Photo credit: Sheri-Lynn Maeda.
My segment comes on right after Tyne Daly sings at about the 15 minute mark.
The Book: MAMA ROSE'S TURN: The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother
Hers is the show business saga you think you already know--but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Rose Thompson Hovick, mother of June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee, went down in theatrical history as "The Stage Mother from Hell" after her immortalization on Broadway in Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Yet the musical was 75 percent fictionalized by playwright Arthur Laurents and condensed for the stage. Rose's full story is even more unusual.
Born fearless on the North Dakota prairie in 1891, Rose Thompson had a kind father and a gallivanting mother who sold lacy finery to ladies of the evening. She became an unhappy teenage bride whose marriage yielded two entrancing daughters, Louise and June. When June was discovered to be a child prodigy in ballet, capable of dancing en pointe by the age of three, Rose, without benefit of any theatrical training, set out to create onstage opportunities for her magical baby girl--and succeeded.
Rose followed her own star and created two more in dramatic and colorful style: "Baby June" became a child headliner in vaudeville, and Louise grew up to be the well-known burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. The rest of Mama Rose's remarkable story included lots of love affairs, stints running a pick-up joint, drinking a bit too much of her own bathtub gin, and wild attempts to extort money from Gypsy and June--all of which didn't make it into the script of GYPSY. Here, at last, is the rollicking, wild saga that never made it to the stage.