Of all the strippers saddened by Mayor Giuliani, perhaps none is so blue as Rose Edwards, 72, whose stripping career was just picking up steam.
A real-estate agent and free spirit, Edwards, née Lapone, discovered her calling three years ago. She had always been somewhat eccentric. And she’d always had a killer body. At 69, she wanted to do something – perhaps a seminar – about women’s sexual empowerment. But then she saw the dancers, and they called to her.
She hired a teacher, and soon made her debut at a private party – less nervous, she says, about performing without her clothing than about performing without her bifocals.
The crowd went wild, she made $12, and an ecdysiast was born. “My dancing came from a desire to express myself in a way which tapped into my own sexual energy,” she says. “I didn’t want to be walking off with suitors.” Since then, she’s performed (often for gay and lesbian audiences, though she is straight) at Jackie 60, Velvet, and the Blue Angel.
She’s no dotty old lady with a boa. Rose has a Cher-like cascade of hair and several intimate piercings. The breasts are new, but everything else is as God gave it to her on a very generous day. In performance, Rose not only shakes it, she conveys a rare joy. One recent night, she danced so exuberantly (astride an umbrella) that, she later told her instructor, “I lost my bikini top, but I also lost my hearing aid.”
Watching her dance is empowering, in a post-menopausal zest sort of way, but also unsettling. Even Ute Hanna, proprietor of the Blue Angel, seems taken aback. “I don’t think somebody as old as she is should be naked onstage,” she says. Still, she’s booked Edwards three times.
At Velvet, Edwards did a lap dance for a drag king. As Rose ground into her lap, the drag king’s expression changed from a comradely “You go, girl!” to something deeper, equal parts rapture and terror. She seemed to realize this wasn’t novelty, this was sex, with seven decades of force behind it. “I feel this incredible power,” Rose says, “which I don’t misuse.”
Delighted to discover that, at her age, “the dance still works,” she doesn’t hide her nightlife from her real-estate colleagues, and has invited her extended family, from North Caldwell, New Jersey, to see her show. As for the mayor’s disapproval, she’s nonplussed. “I think stripping is really good, and it’s too bad that he’s done what he’s done,” she says gently. Recently, she’s been checking out a Queens venue where the dancing is totally naked. “It’s not a fancy place,” she says, “but I need the practice.”