STORM IN A D-CUP
Born Annie Blanche Banks in Eastman, Georgia (USA), she never knew who her real father was. She walked out of school when she was in year 7.
She was then sexually abused – but never revealed who her abuser was. However, she labelled her stepfather as “the meanest man in the world.”
She also said she had been raped by a gang of local boys, which caused her to flee from home.
Aged 14, Annie was a waitress in Columbus, Georgia. She married a marine in order to get away from her parents (in American law if you were married, all parental rights were cancelled). The marriage was annulled within 24 hours. She never saw her husband again.
At just 15 she got married for a second time – to a shoe salesman. Her new sister-in-law got her a job working in a hosiery mill.
This time the marriage (and the job) lasted six months. “I just left one day. I had it in my mind to go to Hollywood. I couldn’t get it out of my system.”
Annie arrived in Los Angeles aged seventeen. The big city terrified her and she remembered walking around the city clutching her bag with both hands in case she was robbed.
She got a job working as a waitress at Simon’s Diner, before becoming a cocktail waitress in a nightclub – although she was still too young to be doing this work legally. It was there that a customer suggested she take up striptease.
She got an audition at the Follies Theatre but was so scared she didn’t turn up. Later, with a burst of courage she sought out the interviewer, Lilian Hunt, and begged for another chance.
She was hired as a chorus dancer on $40 a week. Three weeks later she was promoted to stripper on $60 a week.
On her first stage appearance she was so terrified that Lilian had to whisper instructions to her from the side.
She was told she needed a stage name. She initially considered Sunny Day – before becoming Tempest Storm.
She legally changed her name in 1957.
Her closest friend in LA was Norma Jean Baker – later to be Marilyn Monroe.
She became a regular at El Ray Burlesque Theatre in Oakland, but toured the USA, including a stint in Las Vegas.
There, she met Elvis Presley. There were rumours of an affair.
Marilyn also introduced her to John F. Kennedy – again, rumours of an affair.
She appeared in 5 movies, all of them burlesque films. By now she was labelled ‘The Queen of Exotic Dancers’.
She had her breasts insured for $1 million – and became the first millionaire stripper.
She moved to the Star Theatre in Portland, Oregon, where she was billed as the ‘Storm in a D-Cup’.
But then she met ‘entrepreneur’ John Becker. He left his wife, burlesque dancer Arabelle Andre and married Tempest – her third husband.
He bought Capital Theatre and re-opened it as America’s main burlesque / strip club. At the opening, he was photographed next to Tempest and his ex, Arabelle. They were both smiling – but the reality was they despised each other. It didn’t help that Life Magazine put the picture on their front cover with the headline “John’s Other Wife – The Burlesque Wars’.
Tempest then tried to brand herself as the ‘$50,000 Hollywood Treasure Chest – but was sued by Evelyn West, the ‘Treasure Chest Girl’.
After divorcing John Becker, she married for a fourth time – to Herb Jeffries, a TV film actor and jazz singer. They had a daughter. As it was a racially mixed marriage it broke many American racial taboos, something she always claimed cost her a lot of work.
Tempest finally retired when she was aged 67.
She still made occasional comebacks. In 1999 she stripped in the O’Farrell Theatre, San Francisco to mark its 30th anniversary.
Shortly afterwards, the Mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, declared a ‘Tempest Storm Day’.
She was initiated into the Burlesque Hall of Fame – and donated her G-String. At the ceremony, she was asked the secret to stripping. “No matter what happens, keep moving.”
She also appeared at the ‘Annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Pageant’ right until 2010.
She said of her many marriages, “They love it when you’re engaged, but they can’t handle it when you’re married.”
She died in a care home in Las Vegas, where she had lived for her remaining years.
RIP – Repeatedly In Partnerships