Historical Striptease Performers:

Carrie Finnell

First Published: 

1st October 2019

Overview

Carrie Finnell is believed to be the first to use pasties with tassels. Her nude, nipple like, pasties were initially used to bypass nudity laws. However her use of them helped pasties become a strong decorative item of the 1920's, and have ever since become a staple of the strippers "uniform". The manipulation of her breasts and pasties, not to mention the longest striptease on record, are several other facets of her legendary renown. This all resulted in a 45-year career as a burlesque performer, actress and comedienne.


Names

Carrie Lee Finnell performed under her real name, Carrie Finnell.


Childhood

Carrie Finnell was born on 14th November 1900, in Covington, far north Kentucky (just south of Cincinnati, Ohio), USA .

During her teenage years she honed and toned her muscles as a Teacher's Aid, to a high school Physical Education Teacher in Kentucky.


Early Career

Carrie began her burlesque career in 1917 as a Ziegfeld girl, a tough position to gain as many girls of the time aspired to be one. Ziegfeld girls were chorus/showgirls at Florenz Ziegfeld's theatrical productions on Broadway (New York), commonly known as "Ziegfeld Follies" (which ran from 1907 - 1931).

It was while in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1920's, that Carrie gained the record for the longest striptease - removing one item of clothing each week. Ticket prices and audience numbers grew, week by week, as she wore less and less. She managed to keep people waiting for just over a year...54 weeks to be exact!


Career Highlights

Carrie Finnell really was a travelling feature entertainer in the truest sense and most of her career was at her "home" on Broadway, or treading the boards in one guise or another, in small shows across the USA. Besides her signature routine:

She featured in the 1942 Broadway production of "The Favorite Wife", at the Star & Garter, playing the Turkish "Oomph" Singer.

She had her own jazz age troupe called "Carrie Finnell and her Red Headed Blondes (a parody on the name of a popular troupe from England called "The British Blondes").

Carrie Finnell carried on performing right into her sixties, having a career that spanned the 1920's to the early 1960's (her last performance was in October 1963).


Signature Show

Always a buxom lady, her early Physical Education training resulted in what she referred to as "having an Educated Bosom". This led to her hook or gimmick she became known for. Using just her chest muscles she could make her breasts jump in and out of her dress by pectoral manipulation alone. This move was known as "Bust in the Eye".

As a development to this act, her "Educated Bosom" went to good use with pasties and tassels: She could spin one tassel while the other remained still; or she could spin the tassels in opposite directions. The claim is Carrie Finnell was the first to ever use pasties with tassels and to perform these feats on stage. She went on to use bells attached to the pasties and even small lights!

Not bad for a lady who blossomed across her life to weigh nearly 300lbs.


Private Life

Carrie Finnell married first husband, Charles Grow (who managed the Congress Theatre in Chicago), in February 1924. They had one child in 1925, a boy called Thomas Finnell Grow. They also went on to own a nightclub in Kentucky called the "Villa Venice", Unfortunately they divorced after 10 years.

In 1940, she remarried Thomas Morris, and settled down for the rest of their lives.


Death

Her second husband, Thomas Morris, died of a heart attack on 31st October 1963. She followed with a heart attack 2 weeks later on her birthday (14th November 1963).



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