It’s 1948, a sultry Los Angeles night. Step through the doors of an old-time burlesque house, escaping the raucous, insistent
voice of the barker outside. Scents from the lobby—popcorn, cigar smoke, disinfectant, cola—mingle with the moldy aroma
of old theater carpet. Pass through the musty curtains into the theater itself and smell the stale muscatel bottles fallen from
hands of slumbering drunks in the back row, always clattering to the floor and rolling forward when the girl on stage is
performing her most captivating moves.
Grab a seat near the front, along the runway thrusting into the seating area. From here, you can get the best view of the
stage. Ease back, put your hat in your lap and wait for the curtain to rise.
Sitting through the candy-butcher’s pitch, your attention is diverted when you see a pale, dark-haired young man slip
through the side curtain carrying some sheet music, his actions not quick but directed, practiced. He spreads the penciled
manuscript paper out before him, and has time to peer over his cigarette at the sheet as the candy-butcher shuffles back up
the aisle. The young man strikes the first jubilant chords bringing on the chorus girls. His expression changes to a faint,
prideful smile as the next girl peeks through the curtain ready to go into her act. The lights dim and a single blue spot is
thrown on the stage.
A fleshy young blonde begins her slow strip as the organist segues into “Hymn a L’Amour.” Her movements are at once
girlishly innocent and irresistibly sensual. You notice the two of them, dancer and musician, your gaze shifting from her
undulating flesh to his Svengali gaze, watching her, his hands moving with her across the keys, controlling her from the
darkness.As a burlesque dancer, “… she was what the other girls called a ‘chain-dragger,’ which meant she was slow to take her
clothes off,” says Anton. “The polite term was ‘exotic’ – an orgasmic act as opposed to the more frenetic, fast-stepping
routines. Most of the men liked it – some fell asleep but most liked the tease. For the girls who wanted to be artistes, that
meant being a chain-dragger.”