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Gypsy Rose Lee Vindicated by Catalina Ban on Bull Fighting

By Noralee Frankel

In late July, Catalonia a region in Spain outlawed bull fighting. The vote in parliament was spurred by a petition signed by 180,000 people. The burlesque queen and author, Gypsy Rose Lee would have been pleased.

What has a famous strip tease artist have to do with bull fighting? In 1950, Gypsy Rose Lee was blacklisted from radio and television, not for sexuality, but for her liberal politics. She had been a very successful moderator of two silly game shows, all the rage in the fifties. Unable to work on the new media, she left for Europe where she performed her strip tease.

In 1952, she traveled to Spain to make the movie with Paulette Goddard entitled “Babes of Baghdad.” (Unimpressed with the unsophisticated plot, Gypsy never bothered to see the movie. Back in New York, she dismissed it as “made strictly for Muncie, Indiana.”)

While there, Gypsy was impressed with the Barcelona Humane Society. Barcelona was the capital of Catalonia. The Society campaigned against bull fighting. According to Gypsy in an interview they were succeeding in convincing the upper-classes to avoid bullfights and cockfights by associating them with “unchic” behavior.

Gypsy’s advocacy on behalf of animals made her sensitive to issues such as a bull fighting. By 1950 Gypsy was vice president of Greenwich Village Humane Society. Gypsy worked tirelessly for the Humane Society. She enjoyed visiting animal hospitals where she felt the animals were receiving good care and her trips also lifted the morale of the staff. She was worried that problems with the blacklist might reflect on and hurt Human Society.

Gypsy brought back a gift from Spain. While in Spain, Gypsy adopted her first Siamese cat, Gaudi, named for a famous Catalonian architect. “When he came to me all he spoke was Catalonian.” Later she acquired her second Siamese in Italy, Teena. Later the couple had kittens. Gypsy quickly pointed out to the press that although she gave them pretty Siamese names, “they are solid sound substantial American citizens.” Given the blacklist, even the kittens had to be politically above reproach.

Fifty years after an earlier campaign, Barcelona has finally banned bull fighting, just as Gypsy Rose Lee wanted.

Noralee Frankel is the author of Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee and Assistant Director, Women, Minorities, and Teaching at the American Historical Association.

Recent Comments

  1. bluetopazocean

    I’m with Gypsy – “unchic” is a great way to describe bull and cock fights, and in my humble opinion, “barbaric” works, too! Catalonia should be applauded for outlawing the bull fights.

  2. Cecile

    I never fail to be amazed at how very much Gypsy was a woman “ahead of her times.”

  3. HW

    This barbaric torture is finally coming to an end. I hope the rest of Spain follows suit. I wish that Mexicans would also view this as a barbaric ritual not accepted in the 21st. Century.
    If we could only hope.
    Its not that I worry about animals, I am worried about humnas turning into savages. We cannot go on tolerating behavior that clearly shows how debased we, humans, are.

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