Did we convince you that Gypsy Rose Lee fully warranted a spotlight via our Monday Morning Quiz?
We hope so. An interesting woman and show biz phenomenon, if not a Hollywood great, she nicely exposed herself, so to speak, in all media — stage, screen, radio and tv — and became a surprisingly prominent national figure.
Our answers below to the 10 question’s posed in Monday’s blog (just scroll down a bit for the queries) should indicate just how big Gypsy Rose Lee once was. We are indebted here to Erik Lee Preminger’s 1984 book, Gypsy & Me, as well as author Karen Abbott’s 2010 biography, American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare — The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee.
1) Answer: a) True. When Lee performed at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, a poll of national figures was taken, and she bested Eleanor Roosevelt in popularity. Life Magazine declared her “the only person in the world with a public body and private mind both equally exciting.”
2) Answer: d) A fighter plane, appropriately stripped down, was named after Lee. As Author Abbott writes, “During World War II, no fewer than 10 regiments selected her as their sweetheart.”
3) Answer: c) Eleanor Roosevelt.
4) Answer: d) June Havoc.
5) Answer: b) False. Lee never took off all her clothes. She was more tease than stripper. It took her 15 minutes to remove one long glove. She did not want anyone to see her from the back side, notes Abbott. The combination of faux stripping and witty monologue made her act distinctive. Audiences loved her.
6) Answer: c) “Mama Rose” was mentally ill, believed Havoc (who died in 2010 at age 97). The two girls were denied schooling, doctors and dentists and were taught to distrust men. “Their mother pitted them against one another and taught them to trust no one but her,” writes Abbott.
7) Answer: Our picks are a) and b). Lee was toplined with Randolph Scott in RKO’s 1944 musical western, Belle of the Yukon, and costarred with Paulette Godard in 1952’s Babes in Bagdad. Her lone film noir was Columbia’s 1958 thriller, Screaming Mimi, costarring Anita Ekberg.
8) Answer: d) Havoc objected to her portrayal in Lee’s memoir, Gypsy. She dropped her opposition for her sister’s sake, and the stage musical and film were allowed to move forward. Lee and Havoc were estranged for many years, but reconciled shortly before Lee’s death of lung cancer at age 59 in 1970.
9) Answer: a) True. Although considered the most famous stripper since Salome, Lee was a prude, concludes author Abbott. “It was prudery, but it was also private — she was a very private person.”
10) Answer: c) Otto Preminger. As Lee’s son wrote in his moving book (cited at the beginning of our blog), Erik first met the producer in Paris while in military service. His surname then was that of Lee’s second husband (of three), Alexander Kirkland. On March 10, 1971, Erik Lee Kirkland was adopted by Preminger and became Erik Lee Preminger.