Item #5829 [Burlesque, Performance Art, Ohio] The Esquire Theatre Collection

[Burlesque, Performance Art, Ohio] The Esquire Theatre Collection

Toledo, Ohio: [Esquire Theatre]: 1963-1971. Thirty five distinct items. Four (4) 8 x 10 in. black-and-white silver gelatin photographs; twenty-two (22) 3 x 5 in. color photos. All items very good to near fine. Item-level inventory and additional images available upon request. Item #5829

A small archive from Rose La Rose’s Esquire Theatre, which featured live burlesque shows and adult film screenings in the heart of downtown Toledo, with photographs, flyers, and manuscript notation from La Rose and Pat Oleszko, now a New York based performance and mixed media artist. Rose La Rose, born Rosina DePella, is credited as the first burlesque performer to earn $2,000 a week, equivalent to roughly $20,000 today. She was known for her performances in two Hollywood productions about sex work, Queen of Burlesque and The Wages of Sin.

In retirement, she opened The Town Hall, a burlesque theatre in Toledo that was closed by the city. Not to be dissuaded, La Rose opened the Esquire and, despite waning interest in burlesque performances, kept the venue open until her death. The collection includes a flyer for the still-active New York based artist and Guggenheim fellow, Pat Oleszko, known here by her stage name “Pat the Hippy Strippy,” with stage directions in her hand on the verso, and signed by Oleszko. The archive also includes pencil instructions for a photo shoot for Pat; a letter from La Rose on behalf of one of her performers; form documents and stationery with the theatre’s letterhead; and a TLs from a casting agency. Also included are a photo of a long line outside the Town Hall, several photos of Rose La Rose, and snapshots of various performances at the theatre. A rare collection of materials documenting the shifting landscape of sex work, performance, and art in the 1960s and ‘70s, tracing the various trajectories upon which workers in this field might embark.


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