MIMS HOUSE: Great NonFiction for Common Core
The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. At 62+, she hatched a new chick in February, 2013. Read her remarkable story. A biography in text and art.
Here’s the cover of my new book that will be out in March 2014! Wahoo! Only 90 days or so till you can read it.
And for your pleasure, here’s the recipe for Cranberry Tea Punch that we always have during the holidays.
Cranberry Tea Punch
1 cup sugar
2 cups Pineapple
4 cups Cranberry Juice Cocktail
4 cups brewed tea (I use Luzianne Decaf)
Cinnamon stix, cloves.
I also like to float slices of lemon and orange.
Warm it up and have it close while you read a book.
By Noralee Frankel
In celebration of the anniversary of the first burlesque show in New York City on 12 September 1866, I reread a fun murder mystery, The G-String Murders, by Gypsy Rose Lee. “Finding dead bodies scattered all over a burlesque theater isn’t the sort of thing you’re likely to forget. Not quickly, anyway,” begins the story.
The editors at Simon & Schuster liked the setting in a burlesque theater and appreciated Gypsy’s natural style, with its unpretentious and casual tone. Her knowledge of burlesque enabled her to intrigue readers, who were as interested in life within a burlesque theater as in the mystery. Providing vivid local color, the novel describes comedic sketches, strip routines, costumes, and the happenings backstage. In a typical scene in the book, Gypsy muses about her strip act: “The theater had been full of men, slouched down in their seats. Their cigarettes glowed in the dark and a spotlight pierced through the smoke, following me as I walked back and forth.” Describing her band with precision, she wrote, “Musicians in their shirt sleeves, with racing forms in their pockets, played Sophisticated Lady while I flicked my pins in the tuba and dropped my garter belt into the pit.”
Gypsy worked as hard on her writing as her stripping, and The G-String Murders became a best seller. “People think that just because you’re a stripper you don’t have much else except a body. They don’t credit you with intelligence,” Gypsy later complained. “Maybe that’s why I write.”
Gypsy Rose Lee, full-length portrait, seated at typewriter, facing slightly right, 1956. Photo by Fred Palumbo of the World Telegram & Sun. Public rights given to Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The G-String Murders briefly describes Gypsy’s career as a burlesque queen at a fictitious theater, based on those owned by the Minsky family, in New York City. In the book someone strangles a stripper, La Verne, with her G-string. The police turn up an abundance of suspects, including Louie, La Verne’s gangster boyfriend; Gypsy; and Gypsy’s boyfriend, Biff Brannigan, a comic working in the club. After someone tries to frame Biff by placing the lethal G-string in his pocket, he aids the police in solving the crime. He’s also concerned that the police suspect Gypsy and he wants to clear her by finding the actual murderer. After deducing the identity of the murderer, Biff proves his theory by suggesting that Gypsy act as bait and remains in the theater alone to tempt the murderer to strike again.
More than just a page-turner, Gypsy’s novel stresses the camaraderie among the women. Sharing a dressing room, they throw parties with everyone contributing to buy drinks and food. The women joke, drink together, and confide in each other. The women also sympathize with each other over man problems and working conditions. Gypsy describes the strippers’ dressing room with a complete lack of sentimentality. The cheap theater owner is indifferent to the disgusting condition of the stripper’s dressing room toilet. To help the women, the burlesque comics pool their meager resources to buy the strippers a new toilet.
Gypsy expressed her conviction in the importance of organized labor through a character in The G-String Murders: Jannine, one of the strippers recently elected secretary to the president of the Burlesque Artists’ Association. When the strippers receive a new toilet, the candy seller suggested having a non-union plumber install it to save money. She refuses, forbidding any non-union member to enter the women’s dressing room. She snapped, “Plumbers got a union. We got a union. When we don’t protect each other that’s the end of the unions.” She reminded the other strippers of conditions before they joined a union, when they performed close to a dozen shows without additional compensation.
In the novel, Gypsy provided Jannine with another opportunity to talk about solidarity among burlesque performers and the unequal class structure in the United States. In a tirade against the police over the treatment of the strippers during the murder investigation, Jannine raged that the performers, both the strippers and comedians, might squabble but they were loyal and do not inform on each other. When a police sergeant tried to interrupt her, she retorted: “It’s the social system of the upper classes that gives you guys the right to browbeat the workers!”
Gypsy peddled the G-String Murders in the same clever ways that she publicized herself. In a prepublication letter to her publishers, she offered to “do my specialty in Macy’s window to sell a book. If you prefer something a little more dignified, I’ll make it Wanamaker’s window.” In an interview, she joked that if people did not know her in bookstores, she would remove an earring and ask, “Now, do you recognize me?”
As an added bonus, Gypsy put a lot of herself into this book, so the reader learns quite a bit about her burlesque work life, her sense of humor, her political beliefs, and sense of independence. Spending time with this mystery is a perfect way to celebrate a New York City burlesque anniversary.
Noralee Frankel is author of Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee. She recently co-edited the U.S. History in Global Perspective for National History Day. Dr. Frankel is a historical consultant and can be reached through LinkedIn or Facebook.
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You have to be careful if you're planning on living by the law of attraction.
My mother used to tell me the best place to meet someone is in the grocery store. Well, that was one of the many things she told me that was pure bull! If you read my blog, you know I hurt my finger awhile back and didn’t have any band-aids. Well, from that moment on, I haven’t remembered a thing I needed from the grocery store. I will forget what I went there to get, whether I write it down or not. The fact that I will forget half of my list, leading to some disastrous happening, I believe to be the result of the law of attraction.
It is a universal law, I know, and one I wholeheartedly believe in. The law of attraction has changed my life and I’m grateful. It's also the reason for most of the things happening to me, because it's the result of the way I think. For example, my most recent experiences at the grocery store are a direct result of my own imagination. If something has happened to me already, I wonder about how or why it happened, thereby attracting a repeat of the same occurrence or situation.
In addition, I'm forgetting to get these items because I’m distracted by the latest disastrous occurrence I’ve managed to create while I was there. I keep thinking about what silly disturbance may occur, and in doing so I 'm actually creating the event. I insist on thinking about the grocery store, period. Yesterday, I started my weekly post that will ask my readers (you) what’s happening in a picture. I’ll help you out, it’s below you right now-the picture of the grocery shopper lady with her screaming boy and their blue dog!
I’m posting the readers comments today, but first I wanted to tell you what happened last night on my latest trip to the good ‘ole grocery store! This is the second time I’ve posted about a grocery disaster or something happening to me relating to the grocery store, in the last two months….
The first post is the one where I stay enslaved to the bathroom faucet since that one brought up the band-aids. The second was discovering my shirt was on inside out, and this one is date shoppers. The name “date shopper” is a name I created for couples who stroll down the grocery aisle at a snails pace, softly voicing their opinions of the latest grocery art resting on the shelves.
I always wonder what they’re whispering in their romantic hushed tones, and I see them every time I go shopping! It makes me think of a joke we used to tell in junior high school about a family of tomatoes. A family of five tomatoes is strolling along one day when one just cannot keep up with the rest of the family.
Seeing this, the father tomato stops the rest of the family and says, “Wait everybody stop walking” and the family stops. Then the father marches toward the little tomato, and stomps him with his foot, “ ker-splat! “ and says, “Ketchup!”
I imagine that joke because that's what I wish I could do to a pair of date shoppers. Especially when I get stuck behind them in line. Date shoppers stroll, and stroll shoppers are like Sunday drivers who stop every few minutes to admire the view while everyone else waits! For example in the grocery store, they admire the golden grains of wheat germ on the aisle, while you literally climb the shelves in front of them in order to reach your cereal! What do they think you’re trying to do, gymnastics?
I'm sorry, let me tell you what happened last night: I was trying to get a box of Peanut Butter Crunch, but there were two sightseers in front of me. I said, “Excuse me, um excuse me,” except they just stood looking at me as if I weren’t talking, so I said, “Excuse me, um” and before I could get the words out, it happened, and it happened so quickly I didn’t see it coming. The first thing I noticed were two boxes of cereal on the top shelf, rocking in slow motion! They began to sway back and forth like a house of cards, until finally falling like rain on the top of our heads!
This always happens before your brain can tell your body to move or voice to shout, “Get out of the way!”
As the boxes fell I watched the date shoppers and wondered, “Why do they have those expressions on their faces?” Only later did I realize, my shirt lay squished around my neck, since before the boxes fell, I had to stand in a back bend, in order to grab my cereal from around them, and even then, they would not MOVE- OUT –OF- THE- WAY!
Incidentally, we all helplessly watched the cereal boxes smash on the ground and bottles of wheat germ roll hundreds of miles down to the double doors of the meat department! I heard a soft gasp that turned out to be one date shopper’s biggest reaction, as they stood holding each other in a sway admiring the view!
Again, watch what they think, say, and do when it comes to the law of attraction, you just may manifest it into the realities of your life.
By Noralee Frankel
In late July, Catalonia a region in Spain outlawed bull fighting. The vote in parliament was spurred by a petition signed by 180,000 people. The burlesque queen and author, Gypsy Rose Lee would have been pleased.
What has a famous strip tease artist have to do with bull fighting? In 1950, Gypsy Rose Lee was blacklisted from radio and television, not for sexuality, but for her liberal politics. She had been a very successful moderator of two silly game shows, all the rage in the fifties. Unable to work on the new media, she left for Europe where she performed her strip tease.
In 1952, she traveled to Spain to make the movie with Paulette Goddard entitled “Babes of Baghdad.” (Unimpressed with the unsophisticated plot, Gypsy never bothered to see the movie. Back in New York, she dismissed it as “made strictly for Muncie, Indiana.”)
While there, Gypsy was impressed with the Barcelona Humane Society. Barcelona was the capital of Catalonia. The Society campaigned against bull fighting. According to Gypsy in an interview they were succeeding in convincing the upper-classes to avoid bullfights and cockfights by associating them with “unchic” behavior.
Gypsy’s advocacy on behalf of animals made her sensitive to issues such as a bull fighting. By 1950 Gypsy was vice president of Greenwich Village Humane Society. Gypsy worked tirelessly for the Humane Society. She enjoyed visiting animal hospitals where she felt the animals were receiving good care and her trips also lifted the morale of the staff. She was worried that problems with the blacklist might reflect on and hurt Human Society.
Gypsy brought back a gift from Spain. While in Spain, Gypsy adopted her first Siamese cat, Gaudi, named for a famous Catalonian architect. “When he came to me all he spoke was Catalonian.” Later she acquired her second Siamese in Italy, Teena. Later the couple had kittens. Gypsy quickly pointed out to the press that although she gave them pretty Siamese names, “they are solid sound substantial American citizens.” Given the blacklist, even the kittens had to be politically above reproach.
Fifty years after an earlier campaign, Barcelona has finally banned bull fighting, just as Gypsy Rose Lee wanted.
Noralee Frankel is the author of Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee and Assistant Director, Women, Minorities, and Teaching at the American Historical Association.