Gypsy Rose Lee:: Madame Rose Hovick :: and Baby June

Gypsy Rose Lee

Born Rose Louise Hovick, in 1911 in Seattle, Washington; Gypsy Rose Lee would rise from obscurity to become a vaudeville performer, stripper, actress, writer, and finally a world famous personality. She was more of a teaser than a stripper, as many would say about her.

I have watched the film more times than I can count, the first with Natalie Wood, and the second with Cynthia Gibb, in the role of Gypsy Rose Lee.

I have read in my research numerous accounts, and yet one seems to be in dispute all over the place. Her date of birth is listed alternately as February 9 and January 8 of 1911. This is not all that ironic, as her Mother Rose would change her birth date to suit her own schemes, even shaving three years off of her children's ages to keep them working.

After years on the road, and Vaudeville all but dead, Louise Hovick took to the stage as the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee at the tender age of fifteen. Unlike the play and the movie, she was not dressed in a borrowed evening gown, but a grass skirt.

She listened to her mother who said "Leave 'em begging for more, and then don't give it to them!"

Rising to the top of her game Gypsy married three times, and gave birth to a son by Otto Preminger (not one of her husbands). She educated herself finally, although she never became adept at math. Gypsy Rose Lee would be the Toast of High Society, in spite of her upbringing.

Baby June

Baby June

Ellen Evangeline Hovick was born in 1913 or 1916, depending on which biography you follow. The actual date of November 8 and birthplace of Vancouver, British Columbia seems agreed upon by all.

Billed as Baby June, she was on the stage from the age of two (or five, or negative one) and the act was earning $1500. per week. If this is to be believed, then the act would have hit the vaudeville stage between 1915, and 1918. I can't imagine growing up not knowing your birthday or how old you were. These were non-issues to their mother. She wanted her children to be stars.

Neither Rose nor June had any formal education whatsoever.

June married a boy from the chorus when she was twelve, thirteen (or sixteen) and went into the marathon dance circuit. According to reports she set a record, 3600 hours, with eleven minute breaks every hour, in 1933. She gave birth to a daughter she named April Reed, who later became the actress April Kent. She wrote a Broadway Musical about her early life (based on Early Havoc) entitled Marathon 33. It only lasted 48 weeks on Broadway. That is not a bad run, just no Gypsy, which has been revived over and over..

June, Louise, and Rose Hovick

Madame Rose

Born Rose Elizabeth Thompson on August 31, 1890, she married Jack Hovick while still a teenager.

Now here is a character any mother could love, just not so much her children. Portrayed in Gypsy as the ultimate stage mother, she was that and so much more. Among family accounts are these, when June got married, Rose had the boy arrested then went down to the police station and attempted to shoot him. The safety was still on, the boy was released.

According to her sister Belle, she blackmailed, or begged her daughters for money and gifts, often showing up to visit dressed in ragged clothing and claiming to be poor. In the meantime she was running a Lesbian boarding house, and Gypsy had rented her a farm.

In one of his biographies of the family he grew up in grandson Erik Lee Preminger alleges that Rose actually shot and killed a guest for making a pass at Gypsy, also alleging the person shot was Rose's lover. Obviously, with the internet and research, again, more than one story. In some accounts it is a boarding house guest, in others the guest is decidedly a male and a guest at a party.

Rose Hovick died of colon cancer in 1954. Her final words to Gypsy, "Wherever you go I'll be right there... When you get your own personal kick in the a**, just remember, it's a present from me to you."

Gypsy Rose Lee, More Tease than Strip

Life After Mother

With their mother dead, Gypsy rose Lee finally penned her memoir, Gypsy. What she never would have let public while her mother was alive came out now. She had already penned two mysteries, The G-String Murders, published in 1941 and Mother Finds a Body, in 1942. The first was made into a Hollywood movie, with Barbara Stanwyck, called Lady of Burlesque.

Hollywood and Broadway were ripe for a story like Gypsy. offered $200,000, she refused and asked for $4000 and a percentage of the gross, figuring this would support her for the rest of her life.

Of the memoir, the only hitch was that she tried to keep it light, telling June that "Without my wit, Mother is just another corny song with a boring lyric. June opposed other parts of the story, so that the Musical was officially titled "Gypsy- A Musical Fable".

June Havoc went on to write her own memoir "Early Havoc" and a second "More Havoc" to tell her side of the story and portrayed their mother in a much harsher, if more accurate, light.

Gypsy Rose Lee was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1969, and died in 1970, reconciling with her sister during her illness she called it "My present, from Momma."

"Gypsy" The Musical

The musical Gypsy was loosely adapted from Gypsy Rose Lee's book, but in spite of the title, the musical is really about Rose as seen through the eyes of her children and all those around her. She cannot see herself the way others do. She has decided she wants better for her kids than the way she grew up. Even if it kills them, she will be sure that they get it.

The Broadway Musical was written as a vehicle for Ethyl Merman. In the title role as Madame Rose.

In the beginning she and her children are on tour with boys who's families are duped by Rose into thinking she will give them an education. When the act falls on hard times she returns to her father's house for a loan to get the act going again. One of my favorite songs is "Some People" in which she tells him that his kind of life is peachy for some people, by not her, and not her kids. At this point I truly love the character, as who does not want something better for their kids? It is not until the final act we find out what she did it for, she finally admits it in "Rose's Turn"

After the Musical Came Out

Apparently in spite of June's dismay at her sister's account of their early life, the Musical was good for both of them. June and Gypsy both appeared on "What's My Line" and had to disguise their voices before the blindfolded panel, in hopes their identity could be kept a secret.

After reading so many accounts of the rift between them, their laughter here is refreshing. I think there may have been less animosity between the sisters than the accounts would have us believe.

It is, however, understandable, in that the end of the musical had a reconciliation between Gypsy and her mother that did not happen. In later productions this happy ending has changed, and Rose walks away alone.

June havoc appeared in films and television roles, and attempted a revival of her play Marathon 33, finally retiring from the public eye in 1990, 20 years after her sister's death.

Where are they now

According to Google's Oldest Living Celebrities List dated January 1st of 2010, June Havoc reportedly passed away on March 29, 2010 at the age of 97. She outlived her own daughter, who did not live to see the 21st century.

Erik Lee Preminger apparently still living in California, and his book, "My G-String Mother: At Home and Backstage with Gypsy Rose Lee", is being made into a TV movie with Sigourney Weaver in the title role.

Long live the Queen, Gypsy Rose Lee!

Gotta Get a Gimmick

Ethyl Merman Singing Everything's Coming up Roses

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Comments 37 comments

thooghun profile image

thooghun 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

What a gem. This hub was exactly what I go out and look for: I will confess I had no idea who they were, and learning something new without being bored in the process was a novelty.

You write well, and the the entire hub had an eerie feel to it. Perhaps the picture of baby June haunts me ( I wonder why).

Thank you for the journey.


Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thoogun, I don't even know how you found it so fast! Thank you. I was hoping it would be original even though I researched it through the Internet.

thooghun profile image

thooghun 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

The new Hub Hopping option made sure I found it instantly ;)

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Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Excellent, that was a great idea, I love that tool.

Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 6 years ago

Yes, I love that new hubhopping tool! That's not how I found this though. I do appreciate it though! I love hubs that are interesting while being factual. I learned about Gypsy Rose in school and she caught my interest even then! Two thumbs up!

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Iðunn 6 years ago

Ok, I have to break down my comments into several as there is so much here. First off, what an excellent Hub!!

Like you, I've seen this movie a billion times and never stopped loving it and every time I see it it brings different aspects with it. It's a hard watch for me because of my own family, tbh.

Anytime I missed my mother, both before and after she was deceased, I could watch this movie and have her back. My rage at rose is so thorough that the only mitigating factor for me towards her is the end song "Rose's Turn".

more coming

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thank you Chaotic Chica! I bookmarked your hub btw, I have to share that with my girls.

Iounn, i don't know how to put the mark over the o... :D Thanks for reading so quickly, it was unexpected!

Yes I love Mama Rose, but the whole thing really. It was great reliving the memories.

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Iðunn 6 years ago

You mentioned this and I wanted to isolate this and comment to it directly.

"Leave 'em begging for more, and then don't give it to them!"

Oh boy, is that indeed the dancer's credo. People who bash dancers regularly have never understood the vast difference of approach between dancers and prostitutes. Dancers think lower of prostitutes, generally and prostitutes think dancers are a major rip off, selling illusion only and perceive themselves to be more honest.

Since I'm in here, to say, it was indeed interesting that via stripping Gypsy found a way to a certain level of social caste that otherwise would have been impossible for her.

About dancers and respect, in the U.S. I would say there has always been an element of intrigue, mystery and respect for burlesque and even more modern dancers. They are like a symbol of both femininity and female empowerment however odd a combination that sounds.

Critics there will always be, but Gypsy Rose Lee even from her grave silences them all.

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Iðunn 6 years ago

On this: "Her final words to Gypsy, "Wherever you go I'll be right there... When you get your own personal kick in the a**, just remember, it's a present from me to you."

Odd parallel. When I was at my mother's death bed nine years ago, she said "don't worry about your future, I've taken care of it". Apparently she had left me significantly in her will. However, later my brother and sister teamed up and got my dad to write out me and my other sister while my Dad was in griefstate over her death and had dementia.

Eight years later I was diagnosed with a tumor which turned out thankfully to be non-malignant (after surgery). It was caused by a drug my mother had taken when she was pregnant with me called DES.

I remember thinking to myself when I thought it might be cancer, well I guess she did take care of my future after all.

My present from mamma, indeed.

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Absolutely, as I said, Long Live the Queen. She turned the world on it's ear, even after burlesque was banned and shut down, she found a way to bring it back and even into our homes... Definitely the Queen of the Show!

Wow, what a spooky parallel. I am glad it wasn't cancer. Inheritances to me are just another word for breaking up the family, sad but true. Maybe she made sure it wasn't cancer. :)

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Iðunn 6 years ago

Ok, now on your Hub. OMG I love the clips and thank you so much for Ethel especially. Also for the great bio very little of which I knew. And for the delightful humor all the way through with respect to dates and ages lol.

Such an excellent read. You did a great job. Thank you!

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

I had to do that as that was all Momma's doing. My only regret is I couldn't find a decent clip of Mama, Get Married Today.

(sings to herself) "If mama was married we'd live in a house..." Oh so sad, to simply wish to live in a house. They ended up with more than a house in the end.

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Iðunn 6 years ago

My mother was a sports pusher and all her love was conditional. She picked my oldest sister first for her favorite sport, then when that sister got away from her, took my middle sister and pushed her. Luckily for me I was wonderfully uncoordinated so I never got pushed in quite that way. I watched it though, from the sidelines.

I was the totally ignored one. I fled fast, too. And I fled to clubs, thank God they were there for me.

In a way, I think it served me well because according to my therapist, I turned out to be the mentally healthiest one in the family... I could still love and accept love.

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Iðunn 6 years ago

Faye, thanks again for your wonderful Hub, sorry about all the personal but this movie, this subject is very personal to me. I loved your presentation.

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

That is the most important part, being mentally healthy. You can do anything if you have mental health. My mom was very sick my whole life with mental problems. I guess that is why Mama rose made me happy, she was strong. I never saw my mother as weak, but I knew strong when I saw it. So maybe she was nuts too. I could watch both versions of the film just because of the differences in the productions, over and over.

Personal is what I write. I believe all of us have a story that is similar in some ways and unique in others. It is the similarities that bring us together, but the uniqueness that binds us to each other. Thank you for sharing yours with me.

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Iðunn 6 years ago

I have a similar philosophy and I enjoy social interaction to compare differences but more, to find similarities.

Yes, Rose was strong. My mother was too, almost a force of nature both terrifying and awe-inspiring, like a tornado or a tidal wave and one that you never quite knew when it would turn on you. I still am awed by her enormous force of personality, now that I'm safe from it.

I do have a disabling dissociative condition but thankfully it pulls kind people to me rather than pushes them away. It bites generally but it could be so much worse. I could have grown up to be heartless or vicious.

I'm one very lucky woman.

samboiam profile image

samboiam 6 years ago from Texas

Faybe Bay, thanks for sharing this hub. I have never heard of any of these people. It was enjoyable to learn something new.

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

@ Iounn I think I have a disorder, but it is undiagnosed. I don't like people to see me, so being out of work is a bit crippling, as it is difficult for me to go to strangers and ask for a job. Fortunately I am union, so they will send me out on my next job.

@ Samboiam, I know a lot of people won't know them, but when that TV movie comes out this will a be smoking hot article and it is with thanks to Iounn for getting me to do the work. :) I am glad you enjoyed it.

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Iðunn 6 years ago

you have my warmest thoughts. I know what it is like to struggle with various issues and how difficult the workplace is to navigate. may wonderful success, however you define it, lay in your future always.

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thanks, I know that I am not going to go out and get diagnosed because i formed my own coping skills, but I know it is not normal to have to be afraid of people. I wonder if all of us are to a degree and just don't talk about it. It would be wonderful to find out we were normal after all, and the Docs were the sick ones. I hope you do not take offense of my use of words like nuts and crazy. They make me feel normal, while the word disorder makes me feel broken.

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Iðunn 6 years ago

use whatever terminology makes you feel best. I prefer 'human'. :)

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thank you, i am 48, and all this politically correct stuff is really new to me. Human is right. I prefer imbalance to disorder. My house is always in disarray, which I equate with disorder in my head. Anyway, i am glad to know someone who, like me, enjoys Gypsy. What a woman she was, all of them really.

Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 6 years ago from USA or America

Hey Faybe Bay, that certainly made for a great read. I had heard a lot about her, but never bothered to look into her life. Thank you very much for an excellently done hub. :) A Thumbs up. :)

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thank you Cagsil, and for the heads up on the typo. I worked hard on this as so much is out there. and a new movie, I am so excited!

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Fantastic! I loved this Faybe. So many different versions of her life. I have not seen all the videos, but will bookmark and return.

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thanks Earnestshub. I thought this would be a different "vehicle" for you to review... Okay sorry about the pun. :)

I am pleased that everyone likes it, I loved writing it, even if it was triple the research due to conflicting accounts. I have a few more typos to fix though. Have to remember to read it backwards, they show up easier that way.

carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

What a fascinating person Gypsy Rose Lee was... Great post!

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Carolina Muscle, thank you. Yes, she was incredible. I am glad you enjoyed this.

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Thank you for introducing em to this wonderful character, Gypsy Rose Lee as a vaudeville performer, stripper, actress, writer, wow. I watched all the videos and they are all nice, maita

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thank you Maita, for stopping by. I am happy you enjoyed this piece, another example of a life in which adversity turns to gold.

Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 6 years ago

this is a fairly interesting topic you chose to write about. i'll definitely have to the check out that one gypsy movie sometime that you recommended.

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Thank you Stevennix. I was excited about the new one coming out on HBO, but it is hard to find any info on it.

compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 6 years ago from London UK

Nice collection of videos and interesting facts! Gypsie Rose Lee was a beautiful singer!

Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

Robert M. Prisamt 6 years ago

It was the Sadest day of my life, not having met The Gypsy Rose Lee, a Star of stars. I recently moved near the Ranch, and would Greatly appreciate the opportunity to visit Passing by...and saying hello....

Long Time Fan... and well...Long Time Fan.

Best Regards


Faybe Bay profile image

Faybe Bay 6 years ago from Florida Author

Hi Robert! I know, it would have been wonderful to have met The Gypsy Rose Lee! She was a truly witty entertainer, who went out of her way to better herself and rise above the hand dealt to her in her life. I am looking forward to the latest movie of her life, if it ever is finished. I haven't been able to find out any recent news on the subject.

dolores H 5 years ago

I grew up in highland mills NY, and my friend lived in her home on RT 208. She had a stage in the basement, and we played for hours down there. It was a lovely home with great rooms!

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