While many people today know who Betty Page was, few may know that before Betty became a top fetish/pin up model there was someone else who held that title. In the 1950s Tana Louise was a burlesque striptease artist nicknamed the ‘Cincinnati Sinner.’ At that time she was better known as a fetish model who worked with Irving Klaw. She was frequently photographed wearing platform shoes, high heeled boots, corsets and leather. Her dark and sultry good looks made her a natural dominatrix, and she often posed with heavy eye makeup and exaggerated eyebrows.
Tana was also a regular contributor to the fetish magazine Exotique as both a columnist and a model, and she eventually married the magazine’s owner, Leonard Burtman. In the late 1950s, however, Tana and Leonard were divorced and she basically disappeared from public view. In the 1960s Tana was sued by Tina Louise (TV’s Ginger) for allegedly stealing her name and cashing in on ‘her’ fame. This was a patently ridiculous litigation, since Tana was already quite famous in her own right long before Tina became a household name. In the late 60s Tana and another burlesque stripper named Mara Gaye started an exotic bizarre costume mail order business called ‘Tana and Mara.’
And unfortunately, that is about all the information available regarding Tana Louise. All we have left is a wealth of pictures—some of them of admittedly poor quality—to remember her by. If you are interested, Taschen has reprinted the issues of Exotique magazine in a three volume set, which can be ordered through www.taschen.com.
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