Historical Striptease Performers:

Blaze Starr

First Published: 

8th July 2019

Overview

This voluptuous red haired 5' 6" 38D-24-37 American stripper and burlesque star, came to fame in the 1950's. She had an enthusiastic and vivacious style which captivated audiences, not to mention her usage of stage props in an inventive and unique manner (way beyond established routines of the day). She wrote a memoir, much of it centered on her affair with Louisiana Governor Earl Long, which was turned into a film.


Names

Her real name was Fannie Belle Fleming. Her stage name, Blaze Starr, came from her natural "blaze" of red hair. She was often billed as "The Hottest Blaze in Burlesque" or as "Miss Spontaneous Combustion" (after a noted signature stage show she performed). 


Childhood

Blaze Starr was born on 10th April 1932 along Twelve Pole Creek, in rural Wayne County, West Virginia. She was raised in the New Ground Hollow area of WV, the second eldest of 12 children, by Lora (Evans) and Goodlow Fleming.


Early Career

She left home around the age of 15, moving to Washington DC, where she worked in the Mayflower Donut shop. While working here she was discovered by Red Snyder, who persuaded her to start stripping on stage under the name Blaze Starr - even though she wasn't yet 16. Red became her manager but, following an attempted gang rape which included Red, this arrangement only lasted a little while.


A Starr is Born

Blaze Starr moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1950 when she was around 18 years old. Here she managed to get a job at the Two O'clock Club (still operating today), eventually becoming a headliner there. In 1954 she was profiled in the February edition of Esquire magazine (also still operating today). This lead to increased renown and Blaze begun to perform in clubs across the country as a Feature Entertainer.

During this time she posed for many magazines including: "Ace", "Best for Men", "Modern Man", "Scamp", "Sir!", "Sizzle" and "Rogue". Blaze also posed for noted fetish photographer Irving Klaw (perhaps best known for his pictures of Bettie Page). At the height of her fame, she was earning up to $1,500 a week (the equivalent of about $12,000 per week today). Although travelling, the Two O'clock Club remained her home base and she would go on to become it's owner too.


Signature Show

Blaze had many routines across her performing years, a few containing large cats, including a trained Black Panther who would untie a ribbon on her costume causing it to fall to the floor. However, her most infamous show was the "exploding couch". Laying across a love seat she would begin wriggly about seductively. At a given moment she would secretly push a button which caused smoke to emit from the couch (seeming like it came from between her legs). Then at another suitable moment a fan would come on, supported by a red spotlight, which would blow red colored silk strips up from behind the couch (creating the illusion the couch had caught on fire) - hence the moniker "Miss Spontaneous Combustion".


Private Life

In the late 1950's, Blaze was divorcing her one and only husband, club owner Carroll Glorioso. During this time, whilst performing at the Sho-Bar (now closed) in Bourbon Street, New Orleans, she met Earl Kemp Long (the then Governor of Louisiana). Even though he was (and remained) married, they entered into a long term affair, causing a degree of public notoriety.


Book and Films

In 1962, Blaze starred in a nudie-sexploitation film called "Blaze Starr Goes Nudist" (also titled "Blaze Starr Goes Back To Nature"). It also stared singer Ralph Young and was directed by Doris Wishman (who is credited with directing, producing and writing around 30 sexploitation films).

In 1974, Blaze launched and sold her autobiographical memoir "Blaze Starr: My Life as told to Huey Perry".

Her memoir was made into a film and launched in 1989 as "Blaze". Directed by Ron Shelton (a former baseball player and better known for his sports based films such as "Bull Durham", "White Men Can't Jump", "Cobb", "Tin Cup" and "Play It To The Bone"), it starred his wife, Lolitta Davidovich as Blaze and Paul Newman as Earl Long. Blaze Starr also appears in the film as a stripper called Lily.


Semi-Retirement

In 1974 Blaze Starr sold the Two O'clock club and went into semi-retirement, making occasional stage performances into the early 1980's. During this time she begun making and selling jewelry and for a few years, she could be found selling her creations at Carrolltowne Mall in Eldersburg (about 25 miles North West of Baltimore). By 1983 her hobby had become a full time business and she was still selling her jewelry online at the time of her death.


Death

Blaze Starr died on 15th June 2015, at the age of 83, in Wilsondale, West Virginia. Although she was suffering with a severe heart condition, Blaze was concerned about the health of her dog (a stray she had adopted)...the dog died a few hours after she did.



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