Famous stripper 83 dies: Blaze Starr Dies

Published: June 16, 2015

Famous stripper 83 dies: Blaze Starr Dies, Blaze Starr, the voluptuous stripper who became one of the most famous burlesque performers in America, and whose affair with a Louisiana governor was the basis of a 1989 movie, died on Monday in Wilsondale, W.Va., the coal country town in which she was born. She was 83.

A nephew, Earsten Spaulding, said Ms. Starr was stricken at home in Wilsondale and pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. She had undergone heart bypass surgeries in recent years, he said.

With luxurious, fiery red hair, an ample bosom and a penchant for playful humor, Ms. Starr, often billed as the Queen of Burlesque, stoked the imaginations of legions of admirers from the runways of clubs across the country for more than 30 years, seducing many men along the way.

Her most famous affair, with Gov. Earl K. Long of Louisiana, who was married, caused a scandal that was the basis of the Ron Shelton’s film “Blaze,” starring Lolita Davidovich in the title role alongside Paul Newman as the governor. The film drew on her memoir, “Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry,” published in 1974.

“Society thought that to be a stripper was to be a prostitute,” Ms. Starr told The New York Times in 1989, at the time of the movie’s release. “But I always felt that I was an artist, entertaining. I was at ease being a stripper. I kept my head held high, and if there is such a thing as getting nude with class, then I did it.”

She was born Fannie Belle Fleming in Wilsondale on April 10, 1932. As a child, the eighth of 11 in her family, she washed laundry for $1 a day. As teen-ager, rejecting a life in the coal fields, she got on a bus to Washington in 1947 to pursue a career as country singer. There, while working at a Mayflower Doughnut Shop, she met a promoter, who persuaded her to become a stripper instead.

At 15, Ms. Starr began performing at a club near the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va. In 1950, after moving to Baltimore, she stepped onto the runway of the 2 O’Clock Club on the Block, the city’s famous strip of adult entertainment shops and venues.

She gained national recognition when she was featured in Esquire magazine in 1954 and continued performing for more than 30 years, sometimes in the Times Square district when it was notorious for its sex shows. She hung up her G-string and pasties in the 1980s to become a gemologist. She made jewelry, which she sold at a mall in suburban Baltimore.

Reflecting on her career as a stripper, she told a reporter for The Baltimore Sun in 2010: “Honey, I loved it. But everything has its season.”

On stage, she often delighted crowds by tucking a rose between her bosom and blowing the petals across her chest. Sometimes she stretched out on a couch and wiggled seductively while removing her garments. When she got to the last pieces, smoke would emerge from between her legs, drawing laughs.

Ms. Starr met Governor Long while performing at the Sho-Bar in New Orleans in 1959. She recalled their affair in her memoir and also claimed to have had an affair with President John F. Kennedy after he attended one of her shows.

In an interview with People Magazine in 1989, she said she had stopped performing burlesque because it had become too raunchy.

Ms. Starr was married to Carroll Glorioso, the owner of the 2 O’Clock Club, for 12 years before they divorced.

Her survivors include five sisters: Betty June Shrader, Debbie Fleming, Berta Gail Browning, Mary Jane Davis and Judy Maynard; one brother, John Fleming; and a host of nieces and nephews.

In a short video profile filmed before the movie was released, Ms. Starr was asked whether she would change anything about her life if she could.

“Not a thing,” she responded. “I would just do a lot more of it and try a lot harder, and seduce a lot more men than I did.”

Famous stripper 83 dies: Blaze Starr Dies


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