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Exotic Dancers
     I was 15 years old when bringing dates to dinner and dancing at the Blue Room and Fountain Lounge of the Roosevelt Hotel.
     Partying in New Orleans was just a natural part of life.  All business men did it.  Lunches at Mother’s, Kolb’s, the Bon Ton, Le Pub at the St. Charles Hotel, and many other places.
     But, Partying in the French Quarter was even better – Breakfast at Brennan’s for Mardi Gras Day and weekend occasions, lunch at La Louisiane, afternoons at the Absinth House, suppers at Antoine’s, evening dancing at Los Amigos, late hours at the Dream Room on Bourbon Street, or the Latin clubs on Decatur Street —  drinking, dining, dancing, laughing.  In my earlier years I learned all the Latin steps while dining and dancing at "La Lun."
     And as a young man in my teens, the engaging rapture of watching the beautiful Exotic Dancers —  Stormy at the French Opera House, Lilly Christine the Cat Girl at Prima’s 500 Club, Kitty West the Oyster Girl at the Casino Royale, Linda Brigette at the Sho-Bar, and many more delights to be had at still other favorite spots on the “Street.”
    The girls weren’t referred to as strippers.  

     That they were not.  They were "exotic dancers," who didn’t take off everything.  They were down to pasties and G-strings by the end of their dance, but never totally nude unless hiding behind feathered fans, or large blown up balls, or partially behind the closing curtain.

Cheri Layne
Dolores del Rey

Kitty West, the Oyster Girl (above) and Lilly Christine, the Cat Girl (below) were the first ones on the Strip to hold my attention.  
Many nights were spent watching them perform -- "just for me!"

I met Linda Brigette and her husband at the Sho-Bar.  When the show was over and the audience peeled off, I asked Linda's husband if I could dance with her to a song on the Juke Box.  He said, "Go to it!"
I thought she would be great -- but no -- she was a terrible dancer who couldn't follow.  All she wanted to do was shake and shimmer.  But how she could shimmer and shake.

    When the era of Erotic Dancers ended, night life in the Quarters was not the same for a number of years.  Not until Chris Owens slammed open her doors.
     Sol Owens, her husband, was always outside, not as a Barker, but one to pass the time with.  In joking fashion, I would often tell him how lucky he was and that I would like to have just one night with his wife.  He would smile and say, "Dan, my man, you would not find that as satisfying as you imagine."
     The club was billed as Chris Owens and the Boom Boom girls where several of the girls had been students of mine a few years before.  Chris's routine was a wonderful Latin style show with great music and lighting effects as she danced solo to several numbers, and then in a Finale with her mini-skirted Boom Boom girls.  Following the finale, the six girls would remain on the floor to pick out various men to dance on stage with.  It was just straight dancing, but it was a load of fun, particularly when I was usually one of the guys picked from the audience.  
     Eventually, Chris would call me up from her gazing fans to do a special dance number with her.  Although a number of years older than me, she would say, "And, now I want to have my former History teacher come up and dance with me -- let's give a hand to Professor Dan."  Chris was vibrant and youthful -- and a great and wonderful dancer.

     On occasions, when the show ended, one or the other of my former students would sneak me up to the second floor where the Boom Boom girls had separate apartments.  I soon learned that Sol Owens would rent the apartments out to the girls and deduct the rent from their pay checks and as a result, in short time the girls would end up owing more than what their income was.  I helped my favorite one by buying her out of bondage so that she could go back to school.  It wasn't long before she was back dancing in the Quarters.

Oh, Yes, Those were the days!

Dan Ellis Books

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