The recent Paul O’Grady documentary, Perspectives: Gypsy Rose Lee, created a lot of conversation on Twitter and as a result we found ourselves asking burlesque dancer Daisy Cutter, who studied the lady, to give us her interpretation of what the legend was all about…
A Gypsy Rose Lee Burlesque Perspective
I’d always been interested in pin-ups, strippers and playboy models so naturally came across burlesque and Gypsy Rose Lee but I started studying her when I went back to uni to do a degree as an adult learner. All my previous education was vocational and I decided I wanted to be taken seriously (how wrong I was!). My whole life was burlesque, from the pictures I took, to the costumes I created. I’m a costumier – so naturally I based most of my course work around what I knew.
My final major became about Gypsy as her life mirrored mine, a performer who made her own costumes and costumes for others to subsidise her income: ensuring the images she had in her head came to fruition.
I really admired how she was her own best advertisement. I knew the grade I would get wouldn’t be a good one. Burlesque and the way the costumes are put together were not really understood by my university, but it didn’t matter – I was being true to myself.
Gypsy Rose Lee inspired me to carry on doing what I do and be unique: to be true to myself and that I could take my little boy to workshops with me.
(Anna Fur Laxis in an original Daisy Cutter)
Gypsy Rose Lee’s whole life was fantastical. I don’t think there was one ultimate moment. I think she was an extremely strong willed woman who fought hard to get her own way and to get what she wanted as a performer.
She was paid extremely high wages because she made a name for herself. Although her act hardly ever changed much once it was established, her costumes did. The most amazing and extreme costumes they were too.
She had a very hard life, downtrodden by lots of people in her youth as an ugly ducking – especially when compared to her beautiful and talented sister. She was pushed hard by her unrelenting mother but blossomed into a gorgeous woman who could create her own hype, in such a way that the press thought they had done it.
She also had to bring up a child, alone, as a single mother a lot of the time, which I’m sure must have been the hardest job in the world – especially then, when it was completely frowned upon.
If Gypsy Rose Lee was alive today, I’m sure she would still be as phantasmagorical as she was in her heyday! I know a lot of the legends are now out of retirement and I would hope she would be one of them, showing the newbies how it’s really done.
Watch Paul O’Grady on Gypsy Rose Lee in Perspectives.