Her real name was Sheila Alberta Bowater.
Get by with a little help from my friends…
A reader kindly posted a helpful comment to my original bio-less Lady Zorro post.
Here’s the comment that led me to find out a little about Lady Zorro’s hard life. On October 11, 2009, Alex wrote:
“… John Waters mentions a dancer named Zorro on page 75 of his book, Crackpot. He writes,”She’d stomp around the stage naked after removing her cape and mast, sneer at the audience with pure contempt, and snarl, ‘What are you lookin’ at?’ — Could it be the same lady? …”
John Waters goes on to compare Lady Zorro’s looks to ruggedly-handsome actor Victor Mature. After seeing their photos side-by-side, I’d have to say he’s right — and that there must have been only one Lady Zorro!
Here are some quotes from John Water’s book, CRACKPOT, which was reissued in 2003 with updates from the author. Sadly, he informs us that Lady Zorro is no longer with us. I hope her daughter does write the book that John encouraged her to write.
You can read some pages of CRACKPOT on google-books here.
In the NY Times review of John Water’s 2010 memoir ROLE MODELS, Tom Carson writes:
An initially sprightly tour of Baltimore’s dive bars (“the good ones have no irony about them”) sets up reminiscences of two local legends: a lesbian stripper who styled herself Lady Zorro and a Native American named Esther Martin, who ran a derelicts’ bar called the Wigwam “like an iron-fisted Elaine’s.” But then both women’s grown children tell him about their upbringings, packed with hair-raising episodes of selfishness, booze, abuse and neglect.
From reviews for the John Waters book ROLE MODELS:
Waters also talks about personalities from his hometown of Baltimore. One of them was the stripper known as Lady Zorro, whom he describes as “[having] a real rage she brought to the stage, which added a demented hostile sex appeal. An angry stripper with a history of physical and sexual abuse with a great body and the face of a man. Now there’s a lethal combination…Zorro was so butch, so scary, so Johnny Cash. No actual stripping for her at that point [at the end of her burlesque career]; she just came out nude and snarled at her fans, ‘What the f*** are you looking at?'”.
You can find the book on Amazon — be sure to click the Look Inside link to read the chapter on Lady Zorro (page screen shots below). — Role Models / Amazon
She’s been around the block…
Here’s Lady Zorro’s obituary, from the Baltimore Sun, 2-08-2001:
Sheila A. Bowater, 63, dancer on The Block
Sheila Alberta Bowater, who danced at clubs on The Block, died Feb. 1 of cancer at her daughter’s home in Tigard, Ore. She was 63 and had lived in Charles Village for nearly 40 years until moving to Oregon in 1999.
Appearing as Lady Zorro and attired in a mask, cape and a wide-brimmed hat, she danced at the Oasis and the Two O’Clock Club on The Block beginning in the early 1960s.
“She was the friend of the great names on The Block — Blaze Starr, Pam Gail and Julius Salisbury,” said her daughter, Eileen Carrico Murche. “All the people on The Block knew her. When the clubs closed, her friends came back to our house to continue the party.”
Before retiring in the 1970s, Miss Bowater appeared in Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., and in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and London.
In retirement, she and friends followed the Maryland thoroughbred racing circuit. She also prepared meals for elderly neighbors in the 300 block of E. 28th St., where she resided.
More info tidbits from John Waters including a bizarre photo of Lady Zorro in her later years.
More memories of Baltimore’s The Block — here — and here.
THE BLOCK, circa 1961 [Source]
Baltimore’s Gaiety Burlesk sign with the kicking girl.