Cherrie Knight


In spite of what you might think if your exposure to burlesque consists only of Dita von Teese’s performances, this type of show originally did not involve stripping.

During the Victorian era, burlesque featured sketches that mocked the mannerisms of the upper classes and (clothed) dance routines. When it was brought to America, its humour turned to satirizing “serious” art forms such as Shakespearean drama and opera, and using sexually suggestive language. Plus, it began to feature scantily-clad performers. Nevertheless, during its Golden Age (1900-1930), it was at heart still a comedy show, and many early American comedians started their careers there, including Jackie Gleason (of “The Honeymooners” fame) and the duo Abbott & Costello.

As for how stripping became part of burlesque, it’s a bit of a long story. To summarize, by the early XXth century, the show already had in its history a couple of performances where women pretended to be nude, such as one that actress Adah Isaac Menken did in 1861. However, as this was regarded as outrageous and actual nudity was illegal, it did not happen often at the time.

In 1912, the brothers Minsky started a brand of burlesque in New York. Five years later, a dancer they employed called Mae Dix began absentmindedly removing her costume while still on stage. When the crowd cheered, she stripped even further. This incident was such a hit that Dix was told to repeat it several times. Admittedly, there is some debate as to whether this story is true, but it is the most prominent explanation to how burlesque began to involve stripping. In the 1968 movie “The Night they Raided Minsky’s”, Britt Ekland tears her dress while being pulled, hears the crowd cheering, begins stripping deliberately and accidentally lets her dress fall, exposing her boobs.

If the strip shows went “all the way”, the theatres would be raided by the police, but since burlesque had already lost a lot of its audience to movies during the 20s and 30s, managers took the risk and began exploiting legal loopholes. This was actually the practical reason performers began wearing nipple pasties and thongs: so they wouldn’t be arrested for actual nudity.

The $50,000 Bust

As I showed in the previous article, by the 40s it was undeniable men were attracted to large breasts, and one of the first burlesque performers to exploit this was Amy May Coomer aka Evelyn West (1921-2004). After World War II, she conceived a series of acts that involved both stripping and comedy. However, she knew a lot of her popularity was due to her boobs. Though there were other similarly busty performers at the time (ie Cherrie Knight), Evelyn went to great lengths to remind people of how big her breasts were. The most famous example of this was having them insured for $50,000 at Lloyds of London and trying to legally change her name to “Evelyn $50,000 Treasure Chest West”. She also had a cast of plaster made of her breasts at one point.

Evelyn West

Interestingly, Evelyn had a habit of presenting herself as more attractive and curvaceous than other sex symbols of her time. To wit, she wrote that Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and Jayne Mansfield were all less busty than they claimed to be. She also threw two tomatoes at actress Anita Ekberg.

Admittedly, West wasn’t very busty either by today’s standards (though they had apparently grown as big as her head, if not a bit bigger, by the time of her retirement in the early 60s). However, her popularity showed her fellow performers that, while nothing can replace talent and skill, being blessed with big boobs was certainly an advantage in their profession.

The “I have big boobs” generation of burlesque

Curiously, after West came up with the idea of billing herself as the “$50,000 Treasure Chest”, other performers began either using nicknames that alluded to their unusually-sized breasts, or at least making a point of referring to them in advertisements for their acts. That it was Evelyn who inspired this trend is a possibility but not a certainty. As far as I could ascertain, West never mentored any performer, nor could I find anyone mentioning her as an inspiration. The only stripper that followed Evelyn’s steps closely was Tempest Storm, who tried to bill herself as the “$50,000 Hollywood Treasure Chest”, but was sued for it by West and had to stop doing it.

It’s quite difficult, if not impossible, to tell just how many busty performers there have been since Evelyn’s time, since some never modelled and their shows were never caught on camera. For example, I happen to know of two women, called Turkana and Sandina, of which no content remains except for one or two promotional photographs. On the other hand, strippers with long careers and/or who modelled and appeared in movies are known even today. Tempest Storm continued performing on and off until her death; Tura Satana became famous for the exploitation flick “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”; Chesty Morgan played the lead in a couple of movies (and was in the 1988 Guiness Book of Film Facts for biggest natural breasts), etc.

In any case, burlesque in general lost its popularity in the 60s, after it became legal to show hard core pornography in certain theatres. Though the show has been revived, none of the women on the list at the end of this article (except for Tempest Storm) appears to have continued performing after the 70s.

As a final treat, here is a list of strippers, along with their nicknames and a picture of each.

Donna Mae Brown- “Busty Brown”, “Miss Lusty Busty”

Sally the Shape

Gee Whiz– no nickname, but ads always mentioned her 52 to 56 inch bust.

Gee Whiz

Cherrie Knight

Cherrie Knight

Anita Ventura– “The Best Breasts in Burlesque”

Anita Ventura

Chesty Morgan– “Miss Deadly Weapons”

Chesty Morgan

Anne Howe

Anne Howe

Virginia Bell– “Little Miss Pleasure Chest”

Virginia Bell

Georgia Holden

Georgia Holden

Jennie Lee– “The Bazoom Girl”, “The Burlesque Version of Jayne Mansfield”

Jennie Lee

Sally the Shape- “48 by the tape, Sally the Shape”

Sally the Shape

Alice “Cupcake” Cassidy– “The Twin 44s Girl”

Alice Cassidy

Tempest Storm- “The Girl with the Fabulous Front”

Tempest Storm

By Boobsrealm

Big Boobs Lover. twitter: @Boobsrealm_Vip Instagram: My top 10 favorites of all time: Katerina Hartlova, Merilyn Sakova, Lucie Wilde, Jenna Doll, Christy Marks, Tanya Song, Beth Lily, Karina Hart, Wendi White and Faith Nelson

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5 months ago

Absolutely fan ! Thxx waiting for next one

5 months ago

•Chesty Morgan wins this group for focus for size only. Much much size!!

•Donna Mae Brown for shape of breast wins this group!

•Georgia Holden is best non topples!

•Virginia Bell award for best smile and nippols shape (also for best Katrina hartlova faces prototype). Virginia is close for winner of all! Wonderfull breast and smile and face. Expert nippols! Virginie Bell it’s best winner for all!

•Sally the shape is for best arm brassiere! Good good breast. Wants too see more of them. also is looks like laurine mirror!

Everything is now boobsrealm competite!

Last edited 5 months ago by Scooter
5 months ago
Reply to  Scooter

Yes Virginia Bell was AMAZING. Not only did she have large firm breasts, she also had a cute face and great smile. Her entire body was fit & firm.

Jon in Cda
5 months ago

We should feel grateful that many modern models, born before 80s (Milena, hall of famer) to circa 2005 (Solomia, one current contesant, was from 1999), had such good nutrition and they all own huge tits to be featured on this website and elsewhere.

4 months ago

Anita Ventura, definitely wifey status. Pretty smile, retro femininity too. Total package, never heard of her. Thanks BoobsRealm!

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