The Original Gypsy Rose Lee


I recall seeing a trio of caravans at Keith Show a decade or three ago, each emblazoned with hoardings offering palm-reading and each with a long line of hopefuls awaiting the chance to cross a palm with silver in fair exchange for a glimpse of the future.

It was in the grander days of the country shows. Keith was filled to the gun-whales with folk intent on a bit of fun and maybe a dalliance or two over the show-days and up at the show-park two full-grown heifers were roasting over a couple of spits.

Following a day selling fancy goods, I wandered over to Reidhaven Square, which is where I found the caravans.
They were top of the range trailers with all the mod-cons and, to the untrained eye at least, seemed to represent the height of traveller luxury. Lace curtained and shiny with chrome and fancy ornaments in the windows, each claimed a connection with the original Gypsy Rose Lee.

Two proclaimed direct lineage, a daughter I recall and maybe even a grand-daughter and the third – although my memory is dim on this – may have been a niece, or perhaps a grand-niece or even God-daughter. Imagine that, being Gypsy Rose Lee’s God-daughter. How cool would that be.

A quick check on Wiki reveals that Gypsy Rose Lee was born in Seattle on 8 January 1911 and christened Rose Louise Hovick. An actress and author of such classics as Mother Finds a Body and The G-String Murders, she was seemingly famous for her innovative striptease act and died in April 1970 of lung cancer. Her 1957 memoir, Gypsy: A Memoir was immortalised as the stage musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable starring – amongst others - Ethel Agnes Zimmermann as a sort of Janis-Joplin styled Rose minus of course the stripped-back blues tracks.

But surely this dilapidated wee gypsy show caravan, seen at this weekend’s Turra Show cannot really contain all of the golden days of that Broadway Rose Lee heritage. Maybe we’re talking different Gypsy Rose Lee’s here.


The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire is available from Amazon

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