IRVING KLAW COLLECTION: “Tempest Storm” (1950’s)

Storm was born Annie Blanche Banks in Eastman, Georgia. By the age of 20, she had already been twice married and divorced. She decided to head for Hollywood. Her beauty landed her work as a chorus girl, but her figure, combined with a magnetic stage personality, led her to a highly successful career in burlesque. Her professional debut was at El Rey Theater in Oakland, California. She adopted the stage name Tempest Storm about 1950 and changed it legally in 1957. In 1955, while working at the Tropics Nightclub, in Denver CO, Tempest visited the University of Colorado, Boulder, campus. All she took off was her mink coat, but she started a near-riot. She was married to Duke Ellington’s singer (and first black cowboy) Herb Jeffries.

Storm was a regular performer for many years at the EL REY, a burlesque theater in Oakland, California, as well as at clubs around the United States, including in Las Vegas. She was famous for her physical measurements (44DD-25-35) and her naturally red hair. She was featured in numerous men’s magazines and burlesque movies, including Russ Meyer’s French Peep Show (1950), Paris After Midnight (1951), Striptease Girl (1952), Irving Klaw’s Teaserama, (1955) (which also featured Bettie Page) and his Buxom Beautease (1956). She traveled extensively and did many performances in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada.

In 1953 she moved to Portland, Oregon and worked at the Star Theater. A few months later she moved over to the Capital Theater down the street after her then-husband John Becker bought it. The owner of the Star then brought Becker’s ex-wife, and rival burlesque star, Arabelle Andre to the Star to perform as “John’s Other Wife”. This sparked a “burlesque war” that made it into the pages of LIFE magazine on November 30, 1953.

In the late 1950s, her breasts – her “moneymakers” as she called them – were insured by Lloyds of London for one million dollars. She acted in several motion pictures both as herself and in a character role.

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