In anticipation of her impending 100th birthday--and in celebration of her unique and lasting impact on our culture--we are gathering signatures in support of a United States postage stamp commemorating the First Lady of American Burlesque, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle, Washington in 1911, Ms. Lee was a legendary stage and screen entertainer, whose 1957 memoir inspired the Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents musical, Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Adapted for the screen in 1962 (with Natalie Wood in the title role), Gypsy is widely considered one of the crowning achievements of mid-20th century musical theatre; remaining as relevant--and popular--today as when it first debuted in 1959.
But there was much more to Gypsy, the woman, than Gypsy: the Fable. While her legacy as America's most celebrated stripteaser endures, Ms. Lee's other accomplishments--as an author, playwright, political activist, popular talk show host, fashion icon, and a devoted single mother--are equally noteworthy. A proud patriot, she entertained troops during the Korean and Vietnam wars and was adored by factory workers, homemakers, the military, New York's literary elite, gangsters, Eleanor Roosevelt, and everyone in between.
In honor of Ms. Lee's centennial, we humbly request a tribute worthy of such a beloved (and enduring) American icon: a United States postage stamp in her honor.
Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
1735 North Lynn St., Suite 5013
Arlington, VA 22209-6432
Members of Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee:
America in the Roaring Twenties. Money flowed fast and free. Speakeasies beckoned beyond dimly lit doorways. Vaudeville was king. Talking pictures were only a distant flicker. But then, almost overnight, the Great Depression leveled everything. When the dust settled, Americans were primed for a star who could distract them from the grim new reality and excite them in different, unexpected ways. Enter Gypsy Rose Lee
, a strutting, bawdy, erudite "ecdysiast" who possessed a preternatural gift for delivering exactly what America needed.
Born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle, Washington in 1911, the story of Gypsy Rose Lee is the story of America itself: tumultuous, daring, devastating, thrilling, and relentlessly self-inventing. The epitome of Classic Burlesque--an art form as uniquely American as baseball or Jazz, and one she infused with her singular philosophy and style--Gypsy was the first performer to blend sex and comedy, to put on more than she took off, to use burlesque to tell stories about herself and the world around her, to understand that no one would laugh at a strip teaser if she first laughed at herself.
Where other headliners stripped off every stitch of clothing (and, in some cases, their dignity as well), Gypsy backed up against the velvet curtain, standing tall and regal and unobtainable; the audience always begged for more and was secretly pleased when she refused. A legendary entertainer, author and playwright, she was adored by factory workers, street peddlers, gangsters, New York's literary elite, and everyone in between.
Resilient, self-made and utterly, indefatigably American, Gypsy Rose Lee's sensational story of tragedy and triumph is the embodiment of the American Dream. Her 1957 memoir inspired the Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents musical, Gypsy: A Musical Fable
--as well as one of popular culture's most enduring archetypes: the pushy, domineering "stage mother," personified by her showbiz-obsessed mother, Madame Rose. Adapted for the screen in 1962 (with Natalie Wood in the title role), Gypsy
is widely considered one of the crowning achievements of mid-20th century musical theatre--an enduring favorite with a story and songbook as relevant today as when it first debuted in 1959.
On the eve of her 100th birthday, Gypsy Rose Lee continues to inspire and engage. A genuinely unique individual, her indelible imprint on our culture is evidenced as much by the timelessness of her own story as the ever-increasing popularity of the once-thought-lost art she championed: Burlesque. In celebration of Ms. Lee's unique contributions--as a vaudevillian, stripper, author, playwright, political activist, popular talk show host, fashion icon, devoted single mother and singularly, profoundly American Original---we humbly request consideration of a United States postage stamp in her honor.