Last week I discussed Portland’s first female mayor, Dorothy McCullough Lee, as part of sharing my research on my Vice in the Rose City essay. Tonight, I bring you Tempest Storm (yes, the Tempest Storm) and the time she spent in Portland.
Perhaps the most famous burlesque performer was Temptest Storm, who moved to Portland in 1953 shortly after her marriage to John Becker.
The move was to escape Becker’s ex-wife, another burlesque star, Arabella Andrea. Storm opened The Capitol Theatre, which she bought for $15,000 and spent a few thousand more fixing it up. But the move to Portland did not get Arabella out of their hair. She moved to Portland and began performing at a rival burlesque house, the Star, which billed her as John’s Other Wife. Not content, and convinced Becker married Storm before his divorce with her was over, Arabella then went as far as to come to Storms home; “One night, the doorbell rang, and Johnny opened the door. There stood his ex-wife with a glass in her hand. She had threatened many times to pour acid on my face, so I was hysterical when she threw the contents of the glass on me. It turned out that the glass held nothing but water.”
Storm’s husband had Arabella arrested and they asked for her to be placed into a mental hospital. When that failed, Arabella sued Storm and Becker for $50,000 for false arrest. The group eventually settled out of court, paying Arabella and her attorney $1,500 each. But this settlement was not made before Life magazine got a hold of the story and ran with the headline of “Burlesque Wives War in Portland”. And so ended Tempest Storm’s Portland experience, they moved to San Fransisco shortly after the settlement.
At 81 years old, Tempest Storm is alive and well and still performs in Las Vegas. And her cult following has not faded. She is continually an inspiration to women seeking to move into the world of burlesque.
Sources: Temptest Storm: The Lady is a Vamp, 1987 and Life Magazine, November 30, 1953.
My overall research for my essay is coming to a close. I am trying to sort out the details, since there are quite a few stories that don’t add up. The trip to California and holiday at Disneyland I am hoping won’t slow me down.
UPDATE: To read my completed thesis, go to my About page for a download.