Storm at the Miss Exotic World Pageant, 2006
|Born||Annie Blanche Banks
February 29, 1928
Eastman, Georgia, U.S.
|Other names||Queen of Exotic Dancers|
|Occupation||Burlesque Superstar, Exotic Dancer, Film Actress|
|Herb Jeffries (m. 1959; div. 1967)|
Tempest Storm (born Annie Blanche Banks, February 29, 1928), and dubbed the Queen of Exotic Dancers is a burlesque star and motion picture actress. Along with Lili St. Cyr, Sally Rand, and Blaze Starr, she was one of the best-known burlesque performers of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Her career as an exotic dancer spanned more than 60 years and she was still performing in the early 21st century.
Tempest Storm was born in Eastman, Georgia. She left school in seventh grade and in 2016 recalled she had been sexually abused around that time. At 14, she worked as a waitress in Columbus, Georgia, where she quickly married a U.S. Marine in order to emancipate herself from her parents, and had the marriage annulled after 24 hours. At 15, she married a Columbus shoe salesman, whose sister worked with her at a hosiery mill. Storm said in a 1968 interview with film reviewer Roger Ebert that after six months in that marriage, "I just left one day. I still had it in my mind to go to Hollywood. I couldn't get it out of my system."
In Los Angeles circa 1945 at age 17, Storm worked as a carhop waitress at Simon's Drive-In and then as a cocktail waitress, though still underage. A patron suggested she consider striptease as a profession, and arranged an audition with Follies Theater talent manager Lillian Hunt. Three weeks after being hired as a chorus dancer at $40 a week, Storm accepted a promotion to $60 as a stripper. A week afterward, she recalled in 1968, Hunt said a stage name was needed:
I asked her if she had any suggestions. She said, what about Tempest Storm? I asked her if she had any other suggestions. Well, she said, what about Sunny Day? Well, I said, I guess it might as well be Tempest Storm.
Annie Blanche Banks legally changed her name to Tempest Storm in 1957, one of the few strippers to have done so.
Storm was a regular performer for many years at El Rey, a burlesque theater in Oakland, California, as well as at clubs around the United States, including in Las Vegas. She was featured in numerous men's magazines and burlesque movies, including French Peep Show (1950), Paris After Midnight (1951), Striptease Girl (1952), Teaserama (1955), and Buxom Beautease (1956).
In 1953, she moved to Portland, Oregon, and worked at the Star Theater. A few months later she moved to the Capital Theater down the street after her then-husband, John Becker, bought it. The owner of the Star then brought Becker's ex-wife, and rival burlesque star, Arabelle Andre to the Star to perform as "John's Other Wife". This sparked a "burlesque war" that made it into the pages of Life magazine on November 30, 1953.
Storm told her life story to writer Bill Boyd, whose transcriptions of her dictations formed the 1987 book Tempest Storm: The Lady Is a Vamp. She was inducted into the Burlesque Hall of Fame, where one of her G-strings is part of the museum's display.
Storm officially retired from regular performance in 1995 at the age of 67, but has done occasional stage performances since. In 1999, she stripped in San Francisco's O'Farrell Theatre to mark the club's 30-year anniversary. Mayor Willie Brown declared a "Tempest Storm Day" in her honor.
She appears in the 2016 documentary film Tempest Storm.