|Jun 28 2010
Nobody really knows where the word burlesque came from—some claim its roots are the Italian and Spanish words “burla," which mean “hoax” and “deception” respectively. We’ve also seen burla translated as “jest.” Whatever its etymological roots, the much loved art of burlesque began in Victorian England as a type of musical variety show that satirized highbrow art forms such as opera, ballet, and costumed drama. On U.S. soil burlesque took similar shape, but also began to incorporate semi-clad dancers. Soon, these sexually suggestive dances became the focus of the performances, and the word burlesque became a synonym for striptease.
Stars such as Sally Rand, Amy Fong and Dixie Evans became celebrity practitioners of the art. The dancers generally didn’t strip totally nude on stage, but a few, like Bettie Page, did take it all off in short burlesque reels. Above, in panel 1, is a shot of Betty Blue Eyes Howard, and below we have more assorted burlesque photos featuring some of the biggest stars of yesteryear’s striptease firmament. Of special note are Busty Brown in panel 2, Betty Rowland in panel 12, and being escorted into court to face obscenity charges in panel 13, Bettie Page from one of her reels in panel 20, Lilly Christine in panel 21, Lili St. Cyr in panel 22, two shots from one of Nazi Germany’s legendarily decadent mid-1930s burlesque shows in panels 23 and 24, and finally Tempest Storm in the last panel. We hope these images take the edge off those Monday blahs.