You know things are going to get dicey when researching an establishment and the first thing which comes up is an article opening with "The once proud..." Urban decline usually means strip clubs, I'm afraid, and the Park Theater in Youngstown was no exception.
However, according to one "wolfgirl500" who is seemingly the expert on the Park, there was a WORSE Park Theater called "The NEW Park Theater" which was run by mobsters and "burned down by a disgruntled performer!" Now THAT is the one I'm really interested in, but since my ephemera here is apparently from the "legitimate" theater which ran porn movies and featured "Busty Russell" I'll have to work with this one.
There were several "Champagne Girls" including a fairly famous one from New Orleans named Rita Alexander. This ain't her. Rita had a blond bouffant and you can see her down a few drinks on YouTube. Our Champagne Girl here seems stuck in the Bettie Page bangs era, but there is no date on the card.
Whenever the card reads "EXCLUSIVE APPEARANCE" you can be sure the performer will be stripping "exclusively" down the road next weekend at another dump. Sorta like when you read on a product label "NEW, IMPROVED" but the stuff inside is the same, only the box and logo are improved.
There was also a woman informally named "The Champagne Girl" who worked for Lawrence Welk, one Alice Lon...who was HELD HOSTAGE, FORCED TO STRIP and had nude photographs taken of her! This happened in 1955, and it isn't funny. Sheesh! I guess the moral of that true story is one should avoid the use of the name Champagne girl...it's asking for trouble.
A few observations about THIS Champagne Girl? Well first of all you can see her hoisted champagne tankard is nearly as big as her waist. I'm not sure that is healthy.
You can see the "live shows" went on practically all day. On weekends, Miss Champagne had to disrobe 6 times! I am going to hope she nursed that drink, or her 1:00 am performance might have gotten a bit sloppy.
Note "amateur night" every few weeks? That was the sleazy practice of using locals who weren't in the union and paying them nothing. Often they were hookers who did it to attract clients. Sorry, you "glamor of burlesque" folks...it happened. To be fair, were there a few legitimate "amateurs" who wanted to get up there and see if they had what it took to be a star? Um, no. Sorry.
Also of interest here is the use of alliteration (Lydia Love) which frequently means a show girl (or in the case of double L initials, you want to make it with Superman.) You can also be assured there are lots of strippers with the fake last name of Bardot, and that they all have a first name starting with B.
"Busty Russell" is shown on the reverse...Let's just say her career is sagging, if you know what I mean. She was still a $7.00 performer instead of a $6.00 performer, but if gravity kept on working, that might not have been the case for too much longer.
Was there glamorous burlesque? I don't think so. It was hard, sleazy work for the performers, who lived out of trunks (and no, living out of a trunk was NOT glamorous, no matter how many show biz histories you see in the movies) who were often stiffed by the management (who often had guns and were frequently "connected" and paid off the cops) and the joints were smoky and full of drunken pigs. To my way of thinking, that is like looking for glamour in Hell.
Park Theatre "table card" with The Champagne Girl. No date (circa 1970?) Collection Victor Minx.
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