Blaze Starr, who was perhaps the most famous stripper of her day, and who is said to have turned the profession of stripping from a tawdry backroom affair into a respectable job, died on Monday.
She was officially pronounced dead at a hospital near her Wilsondale, West Virginia home. Ms. Starr was 83.
Blaze was the inspiration behind Paul Newman’s 1989 film, Blaze, which recounts Ms. Starr’s torrid affair with Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long, who was in office during the 1940s and 1950s. The affair was a huge scandal in its day, and the film was based on Starr’s memoir, Blaze Starr: My Life As Told To Huey Perry, which was published in 1974, according to The New York Times.
Ms. Starr also claimed to have slept with President John F. Kennedy before he took office, according to Fox News, an achievement she claimed until she died.
Blaze didn’t just inspire Paul Newman, but filmmaker John Waters as well. After learning Blaze died, Waters, who claims to have seen her shows as a teenager but not met Starr before she died, said of the stripper:
“She would lie on this bench and papier-mache flames would shoot up between her legs. Other boys my age were at football games and the Orioles and the Colts, but I was thinking about Blaze Starr, and not in an erotic way, either,” Waters said, according to Fox News. “Just from a showbiz point of view, I respected her deeply. She had a sense of humor, and she turned what was once thought of as a negative career, being a stripper, into a class act in a weird way. No one looked down on Blaze Starr.”
Given the name Fannie Belle Fleming at her birth in Wayne County, West Virginia, Blaze performed at the Two O’Clock Club in Baltimore, and her burlesque offerings were so steamy, she earned the nickname, “The Hottest Blaze in Burlesque.”
Gus Weill, who was one of Louisiana’s first political consultants, reportedly told Fox News that Starr was a “knockout” beauty. He spoke about her contribution to the nightlife in New Orleans, stating “They had the romance and history, and she added a good dollop of glamour. She was a wonderful dancer and much loved.”
She started stripping when she was just 15, when she was approached at a donut shop by a man who convinced her to take up the profession. With her panache and glamour, Blaze soon became an audience favorite, and remained influential in Hollywood until she died.
Blaze Starr might have died, but her memory won’t soon be forgotten by Hollywood.
[Image from YouTube]