By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"Foxy was beautiful," Daugherty says. "Her skin was luminous, even without makeup. We'd never seen anyone like her. And she was classy and smart. We were all a little bit in awe of her at the time."
Chastity Fox's real name is Germaine Walker Brown. She just turned 66. She still lives in Dallas, retired from a short but still-talked-about career as a professional ecdysiast — the term she prefers over "stripper" — since the day she was cast as Honey Suckle in Jack Ruby, All-American Boy. She's still beautiful, petite and lithe, with chestnut hair scraped back into a ponytail. Her skin is still luminous without makeup.
Brown spent six years as one of the highest-paid stars on Dallas' small, union-protected strip-club circuit of the late '60s and early '70s. She was hired for Jack Ruby after Paul Baker saw her belly dance at a fundraiser for the arts charity group The 500, Inc. Working with Baker and the other artists at DTC introduced her to "polite society," Brown says.
She never went back to stripping after the play closed, turning instead to teaching dance at University of Texas at Arlington and acting professionally in productions of Gypsy, Cabaret and other musicals at the New Arts Theatre (which used to be downtown), the old Country Dinner Playhouse and other venues.
Brown and her husband, Danny, raised two children, a daughter who now lives in New Zealand and a son who's a sound designer. These days she dabbles in the metaphysical, doing "energy work" and the occasional astrological reading. She's held onto boxes of clippings and photos accumulated at the end of the era of old-fashioned burlesque. An avid photographer, Brown documented the rehearsal process during Jack Ruby. Her scrapbook of pictures of Baker and the cast is part of the Paul and Kitty Baker Papers Collection at Texas State University. Except for a few publicity photos, it's the only visual record of the show.
"I was perfect for this play and Mr. Baker was so gracious to me," Brown says in an interview at her son's apartment in the Dallas Design District. "He told me I had acting talent, but that it needed to be developed. He said, 'I want you to feel like you can use this venue to develop yourself.'" Baker sent her for diction lessons and dance classes, where she studied different styles of movement.
Brown was too young to have known Jack Ruby or to have worked in any of his clubs. She was still a student at a Catholic high school in Orange County, California, when he shot Oswald. But she knew some of Ruby's strippers, including Carousel Club headliner Tammi True and other girls who were getting out of the business as she was breaking in.
Brown was discovered on amateur night at the upscale Colony Club, where "exotic dancers" shared stage time with nationally known comics and singers like Tony Bennett. Back then, she says, legit strippers had to join the American Guild of Variety Artists. They were paid weekly salaries, covered by health insurance and treated like ladies by gents like striptease agent Pappy Dolsen and club owners Abe and Barney Weinstein (renamed the Greenberg brothers in the play). Customers weren't allowed to tip or touch. Except in Ruby's clubs, where non-union "B-girls" hustled men with overpriced fake Champagne, dancers were forbidden to fraternize with patrons.
As Chastity Fox, a nom de strip she says took her three days to come up with, Brown did her act as "The Mod Girl" to the "Theme from Peter Gunn" and Nina Simone's "Love for Sale." She worked at clubs called The Landing Strip, The Mermaid and The Diamond Doll, often in successive shifts on the same night. She called that "pulling a triple."
"Stripping was an art form then," she says. "You were always introduced as 'the lovely and talented.' It was creative, which was why I loved it. It was much more like theater than it is today."
After co-starring in Jack Ruby, she never went back to the clubs. "That door had closed," she says. "From Mr. Baker, I learned there is more to being an entertainer. You have to continue growing. He was very philosophical. He gave me practical advice. Back then I wanted to shatter people's preconceived notions about who and what I was. I worked a long time to get the word 'stripper' from being next to my name. I became an actress and singer. A stripper's career is 10 years max anyway. 'Chastity Fox' was a persona. It was a mask, an image. I did so well with it that it lives on today, without me even being behind it."
"I tried to make a dream come true," Jack Ruby says at the end of the play, when he is dying of brain tumors and lung cancer. "But it's too late now." But is it too late for Jack Ruby, All-American Boy to make a comeback? For it to become the major work of American theater that it seemed to be back in 1974?
As some critics noted then, the script has problems with its overlong third act, which doubles back to Ruby's Chicago childhood and then fast-forwards through his circus-like trial. It's also too big a show for most theaters to take on these days, at least on the scale DTC did it, with three dozen actors, many of whom played multiple roles.
I was lucky to have seen this production along with my College English class from Mountain View. It BLEW me away, as the writer states. It was so 'over the top' in terms of production quality. It had a style that to me, was a pre cursor to parts of Ragtime, Chicago, Cabaret, and Assassins all rolled into one. I still have my printed program somewhere around the house. Great show that should be restaged.
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