Va-Va-Va-Voom! The Ladies of the Seattle World's FairApril 17, 2012 @ 5:54 pm (Updated: 7:03 am - 4/19/12 )
By Rachel Belle
This Saturday, April 21, marks 50 years since the opening day of the Seattle World's Fair. While most people are talking about the Space Needle, the monorail or Elvis' visit, there is a whole other side to the World's Fair: Show Street! This was where a lot of women performed in a variety of girly shows, wearing all varieties of costume, or lack thereof.
Ballard's Karoline Morrison was a Show Street performer. Forever a glamour girl, when I met Karoline last week, she was wearing a long, faux-leopard fur coat and drinking a glass of champagne. It was 10 in the morning. Of course, I joined her. Karoline had worked as a showgirl on Hollywood's Sunset Strip, at the famous Ciro's night club, where stars like Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart sipped martinis. So she thought she could easily get a job with Gracie Hansen at the World's Fair.
"She said 'Oh, you're not tall enough to be a showgirl! You have to be at least five foot seven.' I'm five foot three. So she recommended I go to The Girls of the Galaxy, which I did, and then I found out that, actually, that was a strip club. I thought, 'My mom will kill me!' But they wanted someone to work outside, they had a big platform set up. So I thought, 'Well, I can do that!'"
So she stood outside the nightclub, in a beautiful costume, with Ralph the pitchman, who tried to draw men inside.
"He would say things like 'Well, you think she looks good in that dress, wait until you go inside and see her without it.' I would have these long black gloves on, and I'd be slinking one of them off my arm. Then, what do I see in this crowd? A friend of my mother's from her church! I went close to the edge of the platform and, you know what happened, a guy reaches up and grabs my ankle! He wouldn't let go! Well, I only had one weapon, it was my long black glove. So I start swatting him over the head with my glove! The crowd down there was loving this! So at the end of my shift, my manager said, 'That was great! We're going to do this every night! I'll plant someone in the crowd.' I said 'No, you won't.' And he said 'Why?' And this was my exit line, 'Because this girl is leaving the galaxy!'" she laughed.
Karoline made her rounds at the fair, jumping from one job to the next.
"I was briefly a human target. They had something called the Wild West on Show Street. Girls put on these short little cowgirl outfits and guys could shoot at them. I thought 'I can't believe I'm doing this!' I mean, I thought it was bad at Girl of the Galaxy. So I lasted one day."
While families ooh'd and ahh'd over the latest technology and space exploration exhibits at the fair, some gentleman were exploring...other exhibits.
"You probably heard about the naughty puppet show? They they had semi-nude, x-rated puppets. It was hilarious!"
Karoline says Seattle was transformed by the World's Fair; nightclubs opened up and people from all over the world came for a visit.
"I love these memories! I never could travel, but the world came to me. I was able to meet people from all over the world and be part of it, and it's just an incredibly wonderful memory that I will always keep and I love now that we're celebrating."
Fifty years later, when Karoline tells her stories, people often ask her the same question.
"I am frequently asked how old I am and I have a stock answer. There's an old Italian proverb that says 'Never count years, lovers or glasses of wine."
Karoline has written the story of her life in a book called Twilight of the Blondes and she says you can find out how old she is by reading the book and doing the math.
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