"Why shouldn't strippers have a hall of fame?" asks Jennze Lee, known on the indoor runways of America as the Bazoom Girl. "It's an art form, and it's as American as cowboys and Indians."
Well, if there's a hall of fame for pickle packers (St. Charles, Ill.), dog mushers (Knik, Alaska) and accountants (Columbus, Ohio), as well as for cowboys (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Indians (Tahlesuah, Okla.), then why not?
Actually, Miss Lee, now in her 40s, established an Exotic Dancers Hall of Fame in 1961 and more than 30 inductees have been presented the coveted half-statuette, the Fanny. Talk about immortality: The Fanny is a plaster likeness of Miss Lee.
The problem is that because of a lack of funds, the exotic dancers' shrine has never received the recognition she feels it deserves.
It was scheduled to be included in a four-volume set, "The Big Book of Halls of Fame," published by Jacques Cattell Press of Tempe, Ariz., but the projected series was halted indefinitely after the publication of one volume. (On sports. Exotic dancing was not classified as a sport.)
While the Baseball Hall of Fame is lavishly represented at Cooperstown, N.Y., all the strippers have is one small room in Miss Lee's home in Racho Palos Verdes, a suburb of Los Angeles, where sit trophies, photographs, posters, programs, news clippings and other memorabilia, such as her yearly Ten Best Undressed lists.
In fact, Hall of Fame member Chesty (a reported 73-32-36) Morgan probably would have trouble fitting inside her makeshift museum.
Still, the modest appearance of the gallery cannot diminish the achievement and milestone it recalls"
Miss Lee "immortalizing her boobs in cement" outside the Mayan Theater in 1969. ("Attention conventioneers, visiting firemen and swinging adults" a newspaper ad said the day of the event.)
Baby Lulu and Karla Flame picketing a topless bathing suit fashion show in Hollywood in 1961.
Liz Renay's nude run down Hollywood Boulevard in 1973. "Damn," says Miss Lee, shaking her head in admiration.
The strippers' convention at the Bel Air hotel in 1963 where, Miss Lee recalls: "The hotel people get pretty excited when Linda Doll - she was a girlfriend of Broderick Crawford - stated to do a striptease in the cloak room for the reporters."
The 1970 G-String Burnout at Miss Lee's new defunct Sassy Leasy Club in San Pedro, Calif. ("It was right across the street from the Todd Shipyards").
Miss Lee's collection of photos honors the greats of the profession: Sally Rand, (the legendary fan dancer arrested four times in one day at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair), Blaze Starr, Tempest Storm, Candy Barr, Leta Paul (Miss Striptease of Los Angeles), Tullah Hanley (who married a millionaire and later donated $4 million in art to museums), Tinker Bell, Narda ("my sister-in-law from Kansas City") and Rita Ravell, the Mexican spitfire ("she lives in Alaska now")
Miss Lee, also known as Miss 44 and Plenty More, says she developed her figure as a swimmer in high school in Kansas City, Kans. ("Ed Asner was in my graduation class.")
A historian herself, she once wrote for the Confidential Flash tabloid, filling her column with such tidbits as: "Jo Starr has been forbidden to appear at the Black bay in Bost. Licensing board took exception to fact she once was a boy . . ."
Miss Lee also has appeared in stage productions (including "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?"), movies (she has a part in the coming " Maericathon"), and, of course, courtrooms. In 1964 a judge acquitted her of lewd conduct in San Diego, ruling that her swimsuit fell off accidentally during a "water ballet" act.
Now she's occupied in the planning for this year's Exotic Dancers Hall of Fame convention, searching for a forum and a guest speaker.