Monday, August 5, 2013

Behind the Burly Q by Leslie Zemeckis

My first exposure to Burlesque what the t.v. movie about Gypsy Rose Lee with Bette Midler playing her mother. I didn't have any particular interest in Burlesque at the time, I was just a huge fan of Bette and musicals. So I tuned in. After moving to Minnesota, I decided to expand my experiences and went to my first Burlesque show. It was great fun, astonishing, and surprisingly held in a bowling alley. I hope to go to another Burlesque show soon.The combination of these experiences (and a strange obsession with classy clothes of old) led me to be very excited when I saw Behind the Burly Q among the giveaways on Goodreads. I put my name into the drawing. I promptly forgot about entering with my busy schedule and suddenly I get this book in the mail. Now, the only thing better than a free book, is a surprise free book. It made my day. Unfortunately, I couldn't read it immediately but I didn't wait long.

After the initial excitement of "Eeekkk! Free book!", I began flipping through the pages. My excitement only increased as I saw names like Alan Alda, Frank Sinatra, Abbott and Costello, and Jack Ruby. I had no idea that Alan Alda practically grew up back stage. The book covers about 30 years of entertainment history and all its ups and downs. Leslie Zemeckis takes a look at different aspects of a life in Burlesque in each chapter. She explores the good and the bad of a career in the industry and being on the road. More importantly, she looks at the women and men that were a part of Burlesque. The only name I knew going into the book was Gypsy Rose Lee, though some of the names tickled the back of my mind. They are names heard in the background of film or briefly mentioned in entertainment news. This book was more than a dry history about Burlesque, it brought the men and women alive, their triumphs and their trials.

The women and men in Burlesque were incredibly strong and independent. They defied convention, not usually out of rebellion but out of necessity. They faced persecution (mostly the dancers), law suits, and were looked down upon. Several of their personal stories brought me to tears. Their profession was often considered the lowest form of entertainment and they were thought to be of no talent, yet many of the Burlesque comedians are now household names and the women often stripped into their 70's.

If you are interested in entertainment history, non-traditional professions, or just interesting people give this a read. It has ignited my curiosity to know more about the individual ladies and the art form of Burlesque.

Happy reading!