Tempest Storm — A True Redhead and Legendary Burlesque Star

September 16, 2013

Badassery, Days Gone By, Pretty & Shiny

Tempest Storm

Tempest Storm (born February 29, 1928) is the stage name of an American exotic dancer, burlesque star, and motion picture actress. Along with Lili St. Cyr, Sally Rand, and Blaze Starr, she was one of the best known burlesque performers of the 1950’s and 1960’s. She is regarded as having one of the longest careers as a burlesque performer, spanning more than 60 years. She was still performing in the early 21st century.

Storm was born Annie Blanche Banks in Eastman, Georgia. By the age of 20, she had already been married and divorced twice and decided to go to Hollywood. Her beauty landed her work as a chorus girl, but her figure, combined with a magnetic stage personality, led her to a highly successful career in burlesque. Her professional début was at El Rey Theatre in Oakland California. She adopted the stage name Tempest Storm circa 1950 and changed it legally in 1957.[citation needed] In 1955, while working at the Tropics Nightclub in Denver, Tempest visited the University of Colorado Boulder campus. All she took off was her mink coat, but this started a near-riot. She was married to Duke Ellington’s singer (black cowboy star) Herb Jeffries and, according to her own account, was the only woman to have been romantically involved with both Mickey Cohen and Elvis Presley.

One of the most famous burlesque stars, Tempest Storm set it all ablaze.

One of the most famous burlesque stars, Tempest Storm set it all ablaze.

Storm was a regular performer for many years at the EL REY, a burlesque theatre in Oakland, California, as well as at clubs around the United States, including in Las Vegas. She was famous for her physical measurements (44DD-25-35) and her naturally red hair. She was featured in numerous men’s magazines and burlesque movies, including Russ Meyer’s French Peep Show (1950), Paris After Midnight (1951), Striptease Girl (1952), Irving Klaw’s Teaserama, (1955) (which also featured Bettie Page) and his Buxom Beautease (1956). She traveled extensively and did many performances in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada.

In 1953 she moved to Portland, Oregon and worked at the Star Theatre. A few months later she moved over to the Capital Theatre down the street after her then-husband John Becker bought it. The owner of the Star then brought Becker’s ex-wife, and rival burlesque star, Arabelle Andre to the Star to perform as “John’s Other Wife”. This sparked a “burlesque war” that made it into the pages of LIFE magazine on November 30, 1953.

In the late 1950’s, her breasts – “moneymakers” as she called them – were insured by Lloyds of London for one million dollars. She acted in several motion pictures both as herself and in a character role.

With writer Bill Boyd, Ms. Storm told her life story in the 1987 book Tempest Storm: The Lady Is a Vamp. (ISBN 0-934601-25-9). She was inducted into the Exotic World Burlesque Museum Hall of Fame in Helendale, California, where one of her G-strings is part of the museum’s display.

Storm officially retired from regular performance in 1995 at the age of 67, but has done occasional stage performances since.

In 1999 she stripped in San Francisco’s O’Farrell Theatre to mark the club’s 30-year anniversary. Mayor Willie Brown declared a “Tempest Storm Day” in her honor.

Storm was married four times. She has one daughter. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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About Kristen Chapman Gibbons

Loosely connected facts: Storyteller. Curator of a Better Internet. Lifelong Politico. Social Media Maven. Creativity and Empathy Evangelist. Performer. Creator of Content Worth Sharing. Digital Strategist. Former Social Worker. Decade teaching in Higher Ed. Master's Degree in Theology. Married to an Irishman. 3 darling kiddos. Preacher's kid. Appalachian. Music maker. Music devour-er. ENTP. Bohemian. Geeky. Obsessed with thrift stores and all things vintage. Lover of species.

View all posts by Kristen Chapman Gibbons

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2 Comments on “Tempest Storm — A True Redhead and Legendary Burlesque Star”

  1. tgirsch Says:

    That’s a hell of a picture. Just, wow.

    Like

    Reply

  2. tgirsch Says:

    Also, there’s NO way she’s a 44 on top.

    Like

    Reply

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