Miss Tempest Storm, is without doubt, an icon within the world of burlesque, with a career spanning decades and a youthful demeanor and zest for life that may put many half her age to shame.
Whilst in Vancouver to promote her new documentary, Tempest Storm made my dreams come true by granting me an interview.
I am apologetically and unashamedly a fan, so this felt very surreal. I'm not afraid to admit I was terrified. I had met Tempest last September, when came to Blackpool to headline the Burlesque Noir show. I was working as a stage assistant then and had the fantastic opportunity to meet her again when she had been a breakfast guest for some of us lucky fans.
Although warm and with a sparkling sense of humour, this time I wasn't asking for her autograph, but for her to disclose details about her life, and the documentary based on it. My fear was unfounded. Tempest was as friendly and as naturally open as she had been last year.
As expected (apologies for being so obvious) I asked Tempest how she first got her start in Show business. In 1951, she was hired by Lillian Hunt, director and choreographer at the Follies Theatre, L.A, to be a chorus girl, but Lillian kept asking her to be a striptease artist. Tempest said no. After three months of being asked, and upon her pay being raised from $40 to $60, she finally agreed, and by conquering her "own inhibitions" history was made: The Queen of Exotic Dancers was born!
Tempest had however a question: "Do you think my bust is too big to do this?" The response being "They don't make 'em too big in this business"
As someone who has been in the burlesque world for a few years, I wanted to know what Tempest thought of the new generation of burlesque performers, so naturally I asked her...
The thing to remember is that it takes more than big boobs to be a success. It takes dedication, thought behind the costumes, the music and the choreography. A perfect example of a burlesque performer, who embodies all this, is Dita Von Teese.
New performers look up to her, they admire her, and she relayed a charming story of when she had been in New Orleans, when she was approached by a young lady. She told Tempest that she was very nervous about meeting her, to which Tempest replied "Don't be nervous". Echoing the thoughts of many a burlesque performer or admirer, the young lady said "Meeting you is like meeting the Pope".
In 1973, Tempest toured with the James Gang, performing at Carnegie Hall. Whilst she enjoyed the experience she was at first oblivious to who they were. Her agent had called her to discuss "a great idea; six weeks with the James Gang", her response was "who the hell are the James Gang?".
Tempest was studying "voice at the time" she was going to be a singer, and through her agent, she found herself touring with them, one show a night, for six weeks. Despite being asked, she declined to join their act, but speaks fondly of them, and says it was a delight to work with them.
Fast forward to 2012 and Tempest collaborates with Jack White, to record an album including 'Interview' and 'Advice for Young Women' (I actually own a signed copy). This is extremely poignant, especially when you realise how important instilling a sense of empowerment into young women is to Tempest.
It all started when she had received a letter from Jack White. She turned over to her manager, arrangements were made, and the album was recorded. Tempest told me that meeting him was wonderful.
That is what I personally find so endearing about her. As famous and iconic as she is, she speaks so warmly about others. She is simply a very charming lady.
As I've said, I'm a proud member of the burlesque family, and can in all honesty say that I find it to be empowering to women, in particular, and not at all demeaning. I love that she is quoted as saying "never do anything on stage that would embarrass another woman".
Alas my interview was drawing to a close, so with the chance to ask a couple more questions, I wanted to know when she would be visiting the UK again.
Photo by Black Umbrella photography.
At present the film is only being shown in Canada, but the hope is that it will be a success, so that it can open in the USA and the U.K which Tempest is hopeful of as she would love to return to Blackpool, and to visit London. She'd love to have a figure of her in Madame Tussaud's!
If it was, there would be at least one fan making the pilgrimage to our Capital.
And so dear reader, we draw closer to the end, and so I ask one more question....
I love how Tempest has said that "a woman's greatest weapon, is a man's imagination" in my opinion, the art of burlesque is in the tease, the imagination the most exciting place to be, so I asked her how she felt about a film that discloses so much about her life being released...
Photo of the film crew by Matilda Temperley (left to right: director Nimisha Mukerji, producer Kaitlyn Regehr, Tempest Storm, cinematographer Lindsay George)
Obviously Tempest, and everyone involved in the making of the film, hope it becomes a success, and shows that you can indeed survive all of life's obstacles. She hopes that inspires people, and that it helps anyone who sees it, who are having problems, to recognise that they can turn their lives around. As far as burlesque performers go, she hopes that they feel inspired to make it in show business, but they realise that there is so much more to it than stripping. It takes dedication, thought behind the costume and the music. The choreography is important and engaging the audience interest is vital, it takes the complete package. Tempest Storm certainly encompasses that.
Tempest sees her life as having been a great ride, and she's not finished yet. I quote "I survived it, and I will keep surviving", and I have no reasons to doubt this for a minute.
This film is about a woman who has survived countless traumatic events, she is a business woman, she is skilled in the art of tease, and yet I can't help thinking, that despite all her years in the public spotlight, this film may be her greatest reveal yet.