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Blaze Starr recalls burlesque era in new film

Former star of The Block is living the quiet life in W.Va.

May 15, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Once the Queen of Baltimore burlesque, Fannie Belle Fleming — better known as Blaze Starr — has been living the quiet life in rural West Virginia for more than 30 years now, far away from the blinking neon signs, barkers and strippers of The Block.

The Block was her venue, where she reigned supreme for more than 20 years. She is still fondly remembered by generations of gents, sans wife or girlfriend, traveling salesmen and servicemen all out for a night on the town, and for the rose petals that she gently blew across her ample bosom to admiring audiences from the runway of her Two O'Clock Club.

"Honey, I loved it but everything has its season," Starr said in a telephone interview the other day, not far from Twelve Pole Creek, W.Va., where she grew up in a family with 11 children.

Starr, who left home at age 15 in 1947, boarded a bus for Washington and went to work as a waitress in a doughnut shop.

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After a friend took her to the Quonset Hut, a club near Quantico, Va., she began working as a stripper.

She told The Washington Post in a 1989 interview that the first time she appeared on stage she "burned with embarrassment, not shame."

"When she first took her brassiere off, a riot of noise rose from the audience, shaking dust from the ceiling, rattling the electric lights. All she had to do was move a little and the thunder boomed," the Post said.

She made her debut on the runway of the Two O'Clock Club in 1950.

"I still dream about it sometimes. I'm dressed and getting ready to go on stage and I can't find my gloves," said Starr, with a slight laugh, who just celebrated her 78th birthday.

After hanging up her G-string and pasties in 1975, Starr moved to a home in Oakland, Carroll County, where she launched a second career designing and making jewelry.

Until moving back home to an 80-acre family compound about 17 years ago to care for her mother and a brother, both of whom have since died, Starr was a regular at Carrolltowne Mall in Eldersburg to sell her jewelry. Today, she and her brother, Ben, sell the jewelry through her website.

Several weeks ago, Starr was mentioned in a New York Times review of "Behind the Burly Q," a documentary chronicling the history of burlesque that was written and directed by Leslie Zemeckis.

Zemeckis is married to Robert Zemeckis, the Hollywood director, screenwriter and producer who won Oscars for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Forrest Gump."

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