Millie DeLeon: Pioneer of Strip Tease


Millie DeLeon (ca. 1873-1922) is regarded by many as one of the founders of modern burlesque. Her real name was apparently either Elizabeth or Maude Lawrence. “Millie” is a corruption of Mlle. (Like many burlesque folks of her time, she practiced good show biz by misrepresenting herself as a native of what was then the sexiest nation on earth).

Burlesque had always been distinguished by a chorus line of pretty girls. It was DeLeon who upped the ante by making her dances much more suggestive than had ever been done before, writhing and shaking in the Little Egypt fashion, making sexy noises, and originating a new burlesque tradition — throwing her garters out to the gentlemen in the audience.

Not surprisingly, she started another tradition: the incarceration of burlesque dancers. She was arrested numerous times from 1903 to 1915. She counted it all as so much free publicity. Yet another way in which she was a pioneer, for better or worse.

DeLeon’s husband and manager was Lew Rose (Louis Rosenstamm, b. 1868), younger brother of Ike Rose of Rose’s Royal Midgets.

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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