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RIP Kitty West (1930-2019)

Kitty West/Evangeline the Oyster Girl

Burlesque legend Kitty West, also known as Evangeline the Oyster Girl, passed away Sunday (8/18/19) at the age of 89. Born Abbie Jewel Slawson in Mississipi, Kitty ran away to New Orleans at age 16, where she began dancing. Her signature act, rising out of an oyster shell like Venus from the sea, made her a headliner for many years at Bourbon Street’s Casino Royale.

Evangeline the Oyster Girl smashes Divena’s tank mid-act

It was there the incident she is perhaps best known for took place — feeling their star was less of a draw, Casino Royale brought in another aquatic-themed act, Divena, who performed as a mermaid in a water tank. Divena was billed above Kitty, so one night, Kitty attacked the tank with an axe during Divena’s act, bursting its wall and spilling water (and Divena) across the stage. The resulting publicity boosted both their careers.

Although she retired from the stage in the early 1960s, Kitty was a generous and active mentor to New Orleans performers in the 1990s and 2000s, passing on her act and her stories to a new generation of performers.


  1. Reply
    Paulette says:

    I met this beautiful woman in 2010. A very sweet person that had much to off this world in her stories of life and her compassion for those around her. I would like to think I was a friend to her as she was to me. May she be a true rest now. It was my pleasure to say I met her and knew her.

  2. Reply
    Eileen says:

    I knew her personally. She was such a wonderful women.

    • Reply
      Zach Coker says:

      Are there any books about her life?

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