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Who’s Who in Burly-Q: Blaze Starr (1932 – 2015)

BLaze Starr on the cover of Man magazineBlaze Starr is an iconic redhead, with a sultry voluptuous figure and charisma that has stood the test of time. Born on April 10, 1932 in Wayne County, West Virginia, Starr was raised in a large family and was the second oldest out of 11 brothers and sisters.

Starr left home for Washington D.C. as a young teenager. She was discovered by a promoter while working at the Mayflower Donut Shop. The promoter convinced a young Starr to wear a red and white cowgirl outfit and perform a striptease while playing the guitar. According to her 1974 autobiography Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry, Starr was so embarrassed that she covered herself with her hat and threw up when she got offstage!

After a few rough years in Washington, D.C., Starr moved to Baltimore in 1950 and began performing at the Two O’Clock Club, working hard and eventually earning the title of headliner at the nightclub.

Blaze Starr plays with her black panther kittenA February 1954 Esquire magazine profile titled “B-Belles of Burlesque: You Get Striptease with Your Beer in Baltimore” catapulted Starr to national fame. She still called Baltimore her performance home base, but she soon started to travel all over the country to perform in different clubs and tours. While living in New Orleans and working at the Sho-Bar on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, Starr also had a famous long-term love affair with Louisiana Governor Earl Long.

Starr was reportedly one of the first burlesque performers to use unique gimmicks and stage props in her shows, and even performed with a baby black panther. Her signature act was performed on a couch rigged to emit smoke and fake flames as she stripped on top. This routine was featured in Irving Klaw’s 1956 compilation film Buxom Beautease. Starr also starred in the 1962 film Blaze Starr Goes Nudist. In 1989, Starr’s infamous affair with Long was memorialized in the 1989 film Blaze, adapted from her autobiography.

Blaze Starr's dress on display at The Burlesque Hall of FameStarr went on to purchase the Two O’Clock Club in Baltimore and retired from burlesque in 1983. She became a full-time gemologist, a passion she dabbled in from 1975 until her death in 2015. At her request, she was buried in the dress she wore to the premiere of Blaze, formerly on display at The Burlesque Hall of Fame.

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Burlesque Hall of Fame