This was burlesque

Ann Corio waiting to go on stageAnn Corio waiting to go on stage.

With the Combat Zone down to just two clubs, it's easy to forget that Boston was once a world-famous hub of burlesque and exotic dancing. Men - and women - came from all over to see tassel twirling and fan dancing - and acts that included everybody from comedian Fred Allen to pre-championship boxer Rocky Marciano. Harvard men rarely graduated without taking in a show.

The end was nigh in 1953, when the Watch and Ward Society got Boston Police to shut down the Old Howard, during a performance by three dancers, notably Irma the Body. The theater, which had opened in the 1840s as a Millerite church, never re-opened. And when it caught on fire in 1961, the city rushed in with bulldozers to tear the place down, to make way for the new Government Center (the Old Howard sat on what is now the plaza behind 1 Center Plaza).

But until then, there was Ann Corio. Although not a native - she was from Hartford - Corio became known as the ultimate Old Howard dancer. Photographer Leslie Jones captured her and other dancers at work in the 1930s and 1940s.

Corio in her dressing room.Corio in her dressing room, September, 1936.

Corio on stage, September, 1936.Corio on stage, September, 1936.

Victoria's Secret angels have nothing on this unidentified dancer.Victoria's Secret "angels" have nothing on this unidentified dancer.

Check out her fans.Check out her fans.

Swirling dancer.Swirling dancer.

Shaw crossing Tremont with her pet lamb.Sweet Susan Shaw crossing Tremont with her pet lamb in 1941.

In the 1960s, Corio put on her own burlesque revival show, "This Was Burlesque" and put out two records on the theme of "how to strip for your husband." She died in 1999.

Photos from the BPL Nightlife collection. Posted under this Creative Commons license.

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Comments

You gotta be kidding me!!

A: I'm going to hazard a guess here and say that you aren't contributing much if at all monetarily to keeping UHub running so why are you taking the content so personally?
B: The Combat Zone is just as much a part of the historical fabric of Boston as anything else. While I'm sure most native Bostonians would like to put that era behind us, history is history and it's nice to take a peek, shall we say, back every once in a while on what used to be.

The stories and then sum+

My grandfather was a habitue of the theatres and entertainment of 'ole Scollay Square for many years. He was according to my mother and siblings frequently in-town at the 'theatre'.

He would shock his sister during holiday banter with his tales on Fanny Brice, Sally Rand, and Ann Corio and other girls of theatre. His old-maid sister would always ask, "What, where they wearing, James?" His response, "Fans, bubbles and boas."

It wasn't till I was pre-adolescent, that I began to fathom 'the naughty exploits of my grandfather.' He was married at 16.