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The Theatre: Louse Opera

2 minute read

Three years ago, in one of its periodic waves of public purification, Manhattan ordered burlesque shows not only to drape their naked cuties, but to drape themselves in an even more euphemistic name. Complying reluctantly with this ukase, the louse-opera impresarios put a little more gauze on their strip-teasers, advertised their wares as “Frolics” and “Follies.” Promptly business started to sag. Even when desperate divas began to strip to their pelts again, the box office was still in the doldrums. Last week the operators of Manhattan’s three remaining burlesque houses got together with union representatives, prepared to beard Mayor LaGuardia and reclaim the name “burlesque.”

Said Vincent Jacobi, business manager of Theatrical Protective Union No. 1: “The out-of-town people see ‘Follies’ and they don’t know what it is. But if they see ‘Burlesque’ then they know what it’s all about.” Echoed Harold Minsky, whose celebrated surname (made famous by his father and uncles), synonymous with burlesque, is also barred from Manhattan marquees: “Once they come in they enjoy it all right, but you’d be surprised how many people in New York don’t know what you’re selling in the ‘Follies.’ You have to have a name for your article.” Whatever the name of the Minsky article, it is still pretty stark. Bert Popkin, business representative of Motion Picture Machine Operators Union Local 306, last week ejaculated: “I used to work in the old Central Burlesque when Billy Minsky was there and if you ask me the shows are dirtier now than they were then.” The delicate question before Manhattan: whether to clean up the girl shows and call them “burlesque,” or leave them dirty and call them “Follies.”

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