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Gypsy Rose Lee (born Rose Louise Hovick, January 8, 1911 – April 26, 1970) was an American burlesque entertainer, stripper, and vedette famous for her striptease act. Also an actress, author, and playwright, her 1957 memoir was adapted into the 1959 stage musical Gypsy.
Lee was born in Seattle, Washington, to Rose Thompson Hovick, a single mother who worked as a vaudeville dancer. Lee’s mother was a demanding and ambitious woman who pushed her daughters into show business from a young age. Lee and her older sister, June Havoc, appeared in vaudeville and burlesque shows together as children.
In 1929, Lee made her debut as a burlesque stripper in Kansas City. She quickly became one of the most popular burlesque stars in the country. Lee’s striptease act was unique in that it was more about comedy and wit than it was about nudity. She was known for her quick wit and her ability to make the audience laugh.
In addition to her burlesque career, Lee also appeared in films, television, and on Broadway. She wrote two memoirs, Gypsy (1957) and The G-String Murders (1941). Lee died of lung cancer in 1970 at the age of 59.
Lee is remembered as one of the most talented and successful burlesque performers of all time. She was also a pioneer in the field of female comedy. Lee’s wit and intelligence helped to break down the stigma of burlesque and striptease, and she paved the way for future generations of female entertainers.