disrobing trapeze artist / 1900s

Charmion - The World's Most Perfect Woman

(from Wikipedia)

Laverie Vallee née Cooper (July 18, 1875 – February 6, 1949),
best known by her stage name Charmion, was an American
vaudeville trapeze artist and strongwoman whose well-publicized
suggestive performance was captured on film in 1901.

Career Trapeze Disrobing Act

A native of Sacramento, Charmion built her act around a memorable
routine which opened with her on-stage entrance dressed in full
Victorian street attire. She subsequently mounted the trapeze and
disrobed down to her acrobat leotards in the midst of the trapeze's
swinging motion. She appears to have begun performing while in her
late teens and this was part of her repertoire at least as early as
May 1, 1898, and possibly before 1896, when her act was seen by
critic George Jean Nathan when he was a boy.

Charmion performed a version of this then-risqué striptease for an
Edison short film, "Trapeze Disrobing Act", on November 11, 1901.
Two men are pictured in the film as an on-screen audience, applauding
Charmion, and catching her clothes. This was deemed necessary so that
the men in the actual audience would have a visual cue to enjoy the
performance, instead of reacting with disgust, as polite society then demanded:

- Charmion being filmed by early Edison kinescope -

"Tom Gunning has called early cinema an exhibitionist cinema rather than a voyeuristic one
as Christian Metz defines it. While this may be true, historically this rupturing of a self-
enclosed fictional world usually mediated the spectators' experiences in ways that facilitated
their voyeurism, not undermined it. This is evident in Trapeze Disrobing Act , made that fall.

The performer in this studio production was probably Charmion, whose "risque disrobing act on
the flying trapeze" was popular at the turn of the century. Although her striptease was performed
for the camera and cine-viewers, the two male spectators inside the mise-en-scène authorized the
film spectators' voyeurism. Such pictures were so "hot" that the Victorian males' repressive
psychic mechanisms had to be allayed if these patrons were to find the intended pleasure
rather than voyeurism. Produced for burlesque houses and "smokers," these films were by
male filmmakers and for male spectators."

from Before the Nickelodeon by Charles Musser (University of California Press/1991)

New York Dramatic Mirror; September 13, 1902
Boston: "Charmion heads the programme at the Howard Athenaeum 8-13..."

The Milwaukee Journal - Aug 6, 1912 (pg.7)
- (listing: New Gayety Theatre: "Charmion, Queen of the Air")

                                                                 (San Francisco Chronicle - 1904)

Vallee died in Santa Ana, California at the age of 73.

1909 B.F. Keith 5th Avenue Theatre Vaudeville-Kinetograph program

Return to Vaudeville Acts Index