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« Road Warriors | Main | Oh no you di'nt! »

Just keep throwing pennies, Debbie!

When I was young [8-years-old maybe], living in Winchester, Indiana, I discovered Gypsy Rose Lee. Because of the reference to her in my bio, and the post titled Girls Gone Wild, I get hits on this blog from Google Search, where the subject is "girls gone wild", "gypsy girls gone wild", "wild gypsy girls", etc. Understandably, the people who stumble on this site are disappointed. Sorry boys.

The Discovery
I was watching TV with my friend Debbie M. in the early 1970s. We found an old movie that seemed to be about a girl who sang, danced, removed a few articles of clothing [looked like she was trying to get more comfortable—made sense], and people threw money at her. The movie was Gypsy and we didn't catch the entire show, but enough to be able to sing "Let Me Entertain You", and know that stripping was in our future. The word "strip" was benign to us.

The Record
Not too long after discovering our future job as burlesque dancers, something we thought was respectable and easy, Debbie and I were riding our banana seat bicycles around the Gaslight Addition where we lived. We found a garage sale. Several 45 rpm records were on a long table. One of those 45s had "The Stripper" on one side—an incredible jazz instrumental that you would recognize immediately if you heard—and the other side had "Let Me Entertain You". We. Were.Thrilled.

The Bit
We began our practice sessions at Debbie's house. I had a large glass jug filled with pennies. I gathered as many articles of clothing as I could fit in a grocery sack, wearing several layers on my body, and drug my penny jug, record player and the new 45 to Debbie's house. We set up our stage in her garage and got dressed. First a few bathing suits, then shorts, shirts, pants, more shirts, sweaters, winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves AND mittens. We figured the longer it took us to strip, the more money we'd make. Deductive reasoning: remove clothing while singing and dancing = money thrown at you.  Worked for Gypsy Rose Lee. Sometimes it took four playings of one song to get down to the final bathing suit, which was always left on. "Just play it again, Debbie! Keep throwing pennies!", I shouted. We were gonna be rich some day.

We took turns being the stripper, then the record manager/penny thrower. Eventually word spread in the neighborhood that Debbie and I were stripping [we still weren't sure what the big deal was] and some of the little boys gathered in the driveway. The garage door was shut but there were windows along the top. The boys jumped and lifted each other to see. Debbie's mother taped newspaper over the windows so we could practice without disruption.

The Day the Music Died
I'm not sure when our stripping fizzled. Some days it was too hot to practice—wearing ALL those clothes while singing and dancing, then trying to remove them gracefully. It was tougher than we thought. I was bossy. "Debbie, you're doing it wrong. Go slower. You're just takin' things off and throwin' 'em down. That's not how Gypsy Rose Lee does it! No more pennies for you until you do it right!" Debbie quit.

Neither Debbie's mother, nor mine clued us in on the fact that we were doing something provocative. They continued to help us find private places to practice—always ready to tape the newspaper over windows when an audience surfaced.

I haven't spoken to Debbie M. in at least 30 years. I have never stripped...for money. As I got older, I researched Gypsy Rose Lee. Neat gal.

Apologies again to the boys who've stumbled onto THIS post via a Google Search. My hunch is you haven't made it to the end of my story...

Toss a penny if you're entertained...

Reader Comments (8)

You absolutely made my day with that post. It took me back to my youth in a fraction of a second. And the part that really made me smile? Hats off to moms who help their daughters find private places to find themselves.

Great post...I am going to reread it to get my fix.
August 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCorbie
Oh sweet goodness, that was hilarious.

I did something similar with my best childhood friend, Dawn. We were a burlesque team called the "Badump Sisters."

Never made it to the bigtime, but we had a lot of fun with that one.
August 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSan Diego Momma
I think we're about the same age. Banana seats, 45s...brings back memories.
August 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAll Adither
What a great story!

Found your site from dooce - just wanted to say hi.
August 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterALF
You both had smart mothers!

And banana seat bikes, I miss mine -- it was purple.

Recent blog post: Like a bord on a wire, 4
From Debbi M. ------- lolI remember we had the record, but I didn't remember where we got it. And now that we've reconnected, I'm just so flattered that you even remember this event!! The bad part is that you moved away, and I was still stuck all through junior high and high school FLAT OUT denying that all of this ever happened!! lol I'm now old enough, and confident enough, to whole-heartedly admit that we had awesome mothers!!! I confessed to my husband early on that at one point in my life I wanted to be a stripper. Looking back, it might have been one of the motivations for his proposal! lol You need to be a writer, Chris, because I never could have conveyed this adventure as eloquently as you have. Thank you!
September 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDebbi Austin

This was written before I knew you. What other gems are hiding here in your archives?

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterConnie @ Young and Relentless
I agree with Debbie - cool story and what great parents you both had!
September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLady Fi

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