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Monday, January 12, 2009

The Mysterious Stripper

Anybody need a great blog headline writer?  Step right up, ladies and gentlemen.  Four chairs, no waiting.

Where was I?  Ah, yes.  In our previous post about Tom Waits and the Small Change cover, we mentioned Our Host's report that the red-headed stripper pictured was rumored (emphasis there) to be that cross between Valley Girl and Vampirella, Elvira, back when she was Cassandra Peterson.

Commenter "Edward" replied to the post that the Lady in Question might actually be an acquaintance of Waits who opened the show for his "live" album of 19 and 75, Nighthawks at the Diner.

Her name variously reported as "Dewana," "Deewanna," "Dewanna," and even "Dwana," she's described as a "classic old tassle-twirler," and an "old-time burlesque queen," who Waits apparently met during his wanderings through the Hollywood underworld.  One person mentioned in a near-Dylansque non sequiter that "her husband was a taxi driver."

"Edward" also noted, "...if you look at the original LP cover (I know, I know, but believe me such things did exist) you can see her face well enough to see that she's probably a bit more well-worn than Cassandra Petersen would have looked, even without makeup, in the mid-70's."

I'm leaning towards "Edward's" theory, as the timing is right, and there seems to be a better connection between Dewanna, however her name is spelled, than Elvira and Tom Waits. The Elvira claim smacks of the sort of urban myth that gets repeated on the Web until it's taken as gospel.  The first reference I can find to the Elvira/Small Change connection is a 2002 USEnet post, and most of the few citations offered on various sites, including Wikipedia, point back to a 2006 music article.  In neither case do the original authors offer any proof, simply writing the claim as fact.

Who knows?  We'll have to wait for the next cassette from Tom.  I was thinking of doing a side-by-side photo analysis of the red-headed stripper and one of the nude shots of Cassandra Peterson available on the Web, paying ah, special attention to secondary sex characteristics, but Jailbait Jones violently objected when I floated the idea.


UPDATE: And the Lady Herself adds to the mystery...

Q: Did you keep in touch with Tom Waits after you got photographed with him for the cover of Small Change?

CP: That's such a mystery to me. I mean, I see the cover and I go, "That looks like me." But I do not have one recollection of doing it. Then again, I don't have a single recollection of the '70s. I went straight from the '60s to the '80s. Isn't that sad?

Q: Were you hit on the head or were the drugs that good?

CP: Who knows. I was a Playboy model — for the club, the modeling agency and the magazine. I did a million things: music videos, album covers, romance novels where the guy with the long hair is leaning over the girl draped across the bed, movie one sheets. Ever see Raggedy Man? I'm on the poster. Not in the movie.


Actually, if you go check out posters of Raggedy Man, the woman pictured is another good-looking redhead, Sissy Spacek, who did faintly resemble Peterson.  Maybe it's Sissy Spacek on Small Change!

More on the Nighthawks at the Diner sessions and the mysterious "Deewanna" here.

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