“They called her The Body. She was built like a double order of pancakes — sweet and stacked. The only light in the room bathed her as she emerged from a thick velvet curtain, incandescent, platinum hair piled high on her head. As the band struck up a slow, seductive wail, her intricately beaded gown glimmered with each step. By the end of the tune, the dress was gone, and she wore little more than heels, a few strategically placed rhinestones, and a smile.”
That’s how burlesque performer Sarah Klein (aka Sparkly Devil) described Detroit’s burlesque powerhouse Lottie “The Body” Graves, in a 2005 Metro Times article about the legendary dancer. There’s been a resurgence of women of color taking up the art of burlesque, and this prompted me to wonder about Black Burlesque performers of yore, who literally shook things up and enthralled the masses... So enters Lottie “The Body” Graves; who has been hailed as Detroit’s own Gypsy Rose Lee. While burlesque isn’t for everyone, the art, pomp and circumstance of the striptease has always fascinated me and Lottie definitely mastered it in spades, as the quintessential ecdysiast -- (a term coined by writer and literary critic H.L. Mencken and coincidentally, despised by Gypsy Rose Lee, by the way).