and Jim Thorpe is buried there. They even renamed their town to capitalize on his fame.
Today, the town is a tourist destination. The Mauch Chunk Opera House here was built in 1881 as a farm market (first floor) and concert hall (above). Eventually, the Opera House became a regular stop on the old Vaudeville Circuit. Al Jolsen performed here regularly as well as John Phillips Sousa who delighted audiences with an annual show.
In 1927, the building was purchased and renovated extensively. For the next three decades the it was known as the Capitol Theater, a movie house. It closed in 1959, a victim of television. Later it was used as a warehouse and then stood empty for many years. Finally, the Opera House was acquired by the Mauch Chunk Historical Society and a program to restore it to its former glory was begun.
To raise funds for the restoration efforts various events are held throughout the year. On the weekend of April 1-3, Dragontown Corsets, a local retail business, will present the second annual Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival here. It will feature an exciting line up of performances, classes, symposiums, and plenty of Burlesque-oriented shopping.
This year, Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival has added a Friday night "Fundraiser Gala" show headlined by Jacqueline Hyde, winner of last year’s festival Crystal Corset Award and a recent BOOLESQUE (an Opera House Halloween show) performer. Saturday night, April 2, is "The Big Reveal," at which Burlesque entertainers will thrill the audience while they compete for cash prizes and the "Crystal Corset Award," presented by show hostess Madame Corsetiere of Dragontown Corsets. "The Big Reveal" is headlined by Chicago's impeccable Red Hot Annie.
In addition to the great stage shows this year’s Burlesque Festival includes a number of classes, lectures, and workshops for women. Regardless of age, experience level, or personal style there are classes to help every woman cultivate her inner “Burlesque Diva”. The weekend celebrates the allure and beauty that resides in every woman, in an environment that is friendly, exciting, and enjoyable. Classes, including dance and movement, will be held Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3 at Jim Thorpe's Memorial Hall.
Red Hot Annie
Burlesque has been widely misunderstood over the past fifty years. Movies and television captured audiences and venues that once featured burlesque turned to strip shows and porno films. But that’s not what burlesque was or is today in its revival. In its heyday it was the major live entertainment in many cities and town across the nation. Many singers, dancers, comics, and entertainers of the early decades of the past century including comedy stars Jackie Gleason, Fanny Brice, Leon Errol, Bert Lahr, W.C. Fields, Bobby Clark, Red Skelton, Phil Silvers, Joey Faye and Bob Hope found their fame on the stages of burlesque theaters. Burlesque is about beautiful women in elegant, elaborate costumes who sing, dance, and tease their audience as they slowly and tantalizingly disrobe before quickly disappearing offstage.
When I was just fifteen, I attended a burlesque show at the Park Theater in Youngstown, Ohio, with a group of my high school friends. The headliner was Rose La Rose. I did no know it then, but she was one of the all-time greats of the burlesque stage right up there with Gipsy Rose Lee. Both women had performed at the famous Minsky’s Theater in New York City. It was a memorable experience.
For more information on Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival 2011 held April 1-3 view this website: http://www.jimthorpeburlesque.org/ or Planning to visit the Jim Thorpe and Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains see http://www.800poconos.com/.
Senior Travel Writer