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Burlesque fever: Sultry burlesque book guide

The horn sings a long, sultry note and the woman on stage slowly peels off a piece of her glittering costume. The drum beats. And she bumps a hip in one direction and then in the other. The music thumps and the crowd cheers as she taunts with a sexy hide-and-seek. It’s burlesque and it’s been putting the tease back into the strip for over ten years.

Burlesque books

The burlesque movement has shimmied its way out of nightclubs and onto the big screen with Christina Aguilera, Cher and Kristen Bell.

The movie, now a Golden Globe nominee, is Aguilera’s film debut and tells the tale of a small-town girl who lands in L.A. and finds her way dancing on a burlesque stage.

Indulge in your own burlesque fever by checking out the film and also boning up on the scintillating history and mystery of burlesque with these sultry books.

Burlesque Fever: Books on Burlesque

#1 Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show by Rachel Shteir
This comprehensive cultural history tells the history of undressing from its nineteenth century vaudeville roots through its decline in the ’60s when stripping replaced burlesque. Throughout, Shteir provides glimpses at the queens of burlesque like Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili St. Cyr and Blaze Starr.

Also recommended: Gypsy by Rachel Shteir, the first biography of “the Literary Stripper” not written by Lee’s family.

#2 Burlesque and the New Bump-n-Grind by Michelle Baldwin
Baldwin, who performs as Vivienne VaVoom, picks up where Shteir left off, documenting burlesque’s sequined revival.

Filled with pictures of today’s performers, the book looks at what sparked the revival in the mid-nineties and how the neo-burlesque movement has put its own modern spin on the wink-and-a-nod dance tradition.

#3 Burlesque and the Art of the Teese by Dita Von Teese
This coffee table book by the reigning queen of burlesque is a glossy tribute to burlesque with stunning photos of the raven-haired dancer in crystal-beaded corsets, feathers and pin-up curls.

Also recommended: Pretty Things by Liz Goldwyn, a fully-illustrated coffee-table book filled with photos and clippings documenting burlesque’s heyday in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

#4 Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique by Kelly DiNardo
This biography tells the story of Lili St. Cyr, who was one of the most well-known dancers throughout the 1940s and 1950s — performing in high-end, white-tabled nightclubs for stars like Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan.

Largely forgotten today, St. Cyr inspired Marilyn Monroe and appeared in movies like Norman Mailer’s Naked and the Dead before retiring in her early fifties and living an almost-reclusive life until her death in 1999.

#5 The Burlesque Handbook by Jo Weldon
Inspired to try your elbow-length, gloved hand at burlesque?

Jo Weldon, who runs the New York School of Burlesque and performs as Jo Boobs, offers up a sassy handbook for the aspiring dancer.

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