Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Scarlet Fever portrait www.gemmaparker.co.uk

The other weekend I spent a lovely time in North Wales with my good friend, the fabulous Scarlet Fever. Scarlet's story may be known to some of you; She took part in Channel Four's Faking It Burlesque Special which aired in 2006. She managed to fake her way from insecure body conscious cleaner to glamourous showgirl burlesque star and picked up a whole bunch of confidence and sass on the way!

I was inspired to paint Scarlet's portrait as the Queen of Hearts as her story touched so many people and gave countless others the kick they needed to shed thier own insecurities. You can read about the project HERE

While living it up on the Welsh Mountains we watched an interesting DVD detailing the rise of burlesque and giving info about the original stars from old. This made me think about which perfomers of bygone years I have found inspirational. So here's my top three burly queens from the golden age:

During the 1940’s Gypsy Rose Lee was an innovator in her field taking the art form to a whole new level by emphasizing the ‘tease’ in striptease and using a casual strip style, compared to the herky-jerky styles of most burlesque strippers. She also brought a sharp sense of humour into her act as well, becoming as equally famous for her wit as her strip. Gypsy Rose Lee was also a writer and penned the mystery thriller ‘The G String Murders’ later turned into the 1947 film ‘The Lady of Burlesque’.

I borrowed the film 'Gypsy' a film about Gypsy Rose Lee's life from Scarlet as I'm ashamed to admit, I never seen it! I can't wait to watch it!

Dixie Evans was hailed as burlesques answer to Marilyn Monroe. Although Monroe was the sex symbol of the day she never appeared nude or semi nude in any of her films. Evans, with her strong resemblance to Monroe cornered a market by performing like the blonde bombshell on stage in a much saucier manner. The real Marilyn Monroe was too inaccessible to your average joe, but Evans could let these men's imagination run wild. If you couldn't have Monroe, you could have the next best thing. Even though in her late 60’s Evans can still be seen appearing in burlesque tours! She also is the conservator of Exotic World keeping the memory of classic burlesque alive.

Originally starting out in silent films Sally Rand went on to become a dancer when talkies were introduced. She became infamous for popularising the fan dance which has been reproduced and copied ever since. The elegant fan dance involved Rand appearing on stage sparsely dressed or apparently naked but hidden between two enormous feather fans which she then proceeded to swirl and move lithely about her giving the audience a glimpse of leg here and a flash of shoulder there!

1 comment:

Niall young said...

Scarlet's tale is indeed inspiring, as is looking back on the history of burlesque...I rencently read Michelle Baldwin's book'Burlesque, and the new bump and grind'which carries a fairly brief early history and a more lengthy coverage of recent decades..but a never the less inspiring read.What many people (those who do not have the eyes to see!) do not realise is that the story of burlesque is not only a valuable artistic expression, but is also a story of feminism..the empowering of women.Great stuff!