The truly wondrous aspect of Gypsy Rose Lee, aside from her, um, visual assets, turns out to be that she was a smartaleck almost before she was a stripper. The Wikipedant tells the story in his own imitable style, or lack thereof:
Eventually, it became apparent that Louise [Hovick, her real name] could make money in burlesque, which earned her legendary status as an elegant and witty striptease artist. Initially, her act was propelled forward when a shoulder strap on one of her gowns gave way, causing her dress to fall to her feet despite her efforts to cover herself; encouraged by the audience’s response, she went on to make the trick the focus of her performance.
The gownless evening strap! The mind boggles.
Louise had a younger sister, June, who made her way to the silver screen as June Havoc. They weren’t always the best of friends; the musical Gypsy, based on Louise’s memoirs, was apparently unkind to June, whose sympathies were bought off by the producers.
In the late 1930s, Gypsy Rose Lee was one of several prominent American showbiz backers of the Popular Front during the Spanish Civil War; the Front eventually collapsed due to intramural infighting, and Francisco Franco took over as dictator. (Franco died in 1975 and is still dead.)
The musical Pal Joey contains a song called “Zip,” which purports to be the innermost thoughts of Gypsy Rose Lee during her act. Bebe Neuwirth gives it a spin here:
Then again, it’s not hard to imagine Gypsy herself doing this song. Playing herself in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen:
She died at fifty-nine in 1970; lung cancer took her away. We shall not see her like again.