This is How You Burlesque… Lottie The Body Graves

Serena Doherty May 30, 2016 Burlesque Icons
Lottie The Body Graves

Lottie The Body Graves is an American burlesque legend known for her amazing figure and dancing skills. We could all learn a thing or two from this wonderful burlesque performer…

This is How You Burlesque… Lottie The Body Graves

Burlesque dancer, Lottie The Body Graves, was born in Syracuse, New York. She was classically trained as a dancer and began her career at 17.

She moved to Detroit in 1960 and her professional dancing made her stand out against other burlesque performers. By the 1960s, burlesque’s popularity had faded. To glean more attention dancers were being asked to show more, mingle with audiences and focus on art less.

Lottie Graves brought class to the movement which gained a lot of deserved attention and acclaim. Her glamorous life saw her mingle with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday.

Allegedly her time in Cuba, alongside her Harlem Globetrotter husband Goose Tatum, saw her become friendly with Fidel Castro. No insinuations intended, we assure you.

Sparkly Devil

Sarah Klein, aka burlesque performer Sparkly Devil, described Lottie The Body Graves in the Metro Times. She said, “They called her The Body.

“She was built like a double order of pancakes — sweet and stacked. The only light in the room bathed her as she emerged from a thick velvet curtain, incandescent, platinum hair piled high on her head.

“As the band struck up a slow, seductive wail, her intricately beaded gown glimmered with each step. By the end of the tune, the dress was gone, and she wore little more than heels, a few strategically placed rhinestones, and a smile.”

Martha Reeves

Motown legend Martha Reeves was also a neighbour and friend of Lottie Graves. She told Sparkly Devil, “She held her own. Lottie had skills that were superior to all of her competitors. She outdanced them all.

“She had body movements that only she could pull off, and very elaborate costumes. And I know she can still dance, and does a high kick that shows a lot of young ladies down.”

Lottie The Body Graves

Whilst, Lottie Graves herself said, “Exotic dancing was classy.” She added, “It was the top of the shelf, the Champagne of dance, with some of the most gorgeous women in the world, like Tempest Storm.

“You were representing yourself as an artist — it was show business!”

Lottie Graves’ story is of one woman’s talent affecting a genre. For that we salute her! Watch Lottie The Body Graves (10:33) honoured in the Legends Walk of Fame at the 54th annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend alongside such greats as Dee Milo:

Check out This is How You Burlesque… Gwendoline Lamour.

(Main image from Queerlesque Cutie)