Rose Rose I Love You
April 18, 2014 8:54 PM   Subscribe

In 1952 Malaya, cabaret dancer Rose Chan's bra snapped on stage. Noticing the enthusiastic response from the audience, she decided to capitalise on this, and transformed herself into Malaysia's first (and so far only) Queen of Striptease. (Many of these links have NSFW pictures) posted by divabat (13 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

It's surprising how conservative Malaysia is becoming. I was talking with a nice (Muslim) lady from Tampin who talked about how they raised pigs right outside of town when she was growing up and the kids would play with them. Now, obviously, that sort of thing wouldn't fly.

Interesting stuff, divabat.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:31 AM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a great post not just because I've been utterly oblivious about Rose Chan but also because the parallels I'm seeing to Iran and how much a country can regress freedom-wise in so short time.

divabat, I'm very grateful you're around here to provide much needed perspective!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:34 AM on April 19, 2014

her famous python-wrestling act

Know what I mean, nudge, nudge, say no more.
posted by fairmettle at 2:45 AM on April 19, 2014

....talked about how they raised pigs right outside of town when she was growing up and the kids would play with them. Now, obviously, that sort of thing wouldn't fly.

You're telling me that pigs used to fly?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:43 AM on April 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

What a fascinating life. It's a shame the movie apparently got derailed, her story sounds positively cinematic.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:59 AM on April 19, 2014

"That’s why she thought that everybody else who’d stripped had no standard. That it was all a low cost prostitute thing and they were all just dancing to get men,” Rajendra says. “She always kept her audience titillated – the suspense was always there. And that’s why she was so successful.”

Interesting post. But a bit nostalgic for a past that was probably no better than the present. It seems she had some pretty illiberal views herself, was only in it for the money, and not really a champion of sexual liberation, but smart enough to profit from the repression her act needed to attract a paying audience. Entirely laudable as a clever entertainer and a smart businessperson and that's not bad at all.
posted by three blind mice at 7:29 AM on April 19, 2014

the parallels I'm seeing to Iran and how much a country can regress freedom-wise in so short time.

This suggests a nostalgia for the Shah's brutal despotism poorly supported by real Iranian history.
posted by howfar at 9:08 AM on April 19, 2014

The wikipedia entry gives a description of her show. Inserting a banana in her vagina is something you can still see today (the Bananenbar in Amsterdam specializes in that very thing), but pulling out a string of razor blades from her vagina seems awful.
posted by Houstonian at 9:33 AM on April 19, 2014

It's unfortunate that she's not as supportive of her fellow strippers simply because she was more artistic - but it's a common sentiment I hear from the burlesque world and can be a source of tension.

Here's something to reflect the changing social mores of Malaysia: I do burlesque too. I may be Malaysia's only other international burlesque performer.* I offered to do a burlesque performance for the closest thing Malaysia has to a Pride parade. Now mind you, a majority of the attendees would have been liberal urbanites. The organizer turned me down, saying that Malaysians "weren't ready for this sort of thing".

So they'd be more ready in the 50s and 60s rather than now?!

I'm amazed that the police let her off when she said it's body art. One of my best friends and her friends almost got arrested for staging The Vagina Monologues inKL in 1998; it is banned there now. Maybe I'd be arrested immediately too.

* that I know of and who is openly Malaysian. There's someone from Singapore that uses that fact in her branding, and another I know of who's Indonesian but claims to be something else mostly for self-protection. So there may be others working in stealth.
posted by divabat at 10:27 AM on April 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

She then approaches the people sitting nearest to the stage, who are normally the elderly big towkays She takes an old man's spectacles, rubs it against her pp, and then gives it back to him. Some of her acts are very crude. With her legs spread wide open , she peruses her most intimate parts to :
a) stuff a banana inside
b) open the cap of a Coca Cola bottle
c) pull out a string of razor blades that was inserted in one by one
d) shoot a dart at a balloon high up

This moves way from striptease or burlesque to... well, whatever it is.
These kinds of shows I associate with Thailand today (maybe Bali and parts of the Philippines), and not Malaysia or Singapore at all. Times have indeed changed.

But razors.... I will never get that one at all.
Who looks at a razor and decides "eh, can't hurt"?
posted by Mezentian at 3:03 AM on April 20, 2014

I'm currently reading the No Bed of Roses book about her (apparently the only biography she personally authorized before her death in 1987) and ugh, the writing leaves a lot to be desired. There's a lot of conjecture being made about events in her life: I can't tell how much of it is straight from Rose's mouth and how much is author embellishment. Also the damn thing needs an editor (if I have to see one more lowercase I or badly transcribed Manglish...).

(I'm also reading a biography of Adah Isaacs Menken, a similarly scandalous performer and writer, written by Michael Foster - and it suffers from a similar problem. I wonder if the problem is that men are really bad at writing about complicated unusual women.)

The stories so far do reveal some things about race relations and immigration in Malaya, and it would be interesting to situate the story in some sort of historical context. Also interviews with other people in Rose's life and those who saw her during this time would make this book so much stronger.

I'll still keep reading it because information about Rose and other performers like her are so scant, but with some disappointment and eye-rolling.
posted by divabat at 1:20 PM on April 22, 2014

race relations and immigration in Malaya

I would be really interesting in this, as it pertains to Rose Chan's choices and options during her time. Any chance you could be persuaded to update with a summary? (I know a summary would not be enough, but it would be a start.)
posted by Houstonian at 5:19 PM on April 22, 2014

So far the book's covered her move to Malaya from China via Singapore - her parents sent her off to be with her sister because they couldn't afford feeding both of them.

There's a line in there where 6-year-old Rose is freaked out by the "red and black" people, and her sister explains that the "reds" are the "towkays" while the "blacks" are the "coolies". Then it mentions that her sister refers to the Indians using a term that is currently known as a slur (the book doesn't mention that; however, it's a slur that has been used against me personally so I'm slightly more aware).

I'm not sure who the "Red" is meant to be, but the "black" refers to Indians; the slur itself refers to their dark skin.

(The book also makes some horrible innuendo about sexuality - "putting his wick in women" yeeeesh)
posted by divabat at 9:12 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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