Eight coolest burlesque artists of all time

Categories: Lists

Thumbnail image for Dirty curls cute c Craig VanDerSchaegen.jpg
(Photo by Craig VanDerSchaegen)

Tonight marks the debut of Bryant Lake Bowl's naughtiest (we hope) cabaret, the Grand Ole Orgy, organized and hosted by the Dirty Curls, the nation's leading naughtybilly band. This is for two reasons: a) they're a pretty sweet naughtybilly band and b) they are, as far as we know, the only naughtybilly band in the country.

Alongside musical performances will be comedians telling dirty jokes and burlesque dancers to tickle your other funny bone. To help celebrate the newborn revue in all its glory, here's our list of the coolest (and hottest) burlesque performers ever.

Gypsy Rose Lee

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Fred Palumbo

There aren't a lot of people of Gypsy Rose Lee's caliber in this cold cold world. Her act was known for its intellectual banter as well as for its prurient surprises. So entranced was skeptic and intellectual H.L. Mencken that he was driven to invent a new word to describe her: ecdysiast (meaning, more or less, "high-class stripper"). Moreover, she was an author, the host of a morning talk show, and the subject of her very own musical, Gypsy.

Dita Von Teese

via Dita Von Teese

For some people, Dita Von Teese comes to mind first and foremost as the ex-wife of notable rocker and professional weirdo, Marilyn Manson. But the mental images that association implies aside, Von Teese isn't just one of the most influential members of the burlesque revival movement. She's an actress, a guest on many TV shows, a model, and does all her own styling, from makeup to wardrobe to hair. Oh, did we mention she once attended a party wearing nothing but $5 million in diamonds? She's got our vote for bad-ass of the burlesque circuit.

Josephine Baker


Josephine Baker was a pretty face on the burlesque scene, an African-American flapper who defected to France around the time of WWII. But she was far more: she was a civil rights supporter who refused to perform for single-race audiences, and she became so beloved amongst the French that the Nazis were loathe to harm her for fear of the consequences. Oh, and instead of sitting back on her pretty heels, she used that popularity to spy for the French against the Nazis, schmoozing with Italian, German, and Japanese VIPs and reporting back all the juicy details of their gossip.

Lola the Vamp

View All Photos  Lola Corset, Victorian Tricorn hat by Topsy Turvy design. Buy the corset backstage at www.lolathevamp.jpg
via Lola the Vamp

Some burlesque performers are content to practice their art as a hobby, or a mere career path. Shake your groove thang, cover your naughty bits with some feathers, collect a check. But few people have the giant brass lady-balls to turn their love of burlesque into an academic pursuit. But that's just what Lola the Vamp has done, earning her Ph.D. in burlesque. That means in all her correspondence, she gets to sign of "Lola the Vamp, Doctor of Burlesque." And that, friends, is totally friggin' cool.

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