Blaze Starr was a famous burlesque dancer and stripper who rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s. She was known for her fiery red hair, voluptuous curves, and inventive stage props, such as a papier-mache flame that shot up between her legs. She was also notorious for her affair with Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long, which inspired the 1989 film Blaze starring Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovich. But how did she die and what was her impact on the entertainment industry?
A Heart Condition Ended Her Life
Blaze Starr died on June 15, 2015, at the age of 83, at her home in Wilsondale, West Virginia. Her nephew, Earsten Spaulding, said she had been experiencing heart issues for the past few years. One of her sisters claimed that the stress of her life, along with a severe heart condition, killed her. Her dog died hours later.
A heart condition is a general term that refers to any problem that affects the heart or blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, or congenital heart defects. Some of the common symptoms of a heart condition include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and swelling. Some of the risk factors for developing a heart condition include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, stress, and family history of heart disease. It is not clear if Blaze Starr had any of these risk factors, or if she had any signs or symptoms of a heart condition before she died.
A Star Was Born in West Virginia
Blaze Starr was born as Fannie Belle Fleming on April 10, 1932, in Wayne County, West Virginia. She was the second eldest of 11 siblings. She grew up in a poor and rural area, where she learned to play the guitar and sing. She left home at the age of 15, after claiming to have suffered a gang rape. She moved to Logan, West Virginia, where she worked as a carhop, and then to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a waitress at a doughnut shop.
It was there that she was discovered by a promoter named Red Snyder, who convinced her to become a stripper. He gave her the stage name Blaze Starr, and taught her how to perform and seduce the audience. She moved to Baltimore, where she became the headliner of the Two O’Clock Club, a famous nightclub that featured burlesque shows. She quickly gained fame and popularity for her beauty, charisma, and humor. She also appeared in several films and magazines, such as Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962) and Esquire (1954).
A Scandalous Affair with a Governor
Blaze Starr’s most controversial and publicized relationship was with Earl K. Long, the governor of Louisiana, who served in the 1940s and 1950s. She met him in 1959, when she was performing at the Sho-Bar club in New Orleans. He was immediately smitten by her, and pursued her relentlessly. He showered her with gifts, money, and attention, and even proposed to her several times. He also took her to political events and introduced her to his friends and family.
Their affair caused a huge scandal in Louisiana, as Long was already married and had a reputation for being erratic and unstable. He was accused of being mentally ill, and was even committed to a psychiatric hospital by his wife and relatives, who tried to oust him from office. He managed to escape and resume his duties, with Blaze Starr by his side. He also ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress, but died of a heart attack before the election, in 1960.
Blaze Starr later wrote a memoir about her affair with Long, titled Blaze Starr! My Life as Told to Huey Perry, which was published in 1974. The book was adapted into a movie in 1989, called Blaze, starring Paul Newman as Long and Lolita Davidovich as Starr. Starr herself acted as a consultant and had a cameo role in the film.
A Legacy of Glamour and Humor
Blaze Starr continued to perform and entertain until the 1980s, when she retired from stripping and bought the Two O’Clock Club. She also became interested in gemology, and started a jewelry business. She remained a popular and respected figure in the entertainment industry, and influenced many other performers, such as John Waters, Divine, and Dita Von Teese. She was also honored by the Burlesque Hall of Fame and the American Burlesque Museum.
Blaze Starr’s cause of death was a heart condition, but her legacy lives on through her work and her fans. She was a talented and charismatic performer who brought joy and excitement to many people. She was also a strong and independent woman who defied the norms and expectations of her time. She is remembered as a legend of burlesque, a lover of life, and a friend of the people.