Presenting the lovely Rose La Rose, “The Original TNT Girl”
If it wasn’t for the lovely Rose La Rose, this blog wouldn’t exist.
Rose La Rose owned two Burlesque theaters in Toledo, Ohio. First, the Esquire, and then the Town Hall, and fortunately for us all she had the foresight to save all the promo pix from nearly all the girls who performed on her stages over the years.
And I was lucky enough to acquire most of that photo archive — going through those boxes was as much fun as opening Christmas presents. “Thanks a million, Rose!”
- Rose’s promo flyer from when she performed at the Folly Theater (Kansas City, MO ) in 1956.
- The Folly Theatre website once wrote about Rose’s performances:
- “Traditionally, burlesque houses kept a red light in the footlights to advise their dancers of a censor’s presence in the house. If things were taken too far, the theater was raided and the exotic dancers arrested for indecency. The Folly Burlesque was raided on and off for years. Favored talent Rose La Rose was continually arrested around the country because she took the red light as her personal cue to take things too far.”
- Rose performed in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. She had some great costumes.
- This book, Big Town, Big Time By Daily News Books, Jay Maeder [scroll down to chapter 72] mentions one of Rose’s costumes in particular:
- She had a special TRICK DRESS that she wore when she sang ‘Who Will Kiss My Oo-La-La?!‘, that exposed some of her “Oo-la-la”. She’d dance, frequently slapping her “oo la la” (fanny).
- And here it is:
- Rose doing a commercial/promo for Pepsi Cola.
- A 1945 magazine ad for Kools cigarettes even used her name. [Source]
- TOLEDO, by William Speck, has this passage on Rose’s theatre in Toledo, the TOWN HALL.
“ When the legendary venue [the Town Hall] was reduced to remembrance, the theatre’s long time owner, the famous and formidable burlesque queen, Rose la Rose was heartbroken and angry.
She fought the move, but lost. City fathers in Toledo even tried to pass a law outlawing burlesque throughout the entire city in an effort to stop Rose from opening the old Esquire Theatre at Superior and Jefferson as a replacement to the Town Hall.
A federal judge, however, intervened and ruled against the city; but while Rose La Rose won the battle, she lost the war. By the time she was able to reopen burlesque theatre in Toledo under the Esquire marquee, its magic was fading quickly.
This “innocent” brand of sexually suggestive show business had become too mild and hokey for the times.
Rose la Rose tried to keep it on life support, but finally, even she yielded to the pressure of the times and began running x-rated movies with a mix of live performances at the Esquire.
It was too little, too late. The concept soon died, and so too did Rose la Rose. In 1972, Rosina DePella, aka Rose La Rose, died of cancer at the age of 53. Her 16 year run in Toledo was finally over. “ [Source]
For Whom the Bell Tolls — It Tolls for Live Burlesque
Rose La Rose has been blamed with sounding the death knell for live Burlesque theaters. She had a good business idea, shared it with some film makers – gratis – who ran with it — all the way to the bank!
You can read all about those short naughty films in the book, The Other Hollywood. [Screen shot above has the entire Rose La Rose reference.]
Rose’s Early Career
Rose was in Wages of Sin, a short stag film or ‘midway loop’.
- The WEIRD WILD REALM site has an article about Rose, and some flicks she was featured in.
“Rose la Rose was a performer at Minsky’s along with Gypsy Rose Lee. Miss La Rose has an uncredited role as a stripper in the Herman E. Webbe directed The Wages of Sin (1938) about an impoverished young woman forced into prostitution, with a cameo for sexploitation mini-mogul Louis S. Sonney.”
Video Clip here.
Rose La Rose has a supporting role in Sam Newfield’s Queen of Burlesque (1946), which includes a murder mystery involving lesbianism. Rose played Blossom Terrain, a burlesque dancer trying to reclaim her headlining status. [Full synopsis]
When asked why she got in the business as a teenager (she lied about her age, of course), Rose said, “I didn’t want to stand behind a counter & serve people.”
She eventually owned a veritable chain of burlesque theaters in Toledo, Ohio, & made extra on the side teaching housewives how to strip for their husbands.
She became (according to Walter Winchell) the highest paid stripper in America.
In a Virginian-Pilot newspaper article about the Gaiety Theatre in Norfolk, VA, they quote an even earlier 1950 article: “It might be that she has a tantalizing technique for taking off her clothes. And it might be the frenetic unrestraint that characterizes her performance, the daring she mixes with little touches of humor. Whatever it is, she’s got it.”
Rose La Rose as a blonde, doing her Leda the Swan routine. [Source]
- This Time Magazine article from 1970 titled Show Business: Grinding to a Halt [subscription req’d. to read] tells of Rose’s last performance:
- “Fiftyish but still game… persuaded Rose La Rose to come out of retirement… Rose held court in a silver gown, signed men’s shirttails with “Teasingly Yours, Rose La Rose” …”
- Just who were her 3 husbands?
- Jim Linderman‘s wrote a fun piece about Rose La Rose on his True Burlesque blog, where he included this comment:
“She was no crooner…one review in 1950 said her “sultry contralto” was her least attractive feature. That means her voice likely ranged from the G below middle C (G3) to the G two octaves above middle C (G5). Which translates to “shut up and dance” unfortunately.”
- See Rose’s page on Streetswing.com — link.
- You can read a chapter about Rose in Jane Briggeman’s book, BURLESQUE, here.
Here’s some biographical info about Rose:
- Born 1919, NY — Rosina Dapello – left school at 15 – worked as cashier at Minsky’s Theatre – lied about her age to start performing…
- …they gave her stage name of Rose La Rose – she didn’t like it, but it stuck – (she tried to switch to Connie Rae, but word got out she was really Rose, and audiences flocked to the theatre) – had name legally changed…
- …was 1st striptease dancer to make more than $2000 a week — good with money – 1958 bought Town Hall in Toledo…
- …In 1968 the city closed the theater (urban renewal), so she bought the Esquire Theater and continued there.
- …Sadly, Rose passed away from cancer in July 1972, at only 53 years old.
Rose La Rose’s Final Curtain Call
- Obituary link — Toledo Blade – Jul 28, 1972 — (same as below – click image to read)
Rose performing at a 1971 charity event in Toledo, OH, accompanied the announcement of Rose’s death from cancer, on 27 July 1972, in Toledo area newspapers. [Source]
- Read Bob Greene‘s nostalgic piece he wrote in 1988 for the Chicago Tribune — Rose La Rose: Forever Young
- Lou Hebert wrote his memories of going to Rose’s Town Hall Theater in his 1960s youth. [Read it here.] He ends with this comment:
- Rose even has an IMDB page.
Rose La Rose ~ Shake Dancer and Burlesque Queen Fight Over Name – Jet Magazine, June 16, 1955 [Source]
There is and was ever only ONE true Rose La Rose! Vive La Rose!
Bonus – listen to a snippet of the Miller Brothers Band’s tune, Rose La Rose (Down Toledo Way) here. From Detroit, a trip to Rose’s theater was a right of passage when they were teenagers, as it was for 1,000s of young men!