Behind the Burly Q by Leslie Zemeckis
By Diane Skwarek
The story of Burlesque in America….
Prior to reading this book, my only knowledge of Burlesque was the movie Gypsy Rose Lee. “Burlesqued” was the term used to describe this early form of entertainment … parodies of popular plays, operas, or current events. It was considered good fortune to be chosen.
In the first part of the book, which was more of an overview, things seem rosy. Times are hard for the performers, but they try to get along. As Burlesque evolves, however, life behind the curtain became harder, seedier, with backstabbing, fist-a-cuffs, and material-stealing … both men and women. But, as cutthroat as it is backstage, when it comes to the outside world, it’s us-against-them. They had to have each other’s back.
I deeply enjoyed the Burlesque perspective from the children’s point of view, like Alan Alda’s early childhood and about the relationship between Abbot and Costello as told by daughter Chris Costello. Mr. Alda’s father, Robert, was a straight man and singer. Behind-the-curtain drama and the comics’ stories were also fascinating.
Dancer Blaze Starr wrote the Foreword. After finishing the book, I was pleased that she and I came to the same conclusion. Though Ms. Zemeckis made close bonds to many, if not all, of her interviewees, she shows no favoritism towards any in her writing. She lets the art and the performers have center stage. It is a well-rounded story. Both the good and the bad times about being on the stage, on the road, and behind the curtain.
Behind the Burly Q puts all the rumors, innuendos, and guessing to rest. It truly gives a no-holds-barred account of that era. It is our American history, which shouldn’t be fluffed over or ignored.
Behind the Burly Q is available wherever books are sold. Leslie Zemeckis will participate in the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m. For more information, visit westhollywoodbookfair.org/?page_id=11283.