WILSONDALE, W.Va. — One of Mingo County’s most famous natives, Blaze Starr, who became one of America’s most famous burlesque stars and strippers, died at her home early Monday morning at the age of 83.
Starr was born in Wilsondale (near Dingess) as Fannie Belle Fleming on April 10, 1932. Her parents were Lora Evans and Goodlow Mullins and she was one of 11 children. She was raised in Newground Hollow and left home at the age of 14 or 15 and moved to Washington D.C., where she was supposedly discovered by a promoter while working in a doughnut shop.
Starr was 15 years old and working as a waitress at the Mayflower Donut Shop in Washington, D.C., when a man named Red Snyder told her she was pretty and should be in show business.
Starr said she had been raised to believe it was sinful to dance, but she could play the guitar. Snyder told her he would make her a star and that he did.
In Starr’s autobiography, it said that Snyder wanted her to dress up as a cowgirl, play the guitar a little and then strip. She had never heard of striptease before. But Red apparently sweet-talked her into performing. When she went onstage for the first time in her red and white cowgirl outfit, she used her hat to cover herself. After the show she reportedly threw up from the overwhelming emotions of getting into show business.
Snyder became Fleming’s first manager and gave her the stage name “Blaze Starr.” After some personal issues with Snyder, Starr moved on.
Starr then moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she began performing at the Two O’Clock Club nightclub in 1950, she eventually became the club’s headliner. It was then that Starr gained national recognition and was featured in Esquire magazine and earned the nickname ‘The Hottest Blaze in Burlesque.’
The Two O’Clock Club remained her home after she eventually bought it, but she began traveling and performing in different clubs throughout the country.
Partially retired since 1975, she finally retired for good from stripping in 1983 to become a full-time gemologist.
She had worked around in that occupation part-time since 1975 and spent several holiday seasons selling hand-crafted jewelry at the Carrolltowne Mall in Eldersburg, Maryland near Baltimore.
Starr co-authored her autobiography in 1974. The book, “My Life As Told by Huey Perry” was adapted 15 years later into the movie “Blaze”, starring Paul Newman as Earl Long and Lolita Davidovich as Starr.
Some of Starr’s costumes and other memorabilia have been displayed in a museum in New York City and the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. Other memorabilia such as photos and props has been sold on the Internet.
She had moved back to Mingo County a few years ago and lived with family members.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Richmond-Callaham Funeral Home in Warfield, Ky. The funeral home and Starr’s family were still making final plans for services at presstime.