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There were a few times that some patrons of my show got a little out of line, or heckled me, but those events were rare. It didn’t take me long to figure out what the bar’s bouncers were for.
When my show hit the bigger rooms in Vegas those things were all taken care of without me even knowing about it or in many cases I’d find out someone had been thrown out for drinking to much after the show was over. I was very lucky and had great fans, so as I said things like this were rare.
It took about 10 people when the act was in full gear in Vegas. I had a staff that ranged from a secretary, manager, stage hands, dancers, etc. Everyone pitched in to make the show a success.
As for where I lived when not performing, I owned a small (non-working) ranch outside of Phoenix. It was 10 acres with a house and pool, and we had 4 stall horses, a barn and a riding & training ring. I raised Morgan Horses. I rode them for pleasure but at one time I had a Road Manager who would ride them in the horse shows in the southwest. I had several Road Managers but only one of them showed the horses.
There actually was a brawl that broke out at the Golden Falcon in Ft. Lauderdale in the 60’s. It was late, almost closing time (2 AM) when a big hulk of a guy came over to me while I was playing. He grabbed both of my boobs and said, “Are these the things you’ve been talking about?”
After a second of being stunned by this guy, and after a few years on the road seeing things that went on, I managed to break his hold on my knockers and pushed him into a row of bar tables. Once he was down, I rammed the heel of my pump into his balls hard enough that he’d remember it. All that noise drew attention to what was going on and one guy who tried to help him up got punched in the face. After that, a shouting match broke out and it was a mess until the bouncers could break it up. After that happened, I couldn’t get a date in that town. I had earned the reputation of being a “Ball Buster!”
Wives were a whole different story and, for the most part, they didn’t mind my flirting with their husband a little. One night when I was playing in a New Jersey club, I took a break and a gentleman asked if he could buy me a drink. While I was sitting at the bar, enjoying his company, and the drink, I felt someone come up from behind me and in a split second this guy’s wife had her arm around my neck chocking me. Then I felt a knife touch my side. She pressed close to my ear and said “Back off or meet God, Bitch!” Needless to say, I scatterdoodled off the bar stool, said thanks for the drink, and got the hell away from her.
Boy, how dumb was I back then? I was green as a cucumber! As my career went on, I did pretty well avoiding those type of situations.
I did take the train on some occasions but I flew or drove most of the time. I loved traveling around the country and visiting so many great places and meeting so many wonderful fans.
My car broke down in some small towns a few times and that was a howl, trying to get the car fixed and get back on schedule. My touring schedule was pretty well worked out in advance and sometimes very tight. I was very lucky when traveling around our beautiful country.
It was my first big press back in the 1960’s. My manager had hired a public relations company and press agent in New York to get my name “out there” (in the press). I was appearing on Broadway at the Round Table Club opening for Joe Williams, a marvelous singer and entertainer, and a lovely gentleman. All the big press people were at the Round Table Club on opening night, including the most widely read and popular columnist Walter Winchell and Dorothy Killgallen, as well as various radio and recording company executives.
It was a great night … the audience loved me and Joe was very solicitous of me, (after all it was his audience) and he said some very nice things when warming up the audience and breaking the ice before my appearance. I had a wonderful time that night and the results of that performance opened up new opportunities for me in New York and on the East Coast.
During the next few months I continued performing in New York and eventually went on tour, playing dates around the country. One day I was told by my press people that they had arranged a telephone interview with a writer from “Time” magazine! “Time” had a huge readership during the ’60s and it was a big deal when they asked me for an interview. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity.
I was so excited about the interview. Someone with “Time” had seen the show and now wanted to interview me. A phone interview was set up which I thought went very well. I was thrilled! A month or so went by and then the article broke.
Well, you wouldn’t believe what “Time” had said about me in the article! I was shocked and I could hardly believe it! The article said things about my show I couldn’t believe. It said that I insulted my audience. It implied that my audience was stupid, going on to say, “After all, what kind of people would follow this woman around from show to show in buses with ‘Knockers Up’ banners proudly displayed on the sides of the buses?” At the time, I had a very loyal group of fans who leased buses that were filled to capacity, proudly displaying “Knockers Up” banners and following my show tour. It was very gratifying to have such loyal fans and I will always love each of them for what they did for my career in the early days.
After reading the article I was in shock and cried for days. I yelled at my press agent and fired my public relations firm. I was so young, so shocked and so unprepared for an attack of like this by the press, especially in light of the way my career was soaring to new heights.
After I processed what had happened and calmed down you can believe me when I tell you that I learned a great lesson, one that I would have to learn one way or the other about the press. Granted I learned it the hard way, but I have come to believe that learning about the way the press works is best learned with a hard lesson like the one I experienced with “Time.” Trust me when I tell you that over the years not all the press I received in those early days was “precious and adorable.” A women doing material that was breaking down the barriers and talking about sex was fair game for every reporter who had a typewriter. Some of my press was obviously good, thus leading to my successful career, but some was hard to take and I learned a valuable lesson when the “Time” article broke: Toughen up and learn to tune it out, or get out of the business! Click here to read the infamous review “Comedians: Barnyard Girl” as published in “Time” January 11, 1963.
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