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Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee

Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee

3.3 3
by Noralee Frankel

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Whenever stripper Gypsy Rose Lee encountered public criticism, she spoke frankly in her own defense. "Thousands have seen me at my--ah--best; and thousands have made no objections."

Noralee Frankel's lively biography, Stripping Gypsy, the first ever published about the highly mythologized Gypsy, examines the struggles Lee faced in making a lucrative and


Whenever stripper Gypsy Rose Lee encountered public criticism, she spoke frankly in her own defense. "Thousands have seen me at my--ah--best; and thousands have made no objections."

Noralee Frankel's lively biography, Stripping Gypsy, the first ever published about the highly mythologized Gypsy, examines the struggles Lee faced in making a lucrative and unconventional career for herself while maintaining a sense of dignity and social value. Frankel shows that the famous Miss Lee was an enigma, clearly struggling with her choices and her desire to be respected and legitimized. Those who know Gypsy Rose Lee only from the musical and film based on her rise to stardom will be surprised by what they uncover in Stripping Gypsy. In all ways, Lee trafficked in the incongruous: she was at once sex object, intellectual, and activist. In addition to her highly successful strip-tease act and film career, she published two mystery novels and a memoir, wrote two plays, and showed her original artwork in famed Modern Art-impresario Peggy Guggenheim's gallery. Lee also gained notoriety for her participation in liberal politics. As photographer Arnold Newman said, "She was a lady, a brilliant, bright woman who was the friend of many writers and intellectuals." Though she wasn't above using her femininity to full advantage, Lee aspired to much more than admiration for her physical beauty.

Frankel places Lee's life in social and political context while detailing a fascinating entertainment career, in which Lee created and recreated her own identity to fit changing times. Frankel's biography transcends the sensationalism of stripping and asks the public to see the woman beneath the costume, a woman who always kept a little of herself shrouded in mystery.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Her story is a fascinating one and also follows the culture of the time."--Graffiti

"[T]he fine study of famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee written by Noralee Frankel...Frankel paints a complex portrait of a woman who was a stripper, writer, actress, talk show host, and patron of the arts; all the while raising important questions regarding gender and class in twentieth-century America...Noralee Frankel has crafted a fine scholarly entertainment biography which should serve as a model for historians. Stripping Gypsy removes the hyperbole surrounding the renowned stripper and unveils the struggles of this intelligent and ambitious woman to push the boundaries of gender and class in twentieth-century America."--Ron Briley, History News Network

"BUST readers who are fans or practitioners of neo-burlesque will be thrilled to discover that historian Noralee Frankel has created the first truly scholarly biography of Gypsy Rose Lee. And in the same way that much of today's neoburlesque phenomenon is fueled by feminist underpinnings, so too does Frankel, in this exhaustively researched work, reveal the forward-thinking politics of this burlesque pioneer."--Bust Magazine

"[W]ell-researched...[Y]ou find yourself turning pages quickly and yelling out factoids to beleaguered friends and family in the other room...It is simply impossible to read these books and not fall in love with Gypsy's tenacity, wit and confounding, beguiling, oh-so-American mix of self-mythology and self-awareness."--Washington Post

"Frankel...presents a Gypsy you might not recognize from the glossy stage and screen bios of her life: here, she is conflicted, even tormented, by her choices and life paths. A new panning of some familiar material, perfect for a poolside lounge chair."--AARP Bulletin

"Frankel's biography [is] a good starting point for those wishing to learn more about Gypsy Rose Lee, largely owing to its start-to-finish overview of her life."--Yahoo! Shine

"[H]er meticulously researched book...Stripping Gypsy is an intriguing and uncomplicated read, telling Gypsy Rose Lee's story from childhood to death...It certainly sheds some light on a woman who spent so much time protecting her image and the reality of herself."--Sacramento Book Review

"[Stripping Gypsy is] impressive in its research...Frankel's is valuable for its rich lode of period detail."--Open Letters

"While Noralee Frankel's lively biography of America's most famous stripper is thoroughly researched and cleverly written, Frankel's greatest accomplishments lie in disentangling fact from fiction in the life and work of a woman who survived by masking the truth from herself, her audience, and those she loved."--Leslie Fishbein, Journal of American History

Kirkus Reviews
A biography of a 1930-40s burlesque artist who amounted to far more than the sum of her parts. The notion that Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970) was a might-have-been seems misguided, but Frankel (Freedom's Women: Black Women and Families in Civil War Mississippi, 1999, etc.) convincingly argues that Lee's talents could have taken her beyond stardom as a stripper for Minsky's Burlesque. To be sure, Frankel shows that Lee created a witty act that was "more tease than strip." But Lee encountered barriers when she tried to step beyond Minsky's. In the '30s, she filmed several middling comedies, for which Fox producer Darryl Zanuck, fearful of censors, billed her by her real name, Louise Hovick, lest anyone recognize the lady of burlesque. (Zanuck was particularly "worried about any appearance of nonmarital sexual activity.") Lee also authored two mysteries, a bestselling biography and a play for Broadway (where she also acted), exhibited her paintings at Peggy Guggenheim's gallery, followed the opera and read voraciously. However, puritanical Americans never let go of the girl from Minsky's; a condescending book reviewer labeled Lee "The Jane Austen of the striptease set." Frankel has less success arguing that Lee revealed more of her body than she did of her psyche. Beneath details of Lee's tortured relationship with her mother, her failed marriages and her forceful work on behalf of unions, readers will see only a fiercely determined, confidant Lee, not someone hiding her inner life. The author mined published accounts and Lee's private papers and correspondence, but the bibliography lists not a single personal interview. Words from Lee's sister (June Havoc), her son (Erik Preminger, who isforthcoming in a recent biography of father Otto) and from surviving co-workers may have brought readers closer to the great entertainer. Gypsy gets the extra bow she deserved.

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Noralee Frankel is the Assistant Director, Women, Minorities, and Teaching at the American Historical Association. Her books include Freedom's Women: Black Women and Families in Civil War Era Mississippi and Break Those Chains at Last: African Americans, 1860-1880 (OUP, 1996). She lives in the Washington, D.C, area.

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Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
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Twynn More than 1 year ago
If you like biographies about interesting people you will definitly enjoy this one!