What, you ask?
Presenting America’s most famous strip tease artist as the subject of a classic film quiz?
Ok, we concede you have a point. But please don’t overlook that Gypsy Rose Lee parleyed a career as an onstage “ecdysiast” into more than 20 movies and tv credits (from 1937 to 1969) including top-of-the-bill appearances in various features from comedies to USO flagwavers to at least one film noir.
As well, she carved out an impressive record on tv from the Batman series to appearances with comedienne Phyllis Diller to her own full blown talker, The Gypsy Rose Lee Show.
Of course, there is Gypsy in its various stage and movie incarnations notably including Warner’s 1962 version costarring Natalie Wood, Rosalind Russell and Karl Malden. Then there Lee’s literary aspirations and, yes, a bit of personal scandal. For all her show biz exposure, she was curiously elusive, not an easy personality to nail down.
So, let’s see how much you really do know about Gypsy Rose Lee. 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) Question: In the early 1940’s Lee was regarded as the most popular entertainer in the world, more popular than then reigning First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. a) True or b) False.
2) Question: Lee was very popular with World War II troops. What did they do to reward her? a) Granted her a lifetime officer’s commission; b) Gave her civilian shows free advertising in Stars and Stripes; c) Arranged for a military pension in her financially pressed later years; or d) named a fighter plane after her.
3) Question: In a note of good wishes, a political notable once telegraphed Lee: “May Your Bare Ass Always Be Shining.” Which one? a) Wilbur Mills; b) Herbert Hoover; c) Eleanor Roosevelt; or d) Thomas Dewey.
4) Question: Which of the following is Gypsy Rose Lee’s almost equally famous sister? a) Debbie Reynolds; b) Blaze Storm; c) Janet Gaynor; or d) June Havoc.
5) Question: Gypsy Rose Lee was the very first strip tease artist to regularly appear completely nude onstage. a) True or b) False?
6) Question: “Mama Rose” in reality was somewhat different from Rosalind Russell’s interpretation of her in the movie “Gypsy.” What exactly was Lee’s mother like in real life? She was: a) a benign but ditzy stage mom; b) a tough disciplinarian who pushed her daughters to success; c) was mentally ill; or d) a control freak.
7) Question: Can you identify the best known of Lee’s Hollywood costars? a) Randolph Scott; b) Paulette Goddard; c) Rosalind Russell; or d) Anita Ekberg.
8) Question: Both the hit Broadway musical version of Gypsy: A Musical Fable as well as the movie Gypsy almost did not happen. Why? a) Various censor groups banded together to oppose both the production and the movie; b) There was intense infighting between the Fable creators, Julie Styne, Steven Sondheim and Arthur Laurents; c) There were copyright issues stemming from the source material, Lee’s 1957 memoir Gypsy; or d) Lee’s sister objected to her portrayal in Lee’s memoir, and moved to scuttle the stage and movie projects.
9) Question: Gypsy Rose Lee was, at heart, a prude who mistrusted men. a) True or b) False.
10) Question: Lee gave birth to a son whose father (never married to her) was a famous Hollywood producer told by Gypsy Rose never to disclose his identity to the boy. Who was this excluded producer? a) Mike Todd; b) Mervyn LeRoy; c) Otto Preminger; or d) Howard Hughes.