Tag Archives: Burlesque

So Who Was Miss Livingstone? Burlesque

So Who Was Miss Livingstone? Burlesque

Madame Rentz’s Female Minstrels was a blackface minstrel troupe composed completely of women. M. B. Leavitt founded the company in 1870. Unlike mainstream minstrelsy at the time, Leavitt’s cast was entirely made up of women, whose primary role was to showcase their scantily clad bodies and tights, not the traditional role of comedy routines or song and dance numbers. The women still performed a basic minstrel show, but they added new pieces that titillated the audience. John E. Henshaw, who began his career as a stage hand with Madame Rentz’s Female Minstrels, recalled, In San Francisco , we had advertised that we were going to put on the can-can . Mabel Santley did this number and when the music came to the dum-de-dum, she raised her foot just about twelve inches; whereupon the entire audience hollored [sic] “Whooooo!” It set them crazy. The company was a success, and by 1871, at least eleven rival troupes of female minstrels had sprung up, one of which did away with blackface altogether.

Ottawa Daily Citizen

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 08 May 1875, Sat  •  Page 4

That spring of 1875 the Rink Music Hall, down on Slater Street by the Canal, temporarily became Ottawa’s only theatre. It was far too cold in winter, and sweltering in summer, but until Feb. 1, 1875, it brought both “the Bard” and burlesque, to the rapidly growing city. On that date “The Music Hall” was relegated to the background with the reopening of the Grand Opera House, on Albert Street. A fiasco — Despite the attendance of a vice-regal party from Government House, the opening night at $5 a seat, was a fiasco. Management quickly adjusted the price scale and the opening week ended to packed houses and loud applause.

The roof was a slanting one, broken In two parts, the lower part covering the curling rink. It was Just a step from the ground to the lower roof, and at the comer of the building stood a large puncheon, half filled with water. Five little girls. “Divllsklns”‘ an Irishman called them, determined to hear the -opera of “La Sonnambula” in the music hall.

They climbed upon the roof, where they hung by their hands from the window sills. The sleep walking scene was on, and the thrills were great, but suddenly the atentorian voice of Chief Langrell was heard, saying, “Down out of this, every one of you; I put the boys down, and down you will have to go, too.” Great was the scrambling, and one could imagine the noise inside the theater. All cleared the roof, with nimble steps, but slow Sally Hurd, who, never looking, plunged heavily into the water puncheon while the rest, never waiting to haul her out, ran for their lives. The good natured constable had to stop and laugh, but be helped the sobbing, sopping little maid out.

There is no report that these pioneer leg-shows, played Ottawa but our citizens were not denied the excitement for long. By the summer of 1870 the reporter for the Ottawa Times wrote that Miss Lisa Weber and her girls offered the best burlesque show that he had ever seen, indicating that even at that early date Miss Weber had been preceded by other similar travelling beauties. The Queen of Burlesque, as she was billed, opened at the Ottawa Music Hall on July 21, 1870. It was an old skating rink on Slater Street at the canal and if there, was any ice left, it melted when Lisa and her girls sang and danced “The Grecian Bend.” The gentleman of the press noted, unforgettably, “you never saw such exquisite ankles.” For three nights the old rink was filled to the very rafters as the town ‘dudes’ caught up with this form of entertainment.

In 1875, on May 10, Madame Rente’s “Female Minstrels” appeared at the Music Hall and for the occasion as a special added attraction Mile Marie Delacour presented her “French Can-Can Dancers.” The two-day engagement must have been something! The local press contented itself with reviewing a production of ‘Macbeth’ at the new Opera House, merely mentioning in passing that the show at the Music Hall was very good if you liked that sort of thing. The photograph of Miss Livingston above is probably a souvenir of the event. It turned up in the 1971 exhibitions of pbotograpni ; “Reflections on a Capital”, that was such a success earlier this year at the Public Archives Building on Wellington Street The only details available considering the actual photograph are that it was taken about 187S. If so, then Miss Livingston must have been one of those female minstrels that beguiled the community for two evenings in May. The photo of Miss Annie Blake is equally mysterious. In the Canada of 1870, the year “the picture was taken, her costume would have been considered daring in the extreme. The permissiveness of the 1870’s rapidly disappeared as Victorian manners and morals took hold. Burlesque entertainment vanished from the Ottawa scene and it was not until 1912 that lusty Ottawans had an opportunity to once more ogle the chorus girls. It was quite an occasion. To make up for lost time the mob carried the doors away trying to gain admittance to the old Colonial Theatre on Albert street. The show was considered to be pretty Trot stuff and although The Journal found no fault with the songs and dances they decidedly drew the line at the jokes and at the flashes of near-nudity. 

On the front page the paper called for the Chief of Police to see to it that the show was cleaned up, and quickly. In a matter of days the promoters changed their plans, wisely, and quietly left town. Nickel-movies returned to the theatre. After that withering blast the belles of burlesque remained out of sight and out of town for nearly a decade. But by 1920 the girls were back in “one-act musical comedies” at the little Casino Theatre on Sussex Street, right across the street from the present Grand Hotel., Fred Leduc, a pioneer Ottawa showman brought the ladies back to town in September, 1920. The newspaper ads for the adventure were cautious but the audience knew the real thing when they saw it, and “Ben Rosenberg’s Rip Roaring Girls” quickly caught on with the Ottawa public. In fact they were such a hit that they stayed all that fall, winning the audience with “Yes, We Have No Bananas” and other-vintage songs of the period.

In the spring of 1921, Graham and Randall’s Rainbow Girls moved in, complete with their famous “beauty chorus,” if the ads are to be believed. And all for 10, and 20 cents in the afternoon; 15 cents in the balcony at night! The girls were a ‘hit’, and, in fact that delightful spring a chorus line danced out on the stage of no less than five local theatres. The ultimate seal of approval on this type of enter tainment came in May, 1921, when the Shubert organization in New York brought “The Follies” to the old Russell Theatre, then the town’s leading legitimate ‘house.’ The Ottawa Journal attended, and the headline read “Stand ing Room Only.” “While the average girl show is still frowned upon by many, this reporter came away greatly pleased with the performance. The showgirls were above average in appearance and the audience expressed their keen appreciation each time they appeared.” . Meanwhile, burlesque continued, at the Casino throughout the decade, with occasionally a season of French-Canadian vaudeville.

But as time went on the novelty wore off; the management and even the name of the theatre, changed they called it the Capital and by the end they were showing silent films only. The ‘talkies’ arriving in 1929, brought the era to an end and the little theatre reluctantly closed its doors. The building was converted to a hotel. This, in turn, has now been demolished. ( In this permissive age ‘burlesque’ has become a lost art. A century ago, when Lisa Weber and her London Blondes came to the Music Hall, the press raved, concentrating, for the sake of modesty, on her ankles! Fifty years later, in 1920, burlesque was still ‘hot stuff.’ Today, however, although the heat has long since cooled, many an old Ottawan well-remembers those Rip-Roaring Girls of the Casino Theatre of 1920.

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
14 Mar 1925, Sat  •  Page 2
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
13 Mar 1926, Sat  •  Page 2

David Jeanes12 hours
The Rink Music Hall existed in 1875 and 1878, 30 years before the 3rd Dey’s Arena. It was on the site of the later Roxborough Apartments, while Dey’s arena was built in 1907 further east, close to the canal. The first two Dey’s Arenas were in other locations.

Memories of Pandora’s Box

Travelling Shows on the Rural Stage

Flash Cadilac -Sex Lies and Video Tape?

Everyone Needs a little “Devil Wears Prada” in their Life– Even Towns

And So They Danced in Carleton Place

Cool Burgess — Minstrel Shows at Reilly’s Hotel

Flashy Memories of Pandora’s Box ETC — Oh Ottawa Behave!

Flashy Memories of Pandora’s Box ETC — Oh Ottawa Behave!


“I had no interest in owning a strip club.  Heck I was barely in Pandora’s Box”-Harvey Glatt


When I opened Flash Cadilac on Rideau Street in the 70s, I had no idea that the general public venturing into my store would call it “weird or strange”. That opening Friday night I thought I was just “a run of the mill store” and had my first sale that was over $50. It was a vintage raccoon coat being sold to a stripper at Pandora’s Box that she bought along with a black feather boa.

I stared at the glimmer of her bright red hair and just envied everything about her. During our conversation she told me stripping was actually a thrill for her and she invited me to watch her dance. When I saw the photo of Pandora’s Box on Lost Ottawa last week it felt like it was yesterday, only the stage was missing one thing.

That photo was missing the giant round ottoman in the centre of the stage where the girls would seductively display their body in different positions. I once sat there uncomfortably while I watched men in loose clothing stare at the women who I now called my friends.


I remember the oversized chairs on each side of the stage where the VIP customer sat for a birds eye view. It was one thing for someone to walk around the store half naked, but to see it all come 360 was a shock for me at first. But, it was at that moment that I realized skimpy lingerie and heels mesmerized both sexes to mass purchasing, and no one was doing it. Because of these gals stripping at Pandora’s I figured out that males might now assume that their wives and girlfriends should wear heels and skimpy wear too, even when they were cleaning up dog poop.  Fashionable seduction was born– someone had to do it. So in 1976 my store Flash Cadilac was the first to sell corsets, stockings and garter belts. Within a few days anything I had bought from Coquette Lingerie in Waterloo, Ontario was sold out. And so it began…



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  25 Jul 1972, Tue

COMMENTS from Lost Ottawa

Went there in the 50s to watch laters and the serials – batman etc. Also our church, when Pandoras was active had a phone number that was one digit off the Pandora number so our church secretary got a lot of phone calls looking for Pandoras
Bill Anderson


Frank Hare— I went to Pandoras and had a box lunch. I remember the stripper produced a comb right out of thin air!

Michelle Grouchy

In 1972 Michael Johnston and Margaret aboud created a burlesque show at this theatre. The stage, the dance filoor, the supper club atmosphere were Europe meets Broadway, meets the revolution and evolution of Ottawa .
Hundreds of stories and momentous memories took place in the location, that changed names and focus many times.
U2 the Irish group played there and only had a few cover tunes. Bono and the edge loved this Ottawa land mark. Thanks for the picture. Ox
Bruce Mitchell


Wasn’t that the Rialto Theatre? We had a joke about that place, when you went there they searched you for a knife, if you didn’t have one they gave you one.
Willy Santilli


this was ROTHMANS Furniture is the 60s. anyone else remember that ?,Then it becomes Pandora s Box Burlesque club in the 70s but the mayor made in difficult on the sex type operations in Ottawa causing them to disappear one by one. Toronto s Young St got the same civic treatment after the sad “shoe shine boy” murder Aug 77 . 😔
Elizabeth Buchan-Kimmerly


It was also a clothing store called Bonnie and Clive for a few years, until Clive (or possibly Bonnie) took all the money and ran off to Mexico.
Phil Cheffins


It was indeed Lovie and Clive, an obvious take-off on Bonnie and Clyde. They had some interesting import items but went out of business when Import Bazaar (later Pier One) came to town



Also read- The Trials of Pandora’s Box CLICK


Timeline: Imperial Theatre, Pandora’s Box, Barrymore’s Music Hall

Timeline: Imperial Theatre, Pandora’s Box, Barrymore’s Music Hall

Linda Seccaspina – ScreaminMamas


Flash Cadilac -Sex Lies and Video Tape?

Stayin’ Alive — Reconnecting With the Friends of Flash Cadilac

Remembering Nash the Slash at The Black Swan Pub

So Who Was Miss Livingstone? Burlesque

Oh Dear, William Penfold and my AB Positive Blood

Party Conversations from: The Good, the Bad and the Famous

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

A Letter to my Grandchildren April 14, 2020 — Linda Knight Seccaspina

We Are Family


PHOTOS- Flash Cadilac

Kindi Dickinson ( Kindi Dickinson is also the model in the black one) at DISCO VIVA!!!

Flash Cadillac swimwear 1979–1990s– I cut and we made so many of these its crazy.. I can remember the pattern numbers.. Black one and I see a yellow one was B34 Leopard wrap was B2 and there 3 more in that group shot but my memory has lapsed-

Clipped from The Ottawa Journal, 08 Nov 1973, Thu, Page 23

Skateway Fashion Show

Marion Godwin Skateway Fashion Show
Skateway Fashion Show
From Lost Ottawa on Facebook– Photo of Linda Seccaspina– ago Flash Cadilac closed after 21 years on Rideau Street. Photo by Wanita Bates

2021- 70 years old for craps sake LOLOL