Thursday, February 23, 2012

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee-Ken Abbott

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

Ken Abbott

Random House, Mar 13 2012, $17.00

ISBN: 9780812978513

Mama Rose took her two daughters on the Vaudeville circuit. However, her focus was on the younger cuter breadwinner, June. Her older offspring Louise lacked talent and was built boyish. While June struggled with the demands, Louise grew emotionally and intellectually, while also developing a wicked sense of humor. When June finally mentally collapsed, Mama Rose turned to her older child, who proved harder to control. Louise used her intelligence and incredible instincts to become legendary Gypsy Rose Lee, the star performer at the Minsky Brothers’ New York burlesque house and eventually the centerfold of burlesque. She wrote novels and a haunting memoir (became Broadway’s Gypsy) and started in films.

This is an excellent fresh biography with insight from nonagenarian June who only recently died. Besides a deep look at Rose, readers also obtain a powerful glimpse of the world she lived from 1911 until her death in 1970. Ironically, the ultimate horrible stage Mama Rose is more fascinating than her famous daughter as she relished dominating her children with a sinister frightening gleefulness; besides being a thief con artist, and maybe worse. This is a wonderful look at a “Nation Laid Bare” by a legendary American Rose.

Harriet Klausner

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