This post idea has been brewing in my mind for sometime, and given the Devil/Satan theme, what better time of the year than Halloween?!?!
When most people think of Satan’s Angel or The Devil’s Mistress, in conjunction with burlesque, they immediately think of the lovely Angel Walker of fire Tassel fame. She is by far the most famous dancer to use either moniker, but I was surprised to find that she was not the only dancer to have used these names.
That names, phrases, costumes or acts have been used before, in no way detracts from those that use them later. That is the beauty of burlesque, and other art-forms, to shape and build what has come before into something that is uniquely yours. That is where the talent, and inventiveness , of the performer shines-through! So without further delay I give you:
SATAN’S ANGELS & the DEVIL’S MISTRESSES
Angel Walker’s burlesque career began when she entered, and won, an amateur strip contest at the Moulin Rouge night club. From there she began performing in other local clubs under the stage names: Satin Angel, Tassel Tossin’ Angel and Angel the Body to name a few. But the fiery moniker Satan’s Angel, which she began using in the early 1960s, perfectly complemented what would become her signature act — twirling tassels set aflame. Angel has recently retired from performing, but still makes tassels and teaches the delicate art of fire-tassel twirling.
I purchased a large group of photos and papers from the Rivoli burlesque theater in Seattle, WA — which is no longer standing. It had originally opened as the State Movie Theater, but in 1939 the theater changed its name to Rivoli and reopened as a vaudeville venue. During its burlesque heyday the owner was A.L. (Al) Meakin and his wife, Violet Capellaro, was the backstage and office manager. Violet had been a burlesque dancer herself, and performed under the name Marvan. Violet – or who ever organized the front office paperwork – kept wonderfully detailed files on the dancers that performed at the theater. The files included photos, flyers, promotional packets and in some cases even letters from agents. One of the files I purchased was for the woman below who danced under the name Satan’s Angel. The file included a 1954 letter written by Marty Whyte, her agent, describing her as a talented tassel twirler, who did a ‘breast control’ number, and a bubble act featuring a bubble machine and colored lights.
Finally, I recently found this stunning photo of Patti Wayne in a devil costume. Patti is more commonly known for performing under the moniker ‘The Wall Street Playgirl’, but apparently, when donning her devil garb she used ‘The Devil’s Mistress’.
Though these three women share the common thread of a name, you will have to agree they are all distinctly unique performers. After all, I think we all have to admit, it is difficult to image our modern day Satan’s Angel doing something as quaint as a bubble routine with colored lights!! Seriously though, I thought these three performers showcased the idea that burlesque, like all art, evolves with time. Just because something has been done before, does not mean that it can not be re-imagined and born anew.