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Feuding Fan Dancers

Faith Bacon, Sally Rand, and the Golden Age of the Showgirl


List Price: $16.95

October 8, 2019 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 336 pages | ISBN 9781640092655
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Leslie Zemeckis continues to discover the forgotten feminist histories of the golden age of entertainment, turning her sights on the lost stories of Sally Rand and Faith Bacon—icons who each claimed to be the inventor of the notorious fan dance

Some women capture our attention like no others. Faith Bacon and Sally Rand were beautiful blondes from humble backgrounds who shot to fame behind a pair of oversize ostrich fans, but with very different outcomes. Sally Rand would go on to perform for the millions who attended the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, becoming America’s sweetheart. Faith Bacon, the Marilyn Monroe of her time—once anointed the “world’s most beautiful woman”—would experience the dark side of fame and slip into drug use.

It was the golden age of American entertainment, and Bacon and Rand fought their way through the competitive showgirl scene of New York with grit and perseverance. They played peek-a-boo with their lives, allowing their audiences to see only slivers of themselves. A hint of a breast? A forbidden love affair? They were both towering figures, goddesses, icons. Until the world started to change. Little is known about who they really were, until now.

Feuding Fan Dancers tells the story of two remarkable women during a tumultuous time in entertainment history. Leslie Zemeckis has pieced together their story and—nearly one hundred years later— both women come alive again.

About Leslie Zemeckis

LESLIE ZEMECKIS is the author of Goddess of Love Incarnate: The Life of Stripteuse Lili St. Cyr and Behind the Burly Q, the definitive history of burlesque. She wrote, produced, and directed the critically acclaimed documentary based on the book, which has been championed by USA Today and The New Yorker. Her most recent documentary is Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer. She is an actress and filmmaker.


Praise for Feuding Fan Dancers

“Detailed, deeply researched and compelling.” —Chicago Tribune

“Fascinating and page-turning dive into the lives of Bacon and Rand . . . A meticulous, behind-the-scenes analysis into the intersection of show-business and femininity in post-Depression America . . . Here, finally, is the story of these two largely forgotten women.” —Topanga Journal

“Feminist histories of the Golden Age of entertainment, particularly those that have gone underreported, take the spotlight in a large amount of Leslie Zemeckis’s creative work. My, how it shines ever so brightly in the author-actress-filmmaker’s latest endeavor.” —Palm Springs Life

“Compelling story of two burlesque icons during the 1930s and ’40s and their nail-biting rivalry.” —Giana León, Santa Barbara Magazine

“Meticulously researched . . . It is a story of fragile beauty, savage ambition.” —Burlesque Beat

“By focusing on two well-known practitioners of an art that has been making quite the comeback this decade . . . Leslie Zemeckis offers a keen look at a facet of live entertainment history . . . She posits a convincing case for the significance of ‘fan dancing’ and its permutations within the era in which it seriously flourished, delighting multitudes.” —TheaterJones

“Breathtaking . . . A joy to read.” —Hollywood Yesterday

“A briskly told story of two women questing for fame.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this love letter to performers of silent films and the vaudeville circuit, Zemeckis (Goddess of Love Incarnate) takes a deep dive into the hardscrabble lives of two of the most famous performers of the 1930s . . . Zemeckis brings to vivid life these two performers in an exciting era.” —Publishers Weekly

“Zemeckis brilliantly captures an era long vanished, filled with stage mothers, slimy producers, devious cons, and classic mobsters that will fascinate fans of the showgirl era, theater history, and early- to mid-20th-century showbiz.” —Library Journal

“Zemeckis (Goddess of Love Incarnate, 2015) is a tenacious historian of the lost days of burlesque.” —Booklist

Feuding Fan Dancers is a vivid account of the highs and lows of two of America’s greatest performers. Leslie Zemeckis repositions the often misunderstood and overlooked lives of female pioneers in the entertainment industry to the iconic status they have always deserved. You will have a hard time putting this book down.” —Ari Seth Cohen, creator of Advanced Style

“Zemeckis has once again given us a fascinating history of entertainment, a bold story of two brave women and the origins of the fan dance. A page-turning time machine to another era. Don’t miss it.” —Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge

“In Feuding Fan Dancers, Leslie Zemeckis artfully brings to life the rivalry between two of the best known showgirls of the early twentieth century, Faith Bacon and Sally Rand. With her trademark skill, wit, meticulous research, and eye for detail, Zemeckis opens the door to a world that is fun, fierce, and unforgettable.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

Praise for Goddess of Love Incarnate

“The Goddess of Love Incarnate is a thorough and captivating account of a fascinating woman. Lili comes alive not only through Zemeckis’ words, but also the stunning photographs included in the book. Her story reminds us to live life wholly and in the moment, because a life well lived has both tragedy and fulfillment at its peak.” —Susan Cohn Rockefeller, Huffington Post

“Leslie Zemeckis has written a definitive biography on the life of the legendary burlesque star Lili St. Cyr (1917-1999) and also an informative insight into the history of the times that helped shape and create the star. Goddess of Love Incarnate is thoroughly researched and documented (the end notes run more than 20 pages), you will feel like you’ve danced in Lili’s heels, sipped champagne with her onboard a luxury liner to Europe, and heard the applause of the standing room only audiences . . . Leslie Zemeckis brings a wealth of burlesque history to Goddess of Love Incarnate; a fascinating tale of love and life lived in front of the spotlight. There is something in this book for everyone including how to succeed in burlesque by working your beautiful ass off!” —Burlesque Beat

“The book is well-written and loaded with photos.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With tireless detail, Zemeckis brings an enigmatic and forgotten star back in the limelight and raises tough questions about beauty, sex, womanhood, and success in this fascinating, lavishly (and racily) illustrated biography.” —Booklist

“In her dazzling new book, Leslie Zemeckis captures the life and times of one of burlesque’s true legends. A magnificent portrait of a complicated woman who once captured the fascination of America.” —Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

“I remember hearing my mother, who had seen many beautiful women working for my father, saying that Lili St. Cyr had the most beautiful body of any woman on stage. She did indeed.” —Barbara Walters

“What’s most resonant in Leslie Zemeckis’s biography of Lili St. Cyr is how utterly human this Goddess of Love truly was. This is the story of a disciplined artist, a deeply generous woman, a girl who loved and lost (and loved and lost again and again), and a lady committed to living a determined life. This book, like its subject, is seductive and absolutely captivating.” —Jill Alexander Essbaum, New York Times bestselling author of Hausfrau

“Ah, Lili St. Cyr! Finally, climbing beyond Gypsy Rose Lee we arrive at the glories of the exquisite Lili St. Cyr, the stripper who dressed, the classy woman who stripped, and who, with her movie-star beauty, sparkling glamour, and poignant vulnerability, was the real Beauty among the stars of the glorious Golden Age of burlesque. With her erudition, passion, and most of all love, Leslie Zemeckis has done her subject proud.” —Toni Bentley, bestselling author of Sisters of Salome and The Surrender

Praise for Behind the Burly Q

“Charming . . . often entertaining . . . The present-day interviews with these women are a delight and also poignant, partly because of the contrast between their older and younger selves, though mostly because of the lives they lived . . . It’s great that she immortalized these women.” —Manohla Dargis, New York Times

“The hefty book . . . allows Zemeckis to go beyond the first-person accounts of the movie and get into the social history that led burlesque to evolve from a satirical theatrical format into the kind of activity that many modern culture-lovers think belongs in a strip club.”—Time Magazine

“…many creatively named burlesque stars — Tempest Storm, Candy Cotton, Blaze Starr, Candy Barr, Val Valentine, Tee Tee Red, the list goes on — interviewed at poignant, amusing and enlightening length in a new book, Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America.” —Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune

“A privileged front-row seat to the history of burlesque! Glorious ladies in their heyday . . . their long-ago stripteases still pack a sensual, sassy, what-the-hell punch, while juicy anecdotes run from raunchy to touching to funny to flat-out incredible.” —Ronnie Scheib, Variety

“Intriguing…fans of theatrical history are well advised to check it out.”—New York Magazine

Behind the Burly Q takes you back . . . to burlesque’s last hurrah in the 1960s.” —Bob Mondello,

“Utterly entertaining Behind the Burly Q is a painstakingly researched love letter to the women and men who once made up the community of burlesque performers…its treasure trove of vintage photographs and performance footage is enough to make historians and fans of classic erotica swoon…insightful, fascinating.” —Ernest Hardy, The Village Voice

“Taps into a world of burlesque as we’ve never seen it before.”—Linnea Covington, New York Press

“Zemeckis offers a rich, colorful narrative that provides a vivid sense of the era.” —Library Journal

“This rich history, rife with vibrant quotes and first-hand insights from burlesque’s biggest dancers, is indispensable for fans of the ribald pastime.”—Publishers Weekly

“The salty reminiscences of participants in the classic age of burlesque enliven this companion volume to a documentary film directed by the author. An affectionate and historically valuable document.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A well-researched, intimate portrait of burlesque and the women who teased and seduced their ways into the hearts of the American public.”—Shelf Awareness

“Zemeckis does a masterful job in capturing the feelings, struggles, behavior, living conditions and behind the stage activities of these women.”—Book

“This entertaining, and often poignant . . . Each life story in this book is compelling, and most of the women don’t regret their careers, despite hardships on the road, being jailed occasionally, and perhaps not as much time for a normal family life as they might have wanted.”—Liz Smith

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