True Burlesque of the week is the lovely Gayety Theater in Miami on Collins Avenue! Used briefly in a shot in television show Miami Vice! They needed a sleazy exterior shot.
Strippers are just like birds. They head south for the winter.
IN 1965, the Miami News reported Gayety owner Leroy Griffith "operator of three nudie theaters" was forced to close his clubs for failing to pay his taxes.
In 1970, Leroy was arrested for "unlawfully showing obscene films."
IN 1974, the club owner SUED LINDA LOVELACE. Sheesh, hadn't she had enough trouble? Ironically, several years later Leroy himself was fined for screening an edited version of Linda's film without informing patrons the good parts had been spliced out.
In 1984, Leroy sued a television station for reporting he was "A Meyer Lansky Man" which would be hard to prove. I'm not sure how that turned out.
Obviously, Leroy is a litigious kind of guy, so I better be careful. I'd hate to slander him. At one time, Leroy owned 18 movie theaters. The Miami News referred to him once as a "porno king" so I guess I can too. He was also called him a "burlesque impresario" way back in 1967. Hmm…here is a source which calls him a "flesh purveyor." Well, you can't hate a guy who once hired actor Mickey Rourke as a projectionist. Plus, who can hate a guy who went to court to allow him to screen a film titled "Three Ripening Cherries?"
Leroy was in it from the start. He would purchase legit theaters going out of business and reopen them as adult shows. Soon he was making his own topless films. Creepy "reporter" Earl Wilson once "reported" Leroy offered Jayne Mayne Mansfield some bucks to strip, but she turned him down.
Seeking favor from Miami Beach prudes, in 1984 Leroy let a goofy evangelist (and former dog food promoter) use one of his theaters for revivals.
Leroy the burlesque impresario was arrested in 1988 for "promoting lewd and lascivious performances" but that's nothing. It was reported once that his clubs had been raided eighteen times.
At one time, a Florida disc Jockey was arrested at the Gayety club for, well…sitting in the dark and "performing alone" but I won't name him, as bad publicity is good publicity, and apparently lots of people hated him anyway. It was a Pee Wee Herman kind of thing, and the announcer was one of those hypocritical kind of radio guys, or so they say. The creep might be litigious too, so consider this a blind news item. What? He died? Oh, good. It was Neil Rogers and he was tugging the rope.
IN 1990, Gayety Owner Leroy Griffith decided he would turn the old Gayety dump into an "upscale strip club" which means dumpy with gloss and a higher cover charge. He and his partners intended to call it "Solid Gold" but that didn't last long. At one point, the name is reported to be "Pure Platinum" but it became "Deja Vu" and then "SoBe Showgirls. At least I think so, I loose track. One of Leroy's clubs was named "Madonna" but she sued him. She lost the case as there have been other Madonnas, I guess.
Leroy was a clever man. Miami Beach outlawed alcohol being served where there was nude dancing, so he installed a glass barrier separating the bar from the stage!
A giant profile of Leroy Griffith, "upscale" club operator is HERE and more dish is HERE
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True Burlesque Silver Slipper Style Howard Hughes Toe Camera and the Giant Surveillance Shoe Sign True Burlesque
A beauty in a fake cocktail glass and her buffoons provide about all the glamor the sleazy SIlver Slipper Casino can muster up…except possibly the glamor of a free buffet, free souvenirs and free NYLONS (?) I guess those would be for the ladies.
The Silver Slipper was a fake frontier town designed to steal your money in the casino. I didn't even bother to see if it had mob connections. Legit casinos are criminal enough.
This story really isn't about the outstanding Silver Slipper burlesque shown here…it is about nutty billionaire Howard Hughes. Hughes lived near the Vegas casino, and every time the huge rotating silver slipper sign aimed it's toe at Howard's window, he believed there was a camera hidden in the shoe spying 0n him. So he BOUGHT THE CASINO and had the sign torn down.
Later revelations about Hughes and J. Edgar Hoover's files today leads me to believe he might just not be as crazy as we thought. Hoover's boys had over 2,000 pages of documents on Howard Hughes, and had him under surveillance for decades, mostly, apparently, as Hoover was interested in his sex life.
Maybe there was a camera in that shoe after all.
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The very first issue of Calvalcade of Burlesque had Abbott and Costello on the cover. Which is appropriate, as they were burlesque buffoons originally...but also as they were both ultimate pornography collectors! "I'm a BAD BOY"
We often forget half of the fun of burlesque was the straight guy and the funny guy…but bring on the girls. You fellows can go home now and watch your movies.
Cavalcade was the unofficial "house organ" of burlesque, and each issue is a gem. Just like the dames who danced.
F.B.I document on Bud Abbott, buffoon and porn collector! Cavalcade of Burlesque issues.
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PRAISE Anita Ventura, the streaked-hair model with the most beautiful breasts in history. Questionable? Nope. Anita Ventura. I need one too. We all need a Ventura, and now more than ever.
The only woman with the most beautiful breasts in history who was arrested in a topless batgirl costume. TWICE! Anita was courageous, unflinching, liberated and shameless in her curves. Anita was a pin up with the power to reach right out of the folded paper, grab you by the tie, pull you close and whisper "see anything you like, chump?" before dropping you into a pile of your own perspiration.
Anita's figure made Bettie Page look like a victim. Anita made Tura Santana look like she needed a good meal…and Dita Von Teese? Please.
Anita looked incredible in clam-diggers, but in a corset? Life was worth living until your time was up and you brought the memory to St. Peter for a free pass.
One of Leonard Burtman's favorite models. as she would delight in wearing, or NOT wearing…anything. Fortunately, God perfected color film during Anita's career. If your shaking hands could thread the sprockets, you would stay in the darkroom all day. When emerging, your fingers wrinkled by a chemical bath and nasal passages burned by acid fumes, you would believe alchemy came with a 24 karat swatch of hair.
God made women, but he kept practicing. Anita Ventura resulted. Five-foot 8 inches of power, and when she became engaged to "Tun Tun" the great Mexican dancer (who was only Three-foot 9 inches tall) no one even noticed him. All eyes on Anita, a full two feet taller than Tun Tun and twice as fun.
Anita would bathe in a bikini in the pool on Park Avenue just because she could. Once at a POLICEMAN'S BALL a burglar snuck in the dressing room and stole Anita's lace panties.
Anita performed a belly dance under the slogan "SEX SATIONAL DANCE OF THE DRUMS" but no one heard them. The percussion was on Anita. Star of the films Teenie Tulip and Orgy at Lil's Place.
To Be CONTINUED...
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Max Michaels, generous manager of the Columbia Theatre welcomes you to a full year worth of stale jokes and hot dames for you and your guest. Dial HUB 8846 if you have questions!
1937 Burlesque ticket collection Victor Minx
Negro Nightclub The Savannah, Joe Schiavone, Vito Genovese, China Doll and her Balloons and Zabethe Wilde Keeps it all Hid True Burlesque
Italian-American Joe Schiavone had Jungle Fever. He also had friends in the business. I mean in DA business. You know. The guys who made money on anything you weren't supposed to do or have. Mobsters.
Joe owned the Savannah Club in Greenwich Village. Well…it isn't that simple. Joe Valachi, big-time Cosa Nostra snitch testified before the Senate Investigating Subcommittee that Mafia chief Vito Genovese really owned the club. Valachi spilt plenty of stories, and it pissed off Vito, who put a $100,000 bounty out for anyone who would take Joe Valachi for a long ride. It never happened…Valachi outlived him, but he did it in prison serving his own term.
The Savannah was a "Negro club" located in 3rd street, and Tony "Bender" Stroller, a major player in the Vito Genovese family was the "on-site" connection. Tony managed various money-making activities for the Genovese family in the Village. Genovese owned, or mostly owned a good number of the bars in the village (in particular the Gay bars where men could go to be men with men. Not too many folks know the Stonewall raid was as much to bust up the mob as it was to bust up some gay men…but that's for another post. In fact, Genovese began investing in Gay bars in the 1930s.) Anyway, Tony Bender, Joe Schiavone's "good friend" was murdered. That's how things go. Some of the he messy details are here on the Friends of Ours website.
The Savannah, or rather Joe Shiavone, hired "exotics" which was the marque name for African-American performers. I am not going to say the dancers had to perform for Joe before getting booked, but that's an old story. The stage was tiny, but Joe loaded it up. At one time, he had 25 people on it performing the "Tahitian Pagan Love Dance" with some of Joe's hires. It was raunchy. Billboard magazine wondered "if the law would go for it" but of course they would. Money switched hands as fast as Schiavone switched acts.
The Savannah was a wild club. One night in 1953 two separate bridegroom parties went at each other and busted up the place. "A Magnificent Brawl" was how it was reported in the papers. Three New York city cops who happened to be making their "cabaret inspecting tour" settled things down. I also don't want to say the three cops were on their tour with their palms up, but you know.
Three shows a night, the last one started at 2:45 in the morning.
Who performed at the Savannah Club? Well, Princess R'Wanda. Venus La Doll "The Bronze Goddess of Love" and Betty Brisbane, La Bommie, Mary Alexander. Sandra, Stephanie and the "Sepia Show Girls"
Most famously, I suppose, one China Doll, a hot effin' shaker whose real name was Elizabeth Dickerson, who covered her tan skin with balloons and let patrons pop them. When the last bubble burst, she dashed off the stage completely nude. When she got a bit older she changed her name to Zabethe Wilde and sang for a living. Do you want to hear the former stripper sing?
One of Zabethe's songs was "I Keep My Baby Hid" but what she really hid was her nude burlesque background. As the photo here by Monita Sleet Jr. for Jet Magazine reveals, China Doll got pretty close to some pretty big microphones, but I am not going to say any of them were Joe's.
The joint burned down in 1963, and seems to have problems still. Google Street View shows it empty.
PHOTOGRAPHS JET MAGAZINE, CALVACADE OF BURLESQUE, GOOGLE STREET VIEW.
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