Rose La Rose the Undisputed Disputed Queen of Burlesque
Rose La Rose isn't sitting on a garbage can here, it is the pedestal Bruno of Hollywood placed her on especially for the cover of my 50 cent (marked down to 35 cents with a grease pen) copy of Cavalcade in 1952. Bruno of Hollywood was operating out of a studio in the Carnegie on West 57th Street, Manhattan, not Hollywood, but by now we should know burlesque had as much smoke and mirrors as magic. Rose was the "undisputed" queen of burlesque, which means it WAS disputed, or she wouldn't have to print it in her printed ballyhoo. The stag she made was called "Tops in any League" for some reason.
Offspring of the ultimate "show biz mother" stripper Rose La Rose traveled the circuit with her mother for 18 years. I'd say her mom was either devoted or demented…but then it was a different time. Rose was born in 1919, so she came of the first baby boom… the one after the "war to end all wars" which didn't. Rose La Rose was really Rosina De Pella, a nice italian girl, and Mother De Pella was Jennie. A good mom, that Jennie. She let little Rosina drop out of school at 15 to work at Minsky's burlesque as a cashier. Of course she was soon put on the boards. One of the Minkskys ( there were a few) is credited with "discovering" Rose, but that means he encouraged her to undress in public.
Rose was in an act which included "Stinky" Fields. No comment there.
In "Tops in any League" Rose dispels any notion the old timers never went topless. You have to endure some bad antique jazz…turn the sound down, it has nothing to do with her moves anyway. In fact, Rose claimed to be the first burlesque dancer to use the classics on stage. Rigoletto, Clair de Lune and the William Tell overture (!) Let those canons GO Rose!
Rose was arrested for the peel more than once, but her gig was lucrative. At one time she was bringing home $2,500 a week, although you must realize that was showbiz hype, and some went to her two agents Lou Miller and Milt Shuster…and then there was Mom. Initially, Rose hated the name Rose La Rose, so she worked under the name Connie Ray (or Connie Rae) until big bag of wind Walter Winchell ran a story revealing her real fake name. It brought crowds, so Connie gave in and had Rose become her legal name. Not long after, Damon Runyon "dreamed we nominated Miss La Rose for President." Well…this year the Republicans did worse.
She was no crooner…one review in 1950 said her "sultry contralto" was her least attractive feature. That means her voice likely ranged from the G below middle C (G3) to the G two octaves above middle C (G5). Which translates to "shut up and dance" unfortunately.
Double Rose was married double times. One of her husbands, a toy manufacturer, would play harmonica at home and insist she strip to it. Rose told the judge "Finally I got tired of doing this every night. When I didn't want to do it, he would keep me up until all hours by playing weird tunes on the harmonica." Divorce GRANTED! 1942
During the early 1940s Rose toured in a show called T.N.T of Teasers. Later, in the 1950s she performed a "Polynesian love dance" on stage.
Rose ended up in Toledo, the hotbed of Ohio grime, and opened her own place, The Old Town Theater. She later added The Esquire Theater to her holdings, prompting the officials of Toledo to fear a burlesque blitz…so they shut her down. She had to complain to the feds who let her reopen. She is also reported as the owner of the "urban revival-doomed" Town Hall Theater. Rose had a plan to dance a few gigs, but settle down at her base in Toledo. Mom died around the time she purchased a building. Rose became a good citizen, speaking at local events, but sadly passed away young. Age 52.
Her memory is in good hands HERE.
Browse and order books and ebooks by Jim Linderman HERE