Gypsy Rose Lee made striptease an art—by never really taking it all off.
Her career, which began with a benefit performance for the Knights of Pythias in her native Seattle, Wash., at age 4, spanned one of the brightest eras of vaudeville, burlesque, motion pictures and legitimate theater.
Born Rose Louise Hovick, she was the older sister of actress June Havoc, who dominated her early days in show business. Gypsy Rose appeared as "second banana" in vaudeville acts featuring Baby June as the star.
Her early struggles for her own identity as much as for fame and independence are familiar to millions, having been recounted in the book, stage musical and movie versions of "Gypsy."
Gypsy's art was burlesque—but it was art, so she maintained, because she kept the crowd entertained and titillated without removing much more than her gloves.
Her big New York break came in 1931 at Billy Minsky's Republic Theater, where she was held over for 12 weeks by popular demand—a record never equaled in the house.
Her first book, "The G-String Murders," had a burlesque-mystery slant and became a motion picture starring Barbara Stanwyck.
Her other books included "Mother Finds a Body," and "Gypsy, a Memoir." She also wrote a play, "The Naked Genius," which starred Joan Blondell.
"It's not what you do," she said. It's the way you do it—stripping, or writing, or talking . . . or just breathing. Do it with an air, and never admit you're scared."