are at odds with the numerous letters Miss Lee received from her sister and mother written over decades that are now housed in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Was the chapter scrambling of time periods done to obscure how much had come from Gypsy, Early Havoc , More Havoc and Gypsy & Me? Without these sources and the Minsky pages this would have been a slim volume indeed. Given the choice I would rather read the originals again.
StellaBee More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book in the store on my Nook. The first few chapters were okay and I thought the book would get better as I kept reading it. The book didn't get better. Too many flashback episides with no real depth into Rose's character. Should have called this book Mama Rose since she was the nost interesting and complex character in the book.
BookFan17 More than 1 year ago
I couldn't wait for this book to come out as it was my choice for our little book club but was sadly disappointed in it. It does not go into any real depth about Gypsy and that was what I was hoping for. It also goes into too much details about side characters. At times I felt more detail about them rather than Gypsy. I was not alone in my feelings as the other 3 individuals said very similar things. I would not recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this biography for the most part, though it included a little more about the Minsky family history than I was looking for. Also, despite the author having talked quite a bit to June Havoc, I didn't always get a handle on how the two sisters felt toward one another. Still, the book gave much better insight into the thoroughly dysfuncational family of Rose, Gypsy and June. The Broadway show Gypsy, and its many performances across the country in smaller, local theaters creates such a whimsical picture of a tough, but still lovable mother, Rose, and the harsh realities of the person she really was shows through in this book. After reading about the (possible?) murder of Ginny Augustin, I couldn't help but wonder how this forgotten woman's family must feel about the often lighthearted legend that surrounds Gypsy Rose Lee.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think there might have been a good story here, but the jumping back and forth between decades was distracting. I do not understand why an author employs that technique.
Jamie_Mason More than 1 year ago
Most all books have only two ingredients: a story and the words chosen to tell that story. For sniffing out a narrative to mine for interest, anyone with the time and inclination for the research would find a barrel for a shooting gallery and big fat fish for targets in the life story of the most famous striptease artist of all time, Gypsy Rose Lee. So all that's left to distinguish a writer in the telling of Gypsy's tale are the words. And this is where Karen Abbott soars. This book takes a story that was always going to be fascinating and bawdy and fraught, and makes it lyrical. To bolster Gypsy's nimble sidestepping of her own quantifiability, Ms. Abbott nails in place a richly textured backdrop of the wane of vaudeville, the rise and fall of burlesque, The Great Depression, and the American home front in and after World War II. With her excellent words, facts become patterns and the feel of an era is transformed into the color we recognize in our own lives, but seem to relegate to sepia when we dial back the time machine. The effect is that, from here on out, no pale dry history of this time in America will cut it. No, I take it back. The times of Gypsy are not nailed in this book, they're pinned, as surely and elegantly as one of Gypsy's skirts. And as in a striptease, what's revealed in the folds of this vibrant garment, are the reasons behind what we know of Gypsy Rose Lee and the whys of what we cannot know. In choosing a non-linear format, Ms. Abbott offers a natural feel to the way we learn about Gypsy: a personal, intimate conversation; the organic way we discover a friend or a rival, or sometimes even an enemy - a story here, a rumor there, one anecdote crossing decades to a related point that explains what came before or where it all wound up. The combination of Karen Abbott's skills as a writer and the endlessly riveting trials and triumphs of a national icon, makes 'American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee', a easy addition to the must-read list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book doesn't follow any order-one chapter is 1955 and the next chapter is 1933. It is also more about the burlesque men and their theaters than Gypsy Rose Lee. Really a poorly written book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is realy three stories: Gypsy's, the Minsky family, the history of burleque. Unfortunatly it jumps around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first time that I have purchased a book that I wanted to ask B & Noble for a refund. This book deals more with the Minsky brothers than the great Gypsy Rose Lee. She deserved better. This author should be ashamed!!!!!! No stars because it sucks!
BETKAT More than 1 year ago
book so different than the story on Broadway or movie. I thought the sisters never communicated and that Gypsy never took it it all off. Gives you a good look at a very disfunctional family. It is a very interesting history of the Minzky Brothers and their input to the "business." I enjoyed it very much.
Les_Ann_66 More than 1 year ago
We all think we know Gypsy, June, and Mama Rose from the film GYPSY, but we're all wrong. This fantastic book is full of history & life, love & lust, hate & revenge. It brings to life one of the worlds most famous, and infamous, women, takes off her g-string and pasties, leaving her standing bare in front of us, revealing her more than the Minsky's did, and we love her even more. I have adored Karen Abbotts' work since I first read Sin in the Second City. Her works intertwine history with storytelling, revealing the real persona of each character, without ever diminishing them. AMERICAN ROSE is a brilliant look at not only Gypsy, but the Minsky brothers, and the history of burlesque. You could not tell one story without the other, and Karen Abbott does just that.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
You've undoubtedly heard the buzz about Barbra Streisand doing a remake of the film Gypsy -some comments are positive, some negative, and others ho-hum. What is not at all ho-hum and very positive is AMERICAN ROSE read by the very talented Bernadette Dunne and penned by NY Times best-selling author Karen Abbott (Sin in the Second City). With a wealth of stage experience (The Kennedy Center, The Washington Shakespeare Company, etc) Dunne delivers a masterful voice performance bringing to life the characters with whom many of us are familiar - Gypsy, sister June and, of course, the indomitable Mama Rose. Dunne easily segues between characters, clearly delineating each as the story unfolds. Abbott begins AMERICAN ROSE in 1940 when Gypsy was about to perform at the World's Fair, surely a landmark in her career. We learn that landmark was earned by Gypsy herself who excelled at self-promotion and skillful at creating the public persona she wanted the world to see. She was also a mistress of illusion or as Abbott puts it "....she knows that what she hides is as much of a reward as what she deigns to reveal." After the World's Fair the author takes us back in time to 1910 Seattle shortly before Gypsy was born (dates are a bit hazy as Mama Rose (Rose Hovick) didn't mind forging a few documents re her daughters' ages). Following Gypsy's early stage training we meet some fascinating men who were in and out of her life - Billy Minsky, Mike Todd. Much of what is found in AMERICAN ROSE may well be remembered from the hit musical Gypsy. Nonetheless Abbott is apt at supplying details that could not have been included in the Broadway stage presentation and comparing Gypsy's days with that time in America. Give a listen - let Gypsy entertain you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why was this author allowed to market this as a book about Gypsy Rose Lee, when it is clearly just about her kid sister June? What the heck? Sure wish I had paid more attention to all the other reviews that warned not to waste time or money on this book.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
For having a seriously dysfunctional family as fodder, this book sure was stale. I was confused for the first few chapters who this book was about. Most of the first 75-100 pages focused on June - Louisa (aka Gypsy)'s sister. In fact, for the first couple chapters I thought June was going to grow up to be Gypsy - that's how focused the book was. The author also spent an inordinate amount of time reminding us that Gypsy was a talentless hack. Yet, she managed to carve out quite the successful career in the demi-world. The author doesn't seem to give Gypsy as much credit as she seems due. Overall, though, the authors main crime is that she took such exciting material and managed to make it ho hum
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book shatter the glamorized life of Gypsy Rose Lee that was portrayed by the musical. Odds are, it was as realistic a tale as we will ever get of the life and struggles of a truly dysfunctional family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Karen Abbott is a great storyteller who is re-inventing the biography.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I made it through, but every chapter is from a different time and if you read the book, I'd advise you to make a timeline so you can keep straight what has already happened and what hasn't as you enter each chapter. I wish I had read each chapter in chronological order... name changes and lots and lots of characters. Did love the pictures that were included.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago