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Gypsy Rose Lee Photograph by Fred Palumbo, 1956. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112035).

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Lee, Gypsy Rose (09 January 1914–26 April 1970), striptease artist, burlesque entertainer, and writer, was born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of John Olaf Hovick, a newspaper reporter, and Rose Thompson. Lee’s parents divorced when she was about four years old. She and her sister June (who later became screen actress June Havoc) lived with their mother’s father in Seattle, where Rose Hovick, a prototypical stage mother, drove the girls into a show business career. They began by performing at several lodges to which their grandfather belonged. Lee described herself as a child as being “big for my age and more than just chubby” with the nickname of “Plug.” Lee once described her childhood to a reporter: “At that time I wanted to die—just for the vacation.”...