Monday, February 7, 2011

2011-02-04 RIP Tura Satana

Tura Satana, star of 1965 Russ Meyer movie Faster Pussy, Cat! Kill! Kill! and Burlesque Legend passed away on Friday, February 4, 2011, at 5pm PST in Reno.  She was 72 years old.  It was covered in the LA Times.

I was lucky enough to get to meet Tura the first year I went to the Burlesque Hall of Fame back in 2007.  She was an amazing woman who lead a fascinating life and had so much information to pass on to the next generation of burlesque performers. As many of you know I have been playing 20 Questions with some of the Burlesque Legends that have been willing to help out for my Burlesque History class.  She was one of the first Legends to be willing to respond to my request and I thought in honor of her life I would share her interview with the world.  I am so grateful I was able to do this interview with her.

Legend Interview with Tura Satana – June 26, 2008

Tura Satana, Miss Japan Beautiful

2.Where are you from?
Hokkaido, Japan

3. When did you perform?
From 1954 through 1978

4. Where did you perform?
All over the world, but mostly the U.S.A., on the burlesque circuit for about 15 yrs then in nightclubs and various supper clubs around the world.

5. Stage Name
Originally it was Devilon Satana, then I decided to use my real name, Tura Satana.

6. How did you get your stage name?
My agent decided that he liked my real name better and so did Elvis.

7. How were you discovered or how did you end up in burlesque?

Actually, I started out as a legitimate dancer in the Tropicana Club in Hollywood, Ca. One night one of the acts did show up and the boss Turk Prujan decided that I was his new dance star. I told him that I had never danced in front of an audience before and he said that he saw me dancing on the floor with a customer on night and knew that i could do it, so I did. I just did what the music made me feel and brought the house down.

8. What did you love most about being a burlesque performer?

the contact and rapport that I had with my audiences. I always made the want to come back and see me and watch me play with them. The audiences loved to watch the tassels go round and round.

9. Who inspired or taught you?
No one. I basically taught myself, but my mentor in burlesque as a lovely lady called Stunning Smith, the lady with the purple hair. She was the first one who told me that when I am out there on that stage, that all eyes are on me and that I was to keep them there. I did and she also told me that when I am on that stage, that I OWN IT SO USE IT. Remember that you have an audience all around you, not just in front of me.

10. What was your signature act or move?

My drum solo. It could last anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes and that I never lost a patron no matter how long it lasted, then I would die in the end.

11. What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment as a performer
When I became one of The 10 best undressed women of the 20th Century.

12. What was your favorite scandal (such as the under boob fiasco, etc… we’re not looking for rumors or trash talking other performs) that you were involved in?
Oh that is easy. When I first went work in Canada, I was told that I would have to sew my net bra together to cover my cleavage. I look at the official and at my breasts.
Are you kidding me? There is no way that I can cover all of this cleavage and how am I supposed to twirl my tassels? He looked at me and my bra, my boobs, my tassels and said ..Well you are going to have to try and something with them? I told him, why don't i just do one show with and one show without and you tell me if I am offensive in what I do on stage. So he stuck around for the first show which was a disaster looking to happen. My bra strap broke and came off, which brought the house down and the curtain. The next show he let me do my thing and I passed with flying colors. After that, the gals who didn't fondle themselves could get away with no bra.

13. …that you’d heard about?
Rumors that were spread about me by another performer. People found out they weren't true and joined me.

14. What was your most amusing costume malfunction and how did you deal with it?

It was the one in Canada with the bra, but the other was when one of my tassels kept flying off my right breast. No way could I get it to stick on. Finally, I just put it on my nose and walked off stage to standing ovation.

15. What was your favorite press clipping or headline?

It was a headline in the Honolulu Advertiser and read., LOCAL GAL MAKES GOOD. TURA SATANA STARS IN FPKK. I was not a local gal butt the Hawaiians had adopted me and loved me, so I was a local gal.

16. What do you feel was your biggest challenge as a performer?

Over coming racial prejudice. When I first started dancing, I was the only Japanes stripper around. There was no other, not even the Chinese gals were build like me and I carried a couple with me in my shows. I was unique and I was talented in the fact that I could hold my Audience.

17. What do you feel is the biggest challenge for burlesque performers today?

They have to stop limiting themselves and make sure that they acknowledge their audiences. If they can't keep their audience happy and entertained, they will lose them. Once you lose them, you can't get them back unless you do something really outrageous and that can get you arrested.

18. What was your most memorable moment in your burlesque career?

My first show in a burlesque theater in St. Louis Mo. After my first performance, Mr. Eddie Foy Jr. Walked down the aisle with 2 dozen long stem red roses as a tribute to my first performance and a memorable show. He loved all the acrobatics that I did in my routine.

19. Do you have a story you would like to share?

All I can say is that burlesque is like a family. At least, when I started to dance whe had chorus lines, Parade girls, house singers, top and second bananas (comics), beautifully groomed and
outfitted females walk out of that stage and stun the audiences with their talent. No screwing curtains, no riding poles, no writhing on the floors. They walked with elegance, they exuded sensual glamour and teased the audience. They knew that the emphasis was and is on the tease part, like when Lily St. Cyr worked, she teased and tantalized. Each of us has it in us to do this. Class is Class and there is no substitute.

20. What advice would you like to give neo-burlesque performers?

Just what I said above. learn your stage, acknowledge your audience and tease them with allure and class. Choose costumes that you know are appealing on you. My cheapest costume back in the 50's cost me $1800., but it got me the recognition that I wanted.

I hope that I have answered your questions and that they will help other performers to enhance and grown.

Tura Satana

To the right is a picture I took of Tura Satana and Renea'le Roux in Vegas back in 2007.  When Tura first met Renea she walked up to her and informed Renea that she looked like her.  She was an amazing woman who will be missed and the rhinestones will shine a little less brightly with without her around.

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