Tempest Storm, the fiery redhead known as a burlesque icon who starred in early Russ Meyer films, has died. She was 93.
Storm died in her Las Vegas apartment Tuesday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, and had been battling dementia in recent months. She also was struggling after undergoing hip surgery on April 8 and was under round-the-clock care until her death.
“Tempest was easily one of the best-known and highest-regarded burlesque [performers] of all time, and was an active part of the burlesque community right to the end,” Burlesque Hall of Fame executive director Dustin Wax told the Review-Journal. “She will be missed terribly in the burlesque community and well beyond it.”
“She was the last of the great legends in the golden age of burlesque,” added her longtime friend and business partner Harvey Robbins. “She was perhaps the biggest of all.”
Born Annie Blanche Banks in 1928, Storm left home in the seventh grade and moved to Hollywood at the ripe age of 15 to pursue a career. Working as a waitress, a customer suggested she’d make money as a striptease performer. She got an audition with Follies Theater by 1951 and had to choose a stage name — either Sunny Day or Tempest Storm.
“Well, I said, I guess it might as well be Tempest Storm,” she said.
Storm took the burlesque world by storm and by 1956 was the highest-paid performer ever with a 10-year contract at $100,000 at the Bryan-Engels burlesque production company.
She eventually took on the film world, scoring a role alongside Bettie Page in Irving Klaw’s 1955 film, “Teaserama.”
But her Hollywood story didn’t end there. Storm also said she dated Elvis Presley and former President John F. Kennedy.
“Elvis the Pelvis,” she told local news outlet WQAD8 in 2013. “It was 1956. I was appearing at The Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas, which is now the Bellagio. We had a burlesque review and he came to see the show. He came over and sat down — he had the most beautiful eyes — and we got into a relationship and it was absolutely fantastic. He was a real Southern gentleman. Very polite.”
As for JFK, their alleged fling started before he became president.
“I met him in 1957 when he was a senator,” she said. “It was a great relationship. He was a great man in his politics and everything. I hadn’t seen him for years, and the last time I saw him, I said, ‘You’re going to be president,’ and he said, ‘I hope you’re right!’ “
Storm was featured in the 2016 documentary “Tempest Storm,” which focuses on her career and estrangement from her daughter Patricia, whom she had with Herb Jeffries, a singer with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Her final performance was in 2010 at the Plaza for the Burlesque Hall of Fame reunion show, but she hosted the “Tempest Storm’s Las Vegas Burlesque Revue” a few months later, according to Las Vegas Weekly.
“The crowds went crazy for us, and for burlesque,” she said at the time. “It was like the first time I’d ever been onstage.”