Obsession with Gypsy Rose Lee

Ever since I was six years old, I’ve been fascinated with the burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee, and I’ve always believed that getting in trouble on her behalf was the reason that her name became such a powerful force in my life. Little did I know that a more intimate reason bound us together for all time.

It started with me and my cousin Abby, two little girls looking for something to watch on TV late at night. Those were the days of little black and white TVs that only picked up three channels, and my cousin had a TV in her bedroom. I was staying overnight.

The year was 1963, and we were little kids flipping the three channels until a scene from the 1962 movie Gypsy caught our attention. We’d never seen anything like it, and we were riveted.

Gypsy-the-movie was based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee as chronicled in her memoirs. Natalie Wood played Gypsy Rose Lee, Rosalind Russell play her mother Rose Hovick, and Karl Malden played their agent Herbie Sommers. Other notable names included Jack Benny and Harvey Korman.

It didn’t take long for Abby’s father to hear us giggling and he tiptoed up the stairs, probably just to startle us before saying: Go To Sleep!

Imagine his surprise to catch us watching TV — Illicit TV — just as one of her notable scenes came on with peeling off the clothes. He was Not a Happy Man. Nosirree!

Abby’s father yelled and blustered and threatened to take the TV away forever. Abby’s mother came running at the hullaballoo and we were in Big Trouble. Back then, TV wasn’t plastered with scantily-clad women, or even hints of naked body parts, at least not that we ever saw. Today the movie would be G-rated, but back then it was a Big Stink that we saw such a thing. Parents were very protective of what their children watched and experienced.

They made such a fuss over us watching Gypsy Rose Lee that her name became forever etched into my psyche. I later named a dog in her honor: Gypsy Rose. And when I started a small shareware company, Gypsy became part of the name.

Her name stuck with me, and for the next 50+ years I believed that the fascination stemmed from that innocent moment of two little girls getting caught watching a forbidden movie.

Little did I know that my history with Gypsy Rose Lee went back even farther, to when I was just two years old in 1959. This I just found out recently from my bio-dad, who was absent from my life from the time I was two until I was in my 40s. So the Gypsy Rose Lee incident would have been one of the last times I saw him as a child. That, too, might have elevated the importance of the fateful night.

She was appearing at a nightclub in Rochester, New York, along with an entertainer named Little Egypt. My aunt (his sister) worked there as a cocktail waitress, and one night my father picked up his sister from work. I was in the car.

The nightclub had a big window where you could see inside, at least partway, and I saw a woman in a cage — a BIG woman of about 300 pounds.

I said, “Why is that woman in a bird cage?”

Apparently she was part of some other act, unrelated to Gypsy Rose Lee and Little Egypt. Pretty soon Gypsy came out with my aunt and they walked up to the car. Gypsy Rose Lee spoke to me and my father for a few minutes, my aunt got in the car, and then we left.

I have no memory of meeting Gypsy Rose Lee in person, as most of my memories of those years are missing with a notable few such as those shared in the book Alien Nightmares. But those two events embedded her name deep into my psyche.

My bio-dad told me several stories about her, including one where she and Little Egypt were working at a club that didn’t have a changing room. Little Egypt and Gypsy Rose Lee had to change in the kitchen. The cooks would get to hootin’ and hollerin’ as the women changed clothes, loud enough for the people waiting in the showroom to hear. It brought the waiting audience to a boil, as he put it.

Gypsy Rose Lee would have been 45 years old when I met her, as she was born in 1914 as Rose Louise Hovick. Her mother got married right out of convent school and when they divorced, Rose and her sister June supported the family by appearing in Vaudeville. But when her sister left the act, Rose couldn’t sustain the income so she turned to burlesque, adopting the name Gypsy Rose Lee, and became one of the most famous entertainers of the time.

I found several newspaper clippings about Gypsy Rose Lee around New York State, mostly ads for places she was scheduled to appear. In April 1957 she appeared in a Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey circus show in New York City. Whether she performed or just made an appearance, the article didn’t say, except that several celebrities were present on opening night.

In May and June 1957, “Gypsy Rose Lee and her Royal Cords” appeared at the Triton in Rochester, New York.

Other 1957 articles (not related to Gypsy Rose Lee) included:

  • Vice President Nixon talking about the Civil Rights Bill
  • Computers coming onto the scene called “big mechanical brains”, with a price tag of $40,000
  • England was hit with their worst polio epidemic ever
  • Speeding tickets and purse thieves were reported in the newspaper
  • Gypsy Rose Lee’s book “Gypsy” was making the rounds

From 1958 newspaper articles:

  • Marilyn Monroe was trying to have a baby
  • Gypsy Rose Lee appeared in the movie, “Screaming Mimi”
  • Gypsy Rose Lee at the Share party in Buffalo to sing with Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, and Dean Martin
  • Christopher Plummer (best known for his role in the Sound of Music) and Gypsy Rose Lee in the movie “Wind Across the Everglades”
  • An atomic reactor to be installed at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

They already had a particle accelerator which was built in 1954, which was also the year of a worldwide UFO wave. That and the atomic reactor might have been what triggered the extraterrestrials to take an interest in Ithaca, New York, which later had its own wave of UFO sightings and encounters. UFOs were already there, however, plunging into Seneca Lake as early as 1952.

I was just a blip away from Ithaca, especially when we were on vacation at the Finger Lakes which we did every year, and I do have memories of alien grey encounters during one of those vacations. They caught me up long before that vacation, however, as my encounters with them started in toddlerhood, if not earlier. I’ve shared some of my experiences in the book, “Alien Nightmares: Screen Memories of UFO Alien Abductions.” My encounters run more to the bizarre, not the traditional poking and prodding on a table, but puzzles and tasks so out of this world as to defy explanation.

  • Alien Nightmares: Screen Memories of UFO Alien Abductions

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