True Burlesque Big Joe Turner Gets Lucky Venus La Doll Um Hum by Jim Linderman
True Burlesque Venus La Doll
Comedienne. Serious man grinder. Bronze Goddess of Love. Her jokes weren't paying the bills, so she got dirty.
Venus was once performing at a club with Joe Turner. Big Joe Turner…and Joe lumbered up and danced with her. Eat that, skinny white ecdysiasts. I would cut off a finger to go back in time and watch Venus La Doll shake it with Big Joe Turner. TWO fingers, one for each of them. I'd bring a smartphone too, because the clip here sucks. One of the few films of Big Joe Turner. Now imagine him doing a dirty bump with Venus La Doll. Um hum. Sorta makes one wish there were more cameras in the black and tans, eh?
Joe here does "Lipstick, Powder and Paint" while a group of constipated kids who hadn't been liberated by rock and roll yet stare at him in fear. To be fair, the "director" inserted Big Joe later…but still those kids need a serious shot of Rhythm and Blues, and you know where. Not on the left, not on the right…smack in the groove.
Venus was once photographed by Lonnie Simmons, forgotten master of the camera, who documented the Club DeLisa. Lonnie sold this photo of Venus to Jet Magazine in 1953. It is credited below. They didn't pay Lonnie enough, they didn't pay Venus enough, they didn't pay Big Joe enough and I'm not getting paid either…but at least I am crediting what I crib. Lonnie caught the feather boa just right.
Jet Loved Venus, and who wouldn't. They once reported she won a large financial settlement from "a food manufacturer" after finding a bug in her can of potted ham. Now I don't want to get sued, and neither did Jet way back when…but I am guessing that potted ham is now a commonly understood phrase for email you don't want to receive…and one of the reasons I am a vegetarian.
Venus La Doll MAY have taken her name from R&B queen Ruth Brown, who was apparently briefly known as Venus the Doll…or maybe not. My translation of the clip below doesn't clear it up. It was common for strippers to "borrow" names to confuse potential patrons passing by. Venus performed in Greenwich Village in the mid 1950s, and any trick to fill the seats was useful. For all I know, there were a DOZEN Venus La Dolls performing in juke joints and chitlin' clubs across the country, but since we were segregated, only musicians would know. There is far less racism among musicians and always has been. Thank heavens for that, or we would still be sitting around like the Hollywood extras in the clip above.
If you are reading this and are younger than 40, you don't know enough about Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner or Venus La Doll for many reasons, but let's call it racism.
So how the hell did a photograph of OUR Venus La Doll turn up on the record sleeve of Calypso songs from the Islands? One which includes a song by Louis Farrakhan when he was performing as Calypso Gene? I don't know. You can try to find out, but you're not going to find a clip of Big Joe hamming it up with Venus in a smoky club while you are drunk and having the time of your life, and neither am I. Sorry.
I hope she went home with him that night. "Joe? Pull down the shades and come here."
Photograph of Venus La Doll dancing by Lonnie Simmons Jet Magazine December 3, 1953.
Portion of Venus La Doll interview from Domingo February 3, 1963.
This is Number 17 in the series "Greatest Moments in Vintage Sleaze" collect them all!
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Labels: True Burlesque