The theatre and its knockers

We can't help admiring the hats on the right

We can’t help admiring the hats on the right, November 1939

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the first stripper in Perth, who performed at His Majesty’s. However, we were slightly wrong when we said she was probably the first nude on the Western Australian stage.

In fact as early as 1939 some critics were saying that audiences were getting bored of turning up to His Majesty’s just for nudity and were now seeking higher quality plays. This was, of course, far too optimistic, and Perth’s grandest theatre was still trying to entice you with ‘beautiful nudes’ in the 1950s.

Naked women on stage were not illegal unless—and this is the bizarre bit—they moved. So for several decades, audiences at His Majesty’s were treated to a series of motionless ‘tableaux’, artistically arranged young women dressed only in their birthday suits.

In 1939, one of the stars who people paid good money to see was 20-year-old Barbara Clark, advertised as Australia’s No. 1 Glamour Girl. Strangely she claimed to have been doing her act for five years, which would mean she started performing nude at fifteen!

However, the critics may have been slightly right about how mere static nudity had become tiresome. By 1940, His Majesty’s was resorting to strippers to keep the crowd numbers up.

So, to the older generation who despair at the availability of pornography in the 21st century, ask yourself this: who was buying tickets for entry to His Majesty’s in the 1930s?

It’s a bust! Strippers, cops and His Maj

Legendary American striptease artiste, Sally Rand

Legendary American striptease artiste, Sally Rand

Today Dodgy Perth answers the question on everyone’s lips. Who was the first stripper in Perth? However, the answer to ‘when’ and ‘where’ is much easier than ‘who’. The name of our brave pioneer has been lost to history.

In January 1940 His Majesty’s announced that Perth audiences would see their first ever American-style striptease. The producer, Jack Lester, promised it would be “an artistic contribution” to the programme, and not at all indecent.

On the night it was announced the quantity of clothing removed would be in direct proportion to the level of applause. The crowd, unsurprisingly, went wild.

First off came one glove, then a second glove, a dress, and—we shudder to even say the word—a brassiere. Then the scantily-clad miss disappeared in a subdued light and a storm of applause.

Perhaps ticket sales were not what Jack Lester had hoped. Following nights saw several girls stripped to the waist. And then Jack pulled off his greatest publicity coup. For the first time ever, Perth audiences saw someone go the whole way.

A dainty brunette, she gradually discarded her clothing piece by piece until the last, most important, item dropped at her petite feet and she pirouetted nude.

When the audience recovered from the shock, the reaction was deafening. They clapped and whistled our local girl until the last of her birthday suit disappeared from the stage.

The news spread and next night His Maj was packed. Among the audience were four cops standing at the back, ready to spring into action.

As the stripper appeared on stage, the crowd was in a frenzy. But the presence of the law meant her act ended with both tights and brassiere firmly in place.

Cries of “’Fraud!” rang out, but the presence of the police meant that there was to be no repeat of the previous evening. It was said that Perth had seen its last striptease.

And we firmly state that we assume this is true, and would have no clue if there are strippers in town today.

Pistol packing Coral


Bang bang, she shot me down. Coral Honter in 1956

In 1956, there was indignation when a Bicton dance hall presented Coral Honter doing the daring Dance of the Seven Veils. The stunning 18-year-old entertainer, originally from Colombo, raised more than just eyebrows with her strip teases.

Now living in South Perth, the young beauty had developed a fan base among the local ‘jazz sophisticates’. So when Coral announced she would perform the songs of American singer-songwriter Ruth Wallis, it was always going to be controversial.

The songs of Ruth Wallis were banned in Australia, her records confiscated by the authorities, and even possession of them was illegal.

Wallis’ lyrics were pure double entendre from start to finish. A typical verse would run:

Johnny’s got a yo-yo
It really is a wow
Teacher keeps him after school
So he can show her how.
It’s shiny and he says it is brand new
And he can do more tricks with it than his dad can do.
You can’t learn to play with it just by wishin’,
You gotta know how to hold it in the right position
By intuition…

Apart from Johnny Had a Yo-Yo, Coral announced she would also be singing Tonight For Sure, The Pistol Song, Sweater Girl, The Admiral’s Daughter, Down In Montevideo and The Psycho Mambo.

Setting out to provoke Perth’s conservative elements, Coral sweetly said: “I couldn’t care less if a few prudes make a fuss about my singing these songs. Most people, I am sure, will enjoy their sexy sizzle—that’s if they’re sophisticated.”

Coral’s charms had not gone unnoticed by wannabe sugar daddies, especially as she developed a reputation for liberal distribution of kisses during her numbers. “I’ve got one weakness,” she slyly admitted. “Bald heads.”

Sugar daddies had better watch out. This is one smart cookie.