Burlesque icon Tempest Storm dies at 93
Tempest Storm, the iconic burlesque dancer and stripper who honed her act well into her 80s, died Tuesday at her Las Vegas home, according to the New York Times. She was 93.
Storm rose to prominence on stages around the world throughout the 1950s, with her act reportedly earning $100,000 a year at the peak of her career (which translates to nearly $1 million today), earning headline descriptors like "Tempest in a D-Cup" and "The Girl Who Goes 3-D Two Better" before appearing in burlesque films like Striptease Girl (1952), Buxom Beautease (1956), and alongside the legendary Bettie Page in Teaserama (1955).
Speaking on the art of burlesque in a 1969 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Storm said: "I think taking off all your clothes — and I've never taken off all my clothes — is not only immoral, but boring. There has to be something left to the imagination. If you take everything off, you please a few morons and chase all the nice people away."
Her boundary-pushing live acts in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, the Bay Area, and London were so popular, in fact, that her breasts were said to be insured by Lloyd's of London for around $1 million, and her presence during a trip to the University of Colorado in 1955 set off a riot causing hundreds of dollars in damage after she merely removed her mink coat.
She also courted male attention off-stage, as she famously had relationships with John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley, and Herb Jeffries in addition to taking four husbands over the course of her life.
Born in 1928 as Annie Blanche Banks to a family of poor sharecroppers ahead of the Depression, she left home at age 14, working a variety of odd jobs before moving to Los Angeles. She worked as a cocktail waitress until a customer suggested she audition to be a burlesque dancer for Lillian Hunt, a choreographer at the Follies Theater in Los Angeles. The Times notes that she was nervous about disrobing during the performance, but that a poorly constructed costume helped; it reportedly fell down against her will during the set.
Though she endured throughout burlesque's decline in the '60s and '70s, she continued performing acts into her 80s, even after the internet age decimated her industry.
"I guess I'd miss it when they stopped looking," she told The Independent in 1996. "So I make sure they do look."
Storm is survived by her daughter, Patricia Jeffries, and a granddaughter.