In the second part of our series on Jews & Sex, Sue Fox reminisces about her Uncle Arthur and his striptease business.
My uncle Arthur Fox died in 1970. Mancunians of a certain age might remember his name. He owned The Revue Bar in George Street. I don’t know where George Street was or even if it still exists.
Uncle Arthur was the (very non-PC) black sheep of the family. His name was rarely mentioned. All I have are vague memories of shudders and ‘not in front of the children’. The husband of a much older cousin who lived in another city once reported that he had seen Arthur in a restaurant in Manchester. He was completely startled because the man was the spitting image of his father in law – Arthur’s older brother – William Fox who was a distinguished rheumatologist in London.
Arthur’s father and my grandfather, Eli Fox (he was called Abraham in the 1911 Census listing of the Fox family, 44 Thirlmere Street, Cheetham) died before I was born. By all accounts he a very well-known and respected macher in the community, much involved in the relief of poverty, helping refugees with their naturalisation papers and doing good. He founded the Heaton Park synagogue (the one with stars painted on the ceiling) where I was married. He also founded the original Jewish old aged home and was the Fox in Cassel Fox school which is still going. My grandmother, Mary (Miriam) was formidable. I have a coloured photograph in a large frame which ought to be hung in a town hall. It was presented in recognition of her tireless work for Machzikei Hadass charity in Manchester. How Grandma found time to do anything is a mystery. Married at 20, she gave birth to seven children in less than nine years. Israel died aged six months. Arthur, her last child, was born in 1907.
Clever Arthur won a Governor’s scholarship to Manchester Grammar and then studied at the College of Preceptors (I have no idea what that is; something to do with nursing assistants). From there he went to being a theatrical impresario producing revues, variety bills and plays during the Second World War.
This week I discovered that by 1947 (I was a few months old) Uncle Arthur was touring shows across England. They had such titles as Striptease Spectacular with Fraulein Von Manuela and Striptease Peep-show with Pauline Penny. In March 1959, he opened the Revue Bar, and it became renowned for its international burlesque acts, including the American April March, The First Lady of Burlesque; Ricki Covette, The World’s Tallest Glamazon; and Virginia ‘Ding Dong’ Bell. Arthur also opened the Glamour Cinema Club, next door. In 1962 he was charged with keeping a disorderly house at the Revue Bar. It was splashed all over the News of The World, together with photos of Bridgette the Balloon Girl who said, ‘Striptease is a perfectly natural thing.’ Kandy Palmer who manipulated a fox fur (I bet she did!) and Jackie Rochelle who told a reporter that her songs ‘are spicy and sexy in the nicest possible way.’ Uncle Arthur, the Showman, reported that he was proud to have among his 10,000 Revue Bar members, ‘representatives of the legal, medical and accountancy professions.’ The News of The World said in the final sentence that the hearing was adjourned until the following day. Was Arthur fined? Sent to jail? Who knows?
In 1962, he published his autobiography under two different titles: Striptease with the Lid Off and Striptease Business (having four extra images). The publishing company was called Empso Ltd, which seems to have been owned by Uncle Arthur, as it was run from the George Street address. Striptease with the Lid Off was serialised in the Manchester Evening Chronicle. I have just found a copy on eBay for 14 euros including postage and am waiting with bated breath!
In 1963, Uncle Arthur stood for Parliament as an independent candidate in the Colne Valley by-election. His campaign featured two of his striptease stars. He polled a paltry 266 votes and lost his deposit.
How, then, did he come to be the successful owner of a Strip Club which could have given Paul Raymond a run for his money? Whatever the answer no one in the family spoke about or to him, which kind of says it all when you live in a watchful, provincial close-knit Jewish community.