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Practitioner of a Lost Art

Here's why we love reading out-of-town obits: How else would we know about the death of Alouette LeBlanc, America's Greatest Tassel Dancer?

The story provides a bit of social history, too:

Long before stripper poles cropped up on every corner, Bourbon Street in the 1940s and '50s was a swanky place. Men in dinner jackets and neckties and women in party dresses and white gloves would fill the smoky dens of the 500 Club, the Sho-Bar, the Casino Royale and the Poodle's Patio.

Beauties with exotic names -- Wild Cherry, Lilly Christine the Cat Girl, Evangeline the Oyster Girl, Alouette LeBlanc the Tassel Twirler -- would lure in customers with elaborate acts, popping out of oyster shells or spinning pistols. The shows often included contortionists, magicians and acrobats, all backed up by live jazz bands....

Ms. LeBlanc was blunt. "What killed burlesque was the drugs," she said. "The first club owner who convinced the first drugged-out bimbo to get up and dance for nothing but tips -- that was the end of burlesque."

By Patricia Sullivan  |  April 10, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
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