Tag Archives: Burlesque

Lois DeFee Bouncer At The Dizzy Club, New York City 1936

Don’t Mess With The Lady

woman bouncer Lois DeFee 1936 photo AcmeLois DeFee started her working life at the age of 18 in an unusual occupation – as a bouncer. A couple of years later she would achieve fame of another sort.

“Little Miss Bouncer”

Gentlemen guests at the Dizzy Club, New York night spot; are polite, especially to Miss Lois DeFee, (shown above), with a waiter of average size. Miss DeFee who stands six feet two inches, without high heels, is the official bouncer at the night club, and has acted in that capacity for seven weeks to the satisfaction of the management. Women drunks give her the most trouble, says Miss DeFee. She has been married twice; one of her husbands was a jockey who was only five feet tall. Yes– she enjoys her work, and Broadway night life in general. Credit Line: (ACME 5/15/36)

Lois DeFee was soon hired away from The Dizzy Club on 52nd street to go work across the street at the more famous Leon & Eddie’s performing the same duties at their nightclub.

Lois was later discovered by Harold Minsky of Minsky’s burlesque and she became a top burlesque star for many years, billed as a “glamazon.” Because of her great height, columnist Walter Winchell billed her as”The Eiffel Eyeful.” Lois died in Florida in 2012 at the age of 93.

Classic Hollywood #32

Busby Berkeley and Joe E. Brown Check Out A Stripper – 1935

(l-r) Busby Berkeley Esther Burke Joe E Brown

(l-r) Busby Berkeley, Esther Burke, Joe E Brown

Stripper may not be the word for what Esther Burke did. But in the 1930’s it was close to it.

The women in the background are portraying burlesque performers and were part of the chorus of the 1935 Busby Berkeley comedy Bright Lights starring Joe E. Brown, Ann Dvorak, Patricia Ellis and William Demarest.

The caption to the publicity photo reads:

Esther Burke, burlesque queen is all ready to contribute her talents to the opening chapters of “Broadway Joe”, Joe E. Brown’s latest starring vehicle for Warner Bros., with Joe playing a comic with a burlesque troupe. (credit: International News Photo June 8, 1935)

Esther Burke was uncredited in the film, yet was featured singing a song, Powder My Back. Very little information could be found on her, except that she was indeed a burlesque performer during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Director Busby Berkeley created some of the great images of the silver screen with overhead shots of intricate dance numbers featuring chorus girls.

Joe E. Brown is immortal for saying one of the greatest closing lines in movie history in Billy Wilder’s, Some Like It Hot (1959).

Warning: spoiler to follow if you have never seen the movie –

Jack Lemmon, who plays Daphne, a man masquerading as a woman, informs Brown’s character millionaire Osgood Fielding III, several reasons why they cannot marry, Brown is unperturbed.

Exasperated, Lemmon finally confesses he is a man to which Brown responds “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

1935 – Heavy Women Smoking Cigarettes – Vaudeville Act Takes A Break

The “Tiny Rosebuds” Take A Break From Rehearsing

Heavy Girls Smoking May 11 1935

We’ll let the slug from this unusual news photograph describe the scene:

A Half-Ton of Terpsichore

An act which is liable to bring down the house, (with a crash), is the Tiny Rosebuds, at present rehearsing in New York for a Buffalo appearance. Membership in the troupe is restricted to young ladies weighing at least 200 pounds. Here is the troupe relaxing after a light (heavy) workout. Left to right, are: Nick Elliott, instructor: Hieni Joyce, wgt. 215: Bobbie Diamond, Captain, wgt. 210: Fannie De Belis, wgt. 201: Tiny Sinclair, wgt. 240: and Dorothy Baer, wgt. 230.

Credit Line (Acme) 5-11-1935

The headline uses the word Terpsichore, who in Greek mythology was the muse of dancing and choral singing.

So what sort of an act were the Tiny Rosebuds?

Miss Bobbie Diamond the leader of the Rosebuds, lamented in a May 1935 interview with Raphael Avellar of the New York World-Telegram, how hard it was to pick the right women for the group.

“My Tiny Rosebuds don’t have to be too good looking, just passable. But they have to have the weight and you’d be surprised at the number of girls of 170 or so who try and pass for 200. It’s hard, I tell you, to get a first-class girl, because lots of them who have the weight haven’t got it in the right places. I mean it isn’t on the legs and thighs, where it counts. As I say, as long as they are passable and know a little rhythm, they’ll make good Rosebuds, providing they’ve got the heft. Right now I’m kind of looking for one to sing, too.” Continue reading