Hers is the show business saga you think you already know--but
you ain't seen nothin' yet. Rose Thompson Hovick, mother of June
Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee, went down in theatrical history as "The
Stage Mother from Hell" after her immortalization on Broadway in
Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Yet the musical was 75 percent
fictionalized by playwright Arthur Laurents and condensed for the
stage. Rose's full story is even more striking.
Born fearless on the North Dakota prairie in 1891, Rose Thompson
had a kind father and a gallivanting mother who sold lacy finery to
prostitutes. She became an unhappy teenage bride whose marriage
yielded two entrancing daughters, Louise and June. When June was
discovered to be a child prodigy in ballet, capable of dancing en
pointe by the age of three, Rose, without benefit of any theatrical
training, set out to create onstage opportunities for her magical
baby girl--and succeeded.
Rose followed her own star and created two more in dramatic and
colorful style: "Baby June" became a child headliner in vaudeville,
and Louise grew up to be the well-known burlesque star Gypsy Rose
Lee. The rest of Mama Rose's remarkable story included love affairs
with both men and women, the operation of a "lesbian pick-up joint"
where she sold homemade bathtub gin, wild attempts to extort money
from Gypsy and June, two stints as a chicken farmer, and three
allegations of cold-blooded murder--all of which was deemed unfit
for the script of Gypsy. Here, at last, is the rollicking,
wild saga that never made it to the stage.
Subjects: History, Performing Arts
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