Interview: The Burlesque Legend Tempest Storm Discusses Life, Achievement and How to Stay Young Forever

Tempest Storm. Courtesy of Mongrel Media. Photo by Bob Crone.
Tempest Storm. Courtesy of Mongrel Media. Photo by Bob Crone.

She had the toughest life you could imagine. She is a sexual assault survivor. One morning she wakes up and finds her stepfather on top of her. She had many struggles that were enough to send anyone into deep depression. But this woman finds her way to get up and stand tall. She fights back against destiny and pursues her dream. She hits the stage and becomes a burlesque dancer, soon after – a legend. She knew John F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley in person, and was a friend of Marilyn Monroe – that still does not change the obvious and undeniable fact that Tempest Storm has built her own career as a burlesque dancer and had already created her own history as big as the world itself.

During her trip to Toronto I had the great pleasure to sit down with the legend Tempest Storm to discuss her career path, life and achievements, you all, I am sure must know.

MOVIEMOVESME: What is a Tempest Storm life path and regrets in life?

Tempest Storm: I think it was the work and the career I had to handle, both which was very difficult. I had a bad childhood, starting off with five guys pull me up in the hill raping me one by one and then my stepfather, when I woke up, was on top of me. So I thought there’s gotta be a better life, I’ve gotta do something to get out of this city and I left when I was about fifteen. I missed my family but I wasn’t treated very good, so I had to get out of that environment. I have regrets in life but I don’t dwell on it; tomorrow’s another day, so I choose not to dwell on it or it will only make it worse.

MOVIEMOVESME: What about Tempest Storm and Marilyn Monroe?

Tempest Storm: Marilyn and I were very good friends; in Hollywood, we used to live next door. She had a rough life too, but where she made a mistake was that she dwelled on it. I chose not to do that because that makes you hate the world. So what happened, it happened.

MOVIEMOVESME: What was the best thing, besides having a daughter, that happened to you?

Tempest Storm: I think when I played in Carnegie Hall in New York. I was appearing in a nightclub close to New York where I had an interview and the reporter asked me, “Where do you go from here?” I said, “Carnegie Hall.” He said, “Yeah right. They’re all the bigshots in Carnegie hall, she can’t work here because burlesque performers are not allowed to work in Carnegie Hall.” Then they finally said, “It’s okay, this one gets us some publicity through.” After the show they were like, “Oh she’s absolutely classy, could we get a photo signed?” I said, “You tell those jerks they’ll ever get a photo from me after what they tried to pull here.” And I did give them the photo.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about your first experience of dancing burlesque?

Tempest Storm: My first experience on stage, Laurie Hunt talked me into a five-minute number and she said, “No matter what happens, keep going.” The curtain opens, I had a two faced gown I made myself and the first thing that happened was the bottom fell off. But I finished my number, that was kind of awesome that I didn’t get disarranged up there.

MOVIEMOVESME: What is the difference between being a woman in the 50s, 60s, 70s and now in the 21st century?

Tempest Storm: It was great in the 1950s when they respected women. Nowadays I don’t think women are as respected as they were in the 50s. I think they were classier as compared to now.

MOVIEMOVESME: What was it that made you open up and give access to these people to tell the world the story of your life?

Tempest Storm: I wanted people to know about my life. They know a lot about my life but I think this documentary would give them more access to my life the way it was.

MOVIEMOVESME: How did you perceive John F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley as human beings?

Tempest Storm: Of course I saw them as human beings and it certainly wasn’t all about the sexual part of their lives that we enjoyed. It was about their greatness and what I could learn from their greatness, and I learned a lot about politics from Kennedy and about being a singer with Elvis.

MOVIEMOVESME: Where do you get all this energy from? It seems like coming out of the script and it strikes you!

Tempest Storm: I know I have a lot of energy; I don’t go to bed until 2 or 3 O’ clock in the morning, I read a lot and I get up at maybe 7. I don’t take naps and I do my exercise. That’s it, I don’t sit around and do nothing. People sit on the couch and watch TV all day and night, they’ll get fat and all kinds of things but I have a different life, different opinion about life and people. I figure I’m a master at a lot of these things I do. Did I do all this alone or did I have help? Somebody was guiding me to get to where I’m today. I could not have done all this by myself. I had no education, I stopped school when I was in the 7th grade. Someone was guiding me. To me it’s phenomenal what I accomplished and I’m so happy that I agreed to do this documentary because I feel it will open up more and get the people more involved in my life and wht it was like. What they read in a newspaper is different than a documentary, as it has a whole new outlook of my life.

MOVIEMOVESME: In Tempest’s voice, what would you like to tell women in the 21st century?

Tempest Storm: I don’t think women should ever give up, I really don’t. They can do something with their lives or they can sit around and get fat. Vegas is the number one place for obese people. Tell your subconscious mind you’re getting old and you’ll get old. Don’t worry about age. Think of the beautiful things you want to do. I still say I had someone behind me. From a small, uneducated person, did I do this all alone? But I worked hard at it. Never drank, never smoked, never did drugs, never ran out and mingled after the last show. I concentrated on my career, not hobnobbing around people.

MOVIEMOVESME: Many women nowadays go into depression going through what you had to. What would you say so that they can continue the fight and come out of it?

Tempest Storm: I will say, “Don’t give up.” I never dwelled on it, just got out of that environment. I’d tell all the sexually assaulted women to not give up, you have to go on the next subject. Because if you dwell on all this, it will make you old before your time. I had three abortions from the assault and almost died from the last one but I came out of it and I said, “I’m not going to die, I’m not going to die…. I’ve got too much to do.” I’m 88 years old but I don’t feel like 88. I act 30, I don’t talk like a 88 year old woman; I’ll stay young forever! To dwell on things like that just destroys you but a lot of people can’t do that. You have to go on with your life, if you give up you haven’t accomplished anything.

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