THIS WONDERFUL WORLD

 

Girlie Shows Have Changed Vastly

 

RALEIGH, N.C. - The finest job in any ole carnival is to be the barker for the Girlie Show.  And if you don't believe me, try it.

 

I did it here, off and on, for two days and I'm thinking of starting a new career.  It's never too late, you know.

 

What I like about barking for the dancers and strippers is that it's healthy, outdoor work.  The Talker (carnie people call him the talker) is on his feet all the time, moving about and getting exercise, constantly strengthening his vocal chords, meeting and mixing with real, red-blooded Americans, learning something about the true American spirit, and, of course, developing the kind of intellectual power that one never finds in a library.

 

And then, of course, there are the girls one meets.

 

Very nice girls, I might add. Years ago the girls who worked in carnivals were rejects for burlesque.  And you'd have been ill-advised to ask one of them to hold your wallet for any length of time.

 

Today, however, the girls who travel with the big carnivals, such as the James E. Strates Shows, are first-class kids.  And many of them surprisingly, are college students.  They work with the carnivals during the summer and scram back to classes right after Labor Day.

 

One such young lady is 19-year-old Mary Beth Kopp, a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan University.  A dancer, she makes just about enough dough to put her through school.

 

Her parents had a fit two years ago when she told them she wanted to go with a girlie show in the carnival, but after Strates and the other people in charge, they withdrew their objections.  Mary Beth isn't a stripper - they're all pros from burlesque and night clubs-but she danced all summer in the revue, "My ambition is to be in musical comedy," she said, "and the carnival training is just ideal."

 

Banished forever, from the big carnivals, at least, is the old sin-tinged thing called "The Blow-Off."  that was a show-within-the-show.  After the dancers and strippers had performed, the talker always invited the boys into the back room for another 50 cents to see little something "extra."  Never turned out to be much more then they had seen and generally the guys went away mad.

 

The show I talked for is called "Girlesque" and it's bossed by a motherly blonde named Raynell Golden of Winter haven, Fla.  The girls in it were from all over - Janet Lee, Elmira, N.Y.; Linda Kerwood, Miami; Pat Regan, Monrovia, Calif.; Sheri Wagner, Muir, Mich and Bess Newman, Winter haven.

 

They were very kind to me and kept me from falling off the platform out front as I barked the show and introduced the young lovelies.  And, even though it was raining and I was shivering, they deployed themselves most attractively bare legged, bare-armed and muchly bare-bosomed just as thought it was sunny and warm.  That's the old show-biz spirit.

 

The star of the show is a lady named Pagan Jones.  How do you like that, eh?

 

- PAGAN Jones!  And she is something.

 

Billed as the "Golden Goddess of Burlesque,"  Pagan is about 6 feet 2 inches tall and as superbly buttressed and proportioned as a Vargas or Petty girl.  I found her quite overwhelming.

 

She's been working with the Strates shows since 1958, and I asked her how, as the years slide by, she's able to keep her fantastic figure.

 

"Well," she said in a soft and cultured voice, "or course, I have to watch what I eat.  Very, very carefully.  And no drinking!  But, I think the real secret is this:  I do about 10 shows a day, and, believe me, that's HARD work.  One, ah, perspires, you know, and I find that 19 shows on stage is better than a sauna bath."

 

Pagan fears that when she quits show biz she might start to balloon, from lack of activity.  But that worry is still a few years off.

 

"Not too far off, thought." she said, with a smile at her husband, Roger Calloway, the drummer in the show, "because I want to settle down to what I love to do."

 

"And the is?"

 

"Sculpt," said Pagan, with rapture in her eyes. "I just love to sculpt!"

 

by Norton Mockridge - Toledo, Ohio, Friday, November 15, 1968

 


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