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Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee Hardcover – 4 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; 1 edition (4 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195368037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195368031
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Frankel's thoroughness is admirable. (Amy Larocca, London Review of Books.)

Impeccably researched...highly readable. (Emmanuelle Smith, Financial Times)

It's quiet a page turner. (Susan Elkin, Independent on Sunday)

Her's is a fascinating story... admirably revealed in this endlessly fascinating biography of an extraordinary woman and her 40-year career. (Peter Burton, Daily Express)

About the Author

Noralee Frankel is the Assistant Director, Women, Minorities, and Teaching at the American Historical Association. Her books include Freedom's Women: Black Women and Families in Civil War Era Mississippi and Break Those Chains at Last: African Americans, 1860-1880 (OUP, 1996). She lives in the Washington, D.C, area.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Mcdonald TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Jun. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the biography I suspect all those people who`ve read Gypsy`s own memoir have been waiting for; how much you know (or think you know) about her will determine your reaction - I enjoyed it and found it well paced, balanced and informative. There are one or two revelations and some myths are explored but this was a woman who created myths about herself and carefully manipulated so much of her public image it really is doubtful we can ever know much more than Frankel`s book has uncovered. Frankel has elected to move quickly over Gypsy`s early life in Vaudeville (the period mainly covered by Gypsy`s own book) and concentrates on her beginnings in burlesque, her move to the Follies and her subsequent Film, writing and stage work, all the time trying to be taken seriously as the talented individual she undoubtably was - an amazing up-hill struggle considering the attitudes and censorship activities of the age. Everything you probably know a little about is here in one place for the first time; her problems with her mother, her blacklisting, her friendships, marriages, liberal politics and her final successes as an author and TV personality.
Frankel`s book is, I think, pretty fair to her subject; she admits she found aspects of Gypsy`s character unlikable but on the whole it is warm and gives the reader a good insight into her intellect and sense of humour. Highly recommended for both the casual reader and the fans.
For a different take on Gypsy`s life, you may also like to try Rachel Shteir`s book; a more academic approach but also very worthwhile.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 36 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating lady! 28 April 2009
By Cecile K - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Move over Madonna! I no longer think you are the most self-created woman in show business. Not only did Gypsy create herself from scratch (less than scratch, really), she did so in an era that was totally unforgiving to women at many levels.

And Mom!? Whatever you THOUGHT you knew about Gypsy's "stage mother," hold onto your hat. I don't want to give too much away, but can you say, "psychopath?!"

Frankel's extensive research strips this fascinating woman down barer than her own act ever did, but leaves her dignity and accomplishments intact. The list of "did you know's" (Did you know Gypsy was a published author? Did you know Gypsy was a union champion?) goes on and on! I came away from this book MORE impressed by Gypsy's perseverance against all odds (if not her mothering skills), quirky sense of humor, and quick intelligence.

Frankel goes beyond the facts of Gypsy's life to present her in the context of her times. Don't worry that this is "History 101," but you will walk away with greater insight into the dynamics of our country from Prohibition to the Cold War. Gypsy's liberal leanings (pro-union, anti-Fascist) make her life a great lens to view the growth of Hollywood, popular culture and political witch-hunts. Gypsy never seemed to lose her sense of humor, and Frankel's prose suits her subject!

A worthy read....
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Photos Stripped from Kindle Version 24 May 2009
By Peter Elliott - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I was disappointed that the Kindle version did not have the photos that are in the Hardcover Edition - shame on Oxford Press (the publishers) for not providing these wonderful images.

The biography is well written, if a bit maddening at times. For example, she states that when Stephen Sondheim agreed to write lyrics for the musical "Gypsy" he wanted to be assured that Jule Styne write all new music for the show and not use any trunk songs.

That's all well and good and accurate, but then she neglects to mention that Styne pulled out a song from the TV musical "The Ruggles of Red Gap" to use in the musical "Gypsy" (the song in "Gypsy" is "You'll Never Get Away From Me").

Repetitiveness toward the end of the bio tends to bog it down. How many times do we need to know that Gypsy Rose Lee was trying to go beyond the image of 'stripper'.

If you are intrigued by Gypsy's story - I recommend that you read her bio, the book by her son Erik Preminger and above all Early Havoc by June Havoc.

And Oxford - get with the 21st Century and provide photos for your E-Books AND footnotes that link to the exact footnote pages at the end of the book.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Insightful but lacking a writing style to match Gypsy's story 28 May 2009
By Stephen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Let me say up front that I learned a lot from this book. The author has managed to wade through what we know about Gypsy Rose Lee--and what we THINK we know--and come up with a book that provides the most three-dimensional view of this unique performer.

That said, I found the author's pedestrian writing style a distraction, particularly in the first third of the book. (Either matters improved after that, or I became used to the clunky sentences that had made me want to get out my editing pencil and go to work.) Gypsy's energy and wit were phenomenal, but Frankel's dry, academic prose sometimes gets in the way.

Those familiar with Gypsy's own autobiography, and her son's book, will find this new book more enlightening, if not anywhere near as entertaining.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Great Research, Little Show Biz 18 July 2009
By Rick Rodgers - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When I was a little boy growing up in San Francisco, I came home from school to find Gypsy's local talk show on the family TV. I remember her charm, sass, vitality, and intelligence.

This book has long notes and an substantial bibliography to back up its research. My biggest problem was that the author didn't have much passion for show business, a very necessary component when talking about burlesque and Broadway. June Havoc is as interesting a character as her sister, and granted, the book is not about June. However, when discussing "Zip," the song from PAL JOEY that is performed even today and helps keeps the legend of Gypsy alive, it should also be mentioned that June was one of the co-stars of the original production. Didn't anyone interview June about how it felt to be in a show that had a number that made an icon out of her sister? Alarmingly, the book says the song's lyricist is Lorenzo Hart, not Lorenz. That neither the author nor an editor knows enough about Lorenz Hart to spell his name correctly shows the shameful state of publishing today.

I did learn that Gypsy had more Broadway experience than I had realized. But again, the lack of detail was frustrating. Did you know that Gypsy replaced Ethel Merman in the lead in DUBARRY WAS A LADY? (I can see Gypsy replacing Betty Grable in the "eye candy" role in the show, but The Merm? Wow.) That Merman went on to play Gypsy's mother twenty years later is enticing, yet that thread goes nowhere. Also, Gypsy must have had a good enough voice to get past Cole Porter, disproving those who thought that Gypsy had no talent beyond taking off her clothes. The quote that Frankel chooses to use to support the fact that Gypsy got good reviews in the part tellingly only mentions her stage presence, and not her vocal chops.

I found STRIPPING GYPSY to be a pleasant diversion and a good overview of Gypsy's fascinating career. If you want the smell of the greasepaint, read Gypsy and June's autobiographies, too. You may not get "the truth," but you will have a great time. In this book, you get veracity, which is not as much fun as the ladies' collective memories.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The Naked Truth 15 May 2009
By Avid Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
No axes to grind. No reason to keep skeletons hidden in the cupboard. Truth be told, Noralee Frankel gives us a vital, living breathing woman as contemporary as today. In one highly entertaining body of work, Frankel weaves a social history with the political landscape of the 20th century. Ideal for the casual reader or serious scholar.

Gypsy, the autobiography, covered only the author's first 20-some years and glossed over the facts. This well-researched work explains in page-turner momentum who Gypsy Rose Lee really was, how she created and continued to re-invent herself in a tough man's-world market. In a century where everyone gets to be famous for 15 minutes, Gypsy reined queen, not only of burlesque, but best-seller books, theater, film and TV for decades. Who knew she put herself on the line for union rights for theater workers? Backed her lover, Mike Todd's, Broadway shows--and then starred in them? Survived and worked right through the McCarthy era. Everybody's here from Fanny Brice, June Havoc, crazy "Momma Rose" to the famous of Hollywood and Broadway. I couldn't put the book down until I finished the last page.
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