Lee, Gypsy Rose, 1914-1970

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1914-01-09
Death 1970-04-26
Gender:
Female
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Lee, an American burlesque entertainer, was one of the most famous strippers of all time, and was proclaimed during her lifetime to be the most publicized woman in the world. She starred in theater, 12 films, and eventually her own television show, "The Gypsy Rose Lee Show" (1958). Besides her mystery novels THE G-STRING MURDERS (1941) and MOTHER FINDS A BODY (1942), she wrote an autobiography, GYPSY (1957), which was a bestseller.

From the description of Gypsy Rose Lee collection, 1941. (Peking University Library). WorldCat record id: 74213846

Gypsy Rose Lee, burlesque star, actress, author and television personality was born Rose Louise Hovick, January 9, 1914 in Seattle, Washington.

She performed with her sister June in vaudeville shows touring the country during the 1920s. After the decline in vaudeville's popularity, Miss Lee turned to burlesque and became a major striptease star in the 1930s. In 1938, she signed with Twentieth Century-Fox to act in films. She went back to burlesque in the 1940s, but began to cultivate her writing skills becoming an author. She wrote three mystery novels and her memoir, entitled GYPSY (1957), which was adapted for the stage in 1959 and became a motion picture in 1962. Gypsy Rose Lee moved from New York to California in 1965 and soon became host of her own talk show which ran from 1965-1968. Gypsy Rose Lee died April 26, 1970.

From the description of Gypsy Rose Lee Archive, 1910-1970. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122608292

Gypsy Rose Lee (1914-1970) burlesque star, actress, author and television personality was born Rose Louise Hovick, January 9, 1914 in Seattle, Washington. Her mother Rose Thompson and her father, John Hovick, a reporter, divorced shortly after the birth of their second child June. Rose Thompson was determined to make a stage career for her children. Rose Louise made her stage debut at the age of four in Just Kids, a "kiddy act" with her sister, "Baby June," who later became the actress June Havoc. The act, which changed over the years as the girls aged, toured the vaudeville circuit successfully for several years, but with the decline of vaudeville Rose Louise turned to burlesque. By the 1930s she had transformed herself into Gypsy Rose Lee and was one of the biggest stars in burlesque, known as much for her sophisticated sense of humor as for her artful stripping. Gypsy Rose Lee performed in the Ziegfeld Follies, at Billy Rose's Casino de Paree, and in Mike Todd's The Streets of Paris at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair. In 1942 she brought her burlesque act to Broadway in Mike Todd's Star and Garter . Gypsy Rose Lee took to the road again in the late 1940s, touring with the Royal American Shows, playing carnivals throughout the United States and Canada.

Gypsy Rose Lee went to Hollywood in the late 1930s and appeared in several films including Stage Door Canteen and Belle of the Yukon . However, it was her work as a writer that achieved more universal acclaim. She contributed articles to American Mercury, Cosmopolitan, Harper's, and New Yorker, in addition to authoring three books. Her mystery, The G-String Murders, published in 1941 was a bestseller. In 1942 she published Mother Finds a Body . Her play The Naked Genius, starring Joan Blondell and directed by George S. Kaufman, was beset by problems, but survived a short run on Broadway in 1943. In 1957 Gypsy Rose Lee recounted the story of her early life in her memoirs, entitled Gypsy . The musical version of her book, also entitled Gypsy, opened on Broadway in 1959, starring Ethel Merman as Gypsy's mother, Rose. The 1962 movie version of Gypsy starred Rosalind Russell as Mama Rose and Natalie Wood as Gypsy.

In the 1950s and 1960s Gypsy Rose Lee continued to work on the stage in theater and club performances. She appeared throughout the country in various shows including Auntie Mame, and her own autobiographical presentation, A Curious Evening with Gypsy Rose Lee . From 1965 to 1968 she hosted a television program, The Gypsy Rose Lee Show . She was also a frequent guest on talk and game shows.

Gypsy Rose Lee's personal interests were as varied as her professional pursuits. She oversaw the decoration of her homes, both in New York and later in California, including the selection of art with works by Bougereau, de Chirico, de Diego, Ernst, Picasso and Vertes. She was also a painter, gardener, and animal lover. Over the years she had many pets including Chinese crested dogs (which she worked to have recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club), fish, birds and peacocks. Miss Lee was an accomplished knitter, seamstress and quilter. Her needlework was exhibited in several shows including one at the Hallmark Gallery in New York.

Gypsy Rose Lee also contributed her time and talents to a variety of causes. She performed for the troops during both World War II and the Vietnam War and participated in the War Bond Drive. She raised money for many charities and animal welfare groups and was actively involved with the Greenwich Village Humane League for many years.

Gypsy Rose Lee was married three times: to manufacturer Arnold R. Mizzy in 1937; to actor, producer Alexander Kirkland in 1942; and to artist Julio de Diego in 1948. All three marriages ended in divorce. Her son Erik Lee Kirkland Preminger (father Otto Preminger) was born in 1944. Gypsy Rose Lee died of lung cancer, April 26, 1970 at the age of 56.

From the guide to the Gypsy Rose Lee papers, 1910-1970, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Costume construction
  • Detective and mystery stories, American--20th century
  • Motion picture actors and actresses
  • Stripteasers--Fiction
  • Actresses--United States--Portraits
  • Women detectives--Fiction
  • Women television personalities
  • Striptease
  • Dressmaking
  • Fabric swatches
  • Women entertainers
  • Drama (American)
  • Burlesque (Theater)
  • Television talk shows
  • Gardening
  • Gardens--Design
  • Music-halls (Variety-theaters, cabarets, etc.)
  • Interior decoration
  • Vaudeville
  • Burlesques
  • Burlesque (Theater)--Fiction
  • Authors and publishers--20th century--Correspondence

Occupations:

  • Performer

Places:

  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)