Ada Leonard: vintage 8x10 photo
Ada was born 22 July 1915 in Lawton, Oklahoma to a father who was an actor and a mother who was an dancer and musician. Ada started her career in show business in Chicago as a stripper. Ada’s act was always classy and, much like Gypsy Rose Lee, she had a knack for making it seem like she removed more clothing than she did. By 1940, however, Ada would take over as the front woman for an all-female band. At first the band members, were leery of being fronted by a striptease artist, but after seeing Ada’s class-act and her hold over the audience, they decided she was just what they needed. Ada Leonard’s All American Girls toured military bases with the USO. Originally they played a selection of favorite dance tunes from the era. But when America entered WWII, the band revamped their style and became a very popular swing band. Ada Leonard’s All American Girls stayed together right into the 1950s, when they had a variety style television show from 1952-54. Though not a musician herself, the band members always held Ada in high regard as she used what she had learned in burlesque to protect the band’s interests against dis-honest managers and bookers. Ada died 29 November 1997 in Santa Monica, CA.
Zorima (Margaret Lehtinen McCloskey): as scanned from the October 1940 issue of Laff magazine
Zorima was at her height of recognition in 1939/1940 because the show entitled “Zorima and Her Garden of Nudist and Sun Bathers” was one of the most popular attractions at the New York World’s Fair. She would go on to perform at countless carnival midways, including 3 other World’s Fairs. And her Centennial Greater Shows, was one of the few woman-owned exhibition companies operating in the carnival business in the 1940s.
Mary Sundae - Blond Venus: vintage 8x10 news service photo dated 27 September 1935
At the time of this photo, Mary was the star of the revue show Venus on Parade, which was showing Colosimo’s on 22nd Street in Chicago.
Jackie Gladd: vintage 8x10 photo dated 2 November 1935
Jackie was a State Lake Sweetheart, which was the name given the house showgirls at the State Lake Theater, located at 190 North State Street, Chicago, IL. The State Lake Theater was part of the Orpheum burlesque circuit.
Jadin Wong: as scanned from the cover of a vintage program from Charlie Low’s Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco, CA.
Jadin was born 24 May 1913 in Marysville, CA. As a teenager she ran away from home to study dance and pursue a career in show business. She made her debut as a feature dancer in the early 1930s at Charlie Low’s Asian-themed nightclub Forbidden City, in San Francisco, CA. During WWII, Jadin travelled Europe extensively, entertaining American troops and once even had to parachute to safety from a crashing helicopter. Always the show business professional, before jumping from the helicopter, Jadin requested a solider hand her her make-up bag…as there would be reporters on the ground. In the 1970s Ms. Wong took on a new career and opened Jadin Wong Management, a NYC agency specializing in representing Asian-american talent. Jadin was honored by President Reagan for her service entertaining troops during WWII and in 2002 was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Lincoln Center. Ms. Wong died at the age of 96 on 30 May 2010.
Zorita: vintage 8x10 photo
At nine months old, Zorita was adopted from a Youngstown, Ohio orphanage. When only four, her adoptive father died and her adoptive mother soon remarried, and her new step-father abused Zorita from the very beginning. Hence, to escape a tumultuous home-life, Zorita married when she was only 15 years old. The marriage did not last, and Zorita worked odd jobs to support herself. While working as a cigarette girl at the New York State Fair, she saw her first burlesque style show and became captivated by the dancer. Shortly thereafter, she made herself a costume and waltzed into a local club claiming to be the dancer from the fair, and landed her first burlesque job.
Zorita’s trademark name and dancing companion did not come until a little later in her career (mid-1930s). At that time she was working as a dancer at the San Diego California Pacific International Exposition. It was there that she befriended another Expo employee, who was a snake handler. At the end of the Exposition, he gifted her with a large indigo snake named Elmer, and she and Elmer moved to San Francisco. A theater owned in San Franciso hired her to do a veil dance and gave her the name Zorita, but after learning of her unique pet, he convinced her to work Elmer into her act….they rest, as they say, is history.