Mothers of Invention

by Charles Rammelkamp

Who invented the striptease? The performance
goes back to ancient Babylonia,
but the term was first used in 1932.

Hinda Wassau, the 1920’s burlesque star,
claimed to have invented the striptease
when, as a chorus girl, her dress snapped
and the audience went wild.

Billy Rose recruited Hinda in the 1930’s.
“The best cooch dancer since Gilda Gray.”

Or was it Carrie Finnell? She’d remove
one item of dress a week!
Carrie still holds the record,
a strip that lasted fifty-four weeks!

But her prowess as a tassel twirler
made her reputation – swinging her breasts
one way and another, solo, duet,
in the same or opposite directions,
wearing bells and electric lights!

Was it Mae Dix at Minsky’s Burlesque?
The night the police raided Minsky’s in 1925
she’d begun removing her costume
before she reached the stage wings.
The crowd went wild. Billy Minsky
ordered the “accident” repeated every night.

Mencken coined the term ecdysiast
from a word meaning “to molt.”
Gypsy Rose Lee approved of the term.