Mama Rose's Turn
The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother
Publication Year: 2013
Hers is the show business saga you think you already know--but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Rose Thompson Hovick, mother of June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee, went down in theatrical history as "The Stage Mother from Hell" after her immortalization on Broadway in Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Yet the musical was 75 percent fictionalized by playwright Arthur Laurents and condensed for the stage. Rose's full story is even more striking.
Born fearless on the North Dakota prairie in 1892, Rose Thompson had a kind father and a gallivanting mother who sold lacy finery to prostitutes. She became an unhappy teenage bride whose marriage yielded two entrancing daughters, Louise and June. When June was discovered to be a child prodigy in ballet, capable of dancing en pointe by the age of three, Rose, without benefit of any theatrical training, set out to create onstage opportunities for her magical baby girl--and succeeded.
Rose followed her own star and created two more in dramatic and colorful style: "Baby June" became a child headliner in vaudeville, and Louise grew up to be the well-known burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. The rest of Mama Rose's remarkable story included love affairs with both men and women, the operation of a "lesbian pick-up joint" where she sold homemade bathtub gin, wild attempts to extort money from Gypsy and June, two stints as a chicken farmer, and three allegations of cold-blooded murder--all of which was deemed unfit for the script of Gypsy. Here, at last, is the rollicking, wild saga that never made it to the stage.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication
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Garden Theater on the day after Christmas in 1974. I had just been lucky enough to see my very first Broadway show. It was as fabulous an intro-duction to the theater as any child interested in Broadway could ever have hoped for: a last-minute opportunity to see musical comedy genius Angela Lansbury star as Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother, Rose, in the first revival of Gypsy,...
Prologue: The All-American Original
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...night audience, at New York City’s Broadway Theater on the pleasant spring evening of May 21, 1959, had every reason to be nervous. The team was about to make theatrical history, but certainly didn’t know so yet—where Broadway shows are concerned, nothing is ever certain anyway. All the cre-ative team knew at the moment was that this show, Gypsy—so loosely based ...
PART ONE: HOSPITALITY
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Chapter 1: Resilience on the Prairie
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Their bright outlook was their main talent, and they would take it all the way to the bank in America. The family members that reached American shores first set a precedent that would influence Rose’s mother, Anna Egle Thompson, Rose herself, and, much later, Rose’s daughters: Rose Louise, the one who would become Gypsy Rose Lee, and Ellen June, who would be ...
Chapter 2: Wild Prairie Rose
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...name in honor of Rose Egle, Anna’s beloved sister who recently had died from rheumatic fever. The name also honored Rosina Egle, Lorenze’s moth-er, who had been Rose Egle’s namesake—but perhaps by the time this new Rose came along, Rosina was but a faded memory. Her middle name was a North Dakota had been admitted to the union on November 2, 1889. The ...
Chapter 3: The Unvanquished Seattle Schoolgirl
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...tober and stayed for a while back in Farmington, visiting all of her friends and family members and shrewdly checking on her building, which she was still renting out. She was the one who, unsubstantiated family legend would have it, urged Anna to put little Rose, her own daughter’s namesake, into a There is no evidence to support the claim that Rose went to a Catholic ...
PART TWO: ROSE: THE WOMAN
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Chapter 4: Hovick v. Hovick
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Jack. He was born on August 6, 1886, in the town of Crookston, Minnesota, located on the opposite side of the state from Farmington, near the North Dakota border and close to Rose’s birthplace of Wahpeton. Both Jack and Rose had moved to Seattle when they were young children. Their Minne-sota and North Dakota origins immediately gave them something in com-...
Chapter 5: The Baby Stands on Her Toes
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...they wish they had taken themselves believe they are giving their offspring a gift. In 1914, Rose was only twenty-three years old. She was a young-minded twenty-three, still a bit too interested in theater and films, and she had enrolled gorgeous yet pudgy little Louise—the child who had won the healthy baby contest when she was only a year old—in a ballet class in West ...
Chapter 6: Madam Hovick: The Developer of Children
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...base once again. Back to Seattle, June “Hovig,” as she was erroneously listed in the program, was cast to play a boy, Little Billy, in a show called The Netat the Wilkes Theater. The plot centered on artists and a doctor at the De-tention Hospital for Criminals in London; where June’s role fit in isn’t clear. A reviewer nevertheless praised the child’s “well-modulated voice” and ...
Chapter 7: The Act Gets Curbed
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...miserable months of his life during January 1923. First his eldest daughter, Mina, passed away far too early. Both Mina and Belle had been extremely sick with an illness that was almost certainly contagious, most likely a vi-cious strain of influenza. Their condition became dire. Anna Thompson proceeded to Venice, California, to nurse her two daughters through it. ...
Chapter 8: Dainty Bolshevik
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Gordon had left a few times before, but he’d always previously come back. Not this time. After the latest and worst round of fights, Gordon was gone for good. Rose initially remained hopeful that he would return, an indication she had never meant the harsh words that led to his exit. The final argument between Gordon and Rose had taken place in a hotel in De-...
Chapter 9: Half a Dozen Junes
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...the act was gone. Rose and Louise were reeling from the rapid-fire events of the last twenty-four hours, but before they could do anything, including think, they needed a driver. They couldn’t abandon their car in Kansas and return to the West Coast without it. So Rose sent a cable to a trustwor-thy boy who had formerly been in their act, Henry Elias of Brooklyn, New ...
Chapter 10: Front and Center
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Bagdad sparked new money-saving ideas in Rose and Louise. Rose came to the conclusion that the Hollywood Blondes troupe, which was doing rather well again, could do even better, saving a lot of the money they were shelling out for hotel rooms. It was Louise who came up with the idea of purchasing a tent, an idea pronounced “inspirational.” She rose to the oc-...
Chapter 11: Bathtub Gin
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...the legend depicted later in the musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable, pretty much know what happened next. She was a hit at Minsky’s, of course. But Louise didn’t stop there. Louise had become Gypsy Rose Lee, and she would never stop anywhere ever again. Ultimately, she conquered the most significant She was stately and gorgeous but also uproariously funny. She was well ...
Chapter 12: The Malevolent Cipher
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A family conference took place in 1935 in Gypsy Rose Lee’s I.scrving Place apartment bathroom. Gypsy soaked in the tub, getting ready for a party. Rose sat scrunched up on a little wicker stool. June was situated atop Gypsy’s fur-covered toilet seat lid. Rose announced that she wanted to June considered this proposal out of the question. She had wanted and ...
Chapter 13: Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hovick
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...off to somebody—anybody, really—would enhance her image with the pub-lic. Making her over into a wholesome package was already an uphill battle, given the public’s inability to get over her past. Letting her remain single, in the eyes of the publicity mavens anyway, would only make matters worse. The studio did not really care whether or not getting married at this point ...
Chapter 14: Hot Soup
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Rose’s trip was a mistake, of course. Going to California unin-vited did not help mend the frayed relationship with Gypsy. Confrontation Nevertheless, Gypsy was worried about her mother. Rose was bringing a woman along to California with whom she had recently taken up romanti-cally. During the 1930s it was always possible that Rose could be arrested ...
Chapter 15: The Legal Debacle Follies
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...court in Manhattan for trumped-up “non-support proceedings.”If there was ever a daughter who did not deserve to have such an ac-tion brought against her, it was Gypsy Rose Lee. She had just handed Rose $3,900 toward her new house in the town of Valley Cottage. She also gave her mother a sizable allowance, supporting her in fine style, especially at a ...
Chapter 16: West Coast Whirlwind
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Rose had no idea that while she had been caught in the q.scuagmireof a minor war over Patricia Donovan’s clothing, diary, and personal pa-pers, out in Hollywood Gypsy had been seeing Otto Preminger, a cultured Austro-Hungarian movie director. He was the father of Gypsy’s unborn child. Otto was a Viennese Jew who had already been extremely lucky. He ...
Chapter 17: Bed Rest and Blackmail
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I.sct was as if Belle had been let out of j.scail. She opened her little souvenir shop at picturesque Copalis Beach, Washington, and began mak-ing a go of it. She called the store Betty Thornton Souvenirs, since Betty was her preferred nickname. Only the immediate family still called her Belle.Belle was also finally out of the miniscule house where she’d cared for ...
Chapter 18: One Last Laugh
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...dren’s camp again, as unbelievable as that may seem. But Rose was Rose. Money was her thing, and reopening the camp would bring in additional income. Or at least, that’s what Rose led everyone to believe. It may have been closer to the truth to say that she certainly did love money, but she loved being active, too. Opening another little camp session would allow ...
PART THREE: ROSE THE LEGEND
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Chapter 19: Gypsy, A Musical Fable
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By 1957, the story of Rose, Louise, and June was on the New Y.scork Times bestseller list. Gypsy did not need to concern herself with her moth-er’s angst at being portrayed in print or on the stage any longer. And if, as June reported, Rose really had issued a deathbed curse on Gypsy, it didn’t worry her oldest daughter enough to prevent her from writing a book about ...
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The following are updates on Rose’s family members and friends:Descendants of the Thompson, Egle, and Herber families live all over the United States. Many of them strayed over the years from their original home bases in Luana, Iowa, or Farmington, Minnesota. Quite a few of the A few of the buildings that were reconstructed after the Great Farming-...
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...that almost without exception, every person I contacted for assistance with Rose’s story came through with flying colors. Most even went beyond the call of duty. Thank you for not only assisting me with this book, but also for The first kudos go to my agent, Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency, who didn’t hesitate to take a chance on a first-time author, and my publisher, ...
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If Rose’s daughter June really was born on November 8, 1913, Rose made a speedy recovery. She was the witness to her sister Mina’s second marriage a week later on November 14. As an adult, June believed she was born in 1912. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.A stunning Rose Thompson Hovick (ca. 1910) in a white hat that may have been created by her mother, Anna. Courtesy of the Gypsy Rose Lee Archive....
Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2013