Sample Minnesota newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted weekly. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Follow the blog on Twitter. Or check out "Minnesota Mysteries," a new book based on the blog.

E-mail your questions or suggestions to Ben Welter.

May 9, 1953: Jailed stripper blames wardrobe malfunction

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Minnesota newsmakers, Crime Updated: January 3, 2012 - 8:00 PM
 
For fans of burlesque, here’s a drama in three acts from the Minneapolis Tribune:

Stripper Struts
From City Bar
to City Jail

 
 
  Darlene Varallo was escorted from the bar by Dan Graff of the Minneapolis Police Department's morals squad. The story and photo both landed on the front page.

Darlene LaBette Varallo, billed as an “esoteric dancer” at the Saddle bar, 415 Hennepin avenue, was “pinched,” in a manner of speaking, by the police morals squad Friday night and charged with disorderly conduct.

 
Miss Varallo, who has been living at the Frederick hotel, 45 E. Fifth street, St. Paul, was arrested at 9:45 p.m. shortly after she finished on the Saddle stage.
 
IN HER AUDIENCE were Jake Sullivan, head of the morals squad, and two squad members, Robert Smith and Dan Graff.
 
“It was a lewd and distasteful act,” Sullivan said.
 
He explained that Miss Varallo – billed as an esoteric dancer because police don’t tolerate “strip-teasers” in Minneapolis bars – had too little clothing.
 
All she wore, he said, were a coarse net G-string with fringe and some round plastic objects which Miss Varallo identified as “pasties.” (They are held in position with paste.)
 
THE SQUAD of Sullivan and his two assistants took the “dancer” to city jail as soon as she was properly dressed. Her stage costume – what there was of it – was confiscated as evidence.
 
Miss Varallo was freed about an hour after her arrest when her employer, A.E. (Eddie) Holman, posted $200 bail. She will answer the charge in police court today.
 
Before her departure, Miss Varallo told police she is a native of Toledo, Ohio, but has been “dancing” in the Twin Cities about a month, first at the Saddle, then at Heinie’s bar in St. Paul, returning a week ago to the Saddle. 
 
Miss Varallo appeared in court the following Thursday. Tribune reporter Charles W. Bailey, future editor of the paper, filed this report:

City Stripper Gets to Wear the Evidence

Morals Chief
Left Holding
the Et Cetera

 
By CHARLES W. BAILEY
Minneapolis Tribune Staff Writer
 
Two little rhinestone-studded cones, a few lengths of gauze, a fringe and a pair of black net tights had Minneapolis law enforcement circles in a tizzy Thursday.
 
Darlene LaBette Varallo, an “esoteric” dancer, had the little things first, but she lost them Friday night to Jake Sullivan, head of the police morals squad, for putting on what he called “a lewd and distasteful act.”
 
Sullivan brought them to court yesterday as evidence when Darlene appeared to answer disorderly conduct charges.
 
HER ATTORNEY, Don Morgan, asked the hearing be put off until today. Then he started the fuss by asking police to loan him the fringe, gauze net, cones, etc., so he could have them photographed in their natural habitat – i.e., on Darlene – to show the court she didn’t look “lewd and distasteful” in them.
 
Judge Luther Sletten said it was all right with him. So did Leo McHale, city prosecutor. Sullivan picked up the fringe, gauze, net, etc., and carried them to the Saddle bar, 415 Hennepin avenue, where Darlene had done the disputed roundelay.
 
When he got there, though, he balked. He argued with Morgan that there were more lights on when he saw Darlene Friday night.
 
HE REFUSED to give up the fringe, gauze, etc., unless Darlene would pose for a police cameraman he just happened to have with him. Morgan said no. Sullivan, trailed by his photographer, deputy inspector Elmer Hart and three morals squad members, went back to his office with the evidence in a paper bag.
 
Morgan was hot on his heels, claiming his client was being denied her constitutional right to prepare a defense. He hurried to Judge Sletten’s chambers. The judge was out.
 
After waiting three hours for Sletten, Morgan persuaded Judge Betty Washburn to call Thomas R. Jones, police chief. After she told Jones she felt Darlene had a right to pose in the fringe, etc., Jones told Sullivan to take his evidence back in the Saddle again.
 
This time Sullivan had Fred Tersch, deputy inspector, with him. He gave the paper bag to Darlene. She ducked into her dressing room and returned wearing the et cetera.
 
“WALK AROUND in a circle,” Morgan’s photographer told her. She did. Flashbulbs exploded. She went on circling the stage.
 
“I’m getting dizzy,” she complained. Sullivan and Tersch watched the dark-haired dancer impassively. The photographer told her she could go.
 
Darlene retired, divested herself of the evidence and returned in a less controversial costume. She gave the et cetera back to Sullivan, who claims she wasn’t wearing all of it when he arrested her Friday.
 
Morgan said the whole thing was caused by politics and the impending city election. Eddie Holman, owner of the bar, said it’s bad for business. Darlene said she can’t sleep nights. Sullivan, left holding the bag, will bring it into court again this morning at 9 a.m. 
 
At her hearing the next day, Miss Varallo blamed the loss of her bra on a wardrobe malfunction, but the judge didn't buy it.

‘Peeler’ to Appeal Fine

‘Pivots, Twirls’ Fail to Sway Judge
 
By CHARLES W. BAILEY
Minneapolis Tribune Staff Writer
 
The Case of the Busted Brassiere (or Where Was the Costume When the Cops Collared the Cutie?) ended – for the time being – in Minneapolis municipal court Friday.
 
Darlene LaBette Varallo, “esoteric dancer” at the Saddle bar, 415 Hennepin avenue, was fined $100 on a disorderly conduct charge. But Judge Luther Sletten granted a month’s stay of sentence to let her attorney, Don Morgan, appeal to the state supreme court. Morgan said he will contest a ruling that a lie detector test given the dancer was not proper evidence.
 
 
  "I was just trying to entertain the public," Miss Varallo testified. "Most people can’t dance, but everyone has music in his soul.”
Before the six hour trial was over, spectators learned a number of things about dancing, costuming, the English language and the lie detector machine.
 
After Jake Sullivan, Dan Graff and Robert Smith of the police morals squad testified they entered the bar last Friday and watched Darlene do her dance – without a brassiere – Morgan put the dark-haired artiste on the stand to defend herself.
 
SHE DESCRIBED her dance as a “can-can” plus a mixture of “a shuffle, ball hop, kick, twirls.” She denied Sullivan’s charge that she had bent over and shaken parts of her anatomy at the audience.
 
“You can’t bend over when you dance or you lose your equilibrium,” said Darlene, who testified she has danced since the age of 3 and was an Arthur Murray instructor for two years.
 
She said she certainly was wearing state’s exhibit F (the brassiere) when she began to dance but had to discard it because a strap broke. She also denied removing the state’s exhibit E (a tasseled fringe) from its original position around her – ah – middle.
 
Exhibits A through D include two rhinestone, cone-shaped articles of apparel, one G-string and a pair of black net stockings.
 
Leo Hale, city prosecutor, asked her if she knew what was meant by the term “esoteric dancer.”
 
“Well, I’m an exotic dancer,” Darlene said. “Until yesterday, I thought it was a mistake by the sign painter – that he could not spell.
 
“Now I think it means a dance for the chosen few. I guess that’s because the bar is so small.”
 
“You may be right,” McHale said. “I’m no philologist.”
 
“Neither am I!” Darlene retorted, apparently miffed.
 
“What were you trying to portray?” McHale asked.
 
“Nothing. I was just trying to entertain the public. Most people can’t dance, but everyone has music in his soul.”
 
Morgan also put a series of bar customers and employes on the stand. They testified Darlene was wearing exhibit F when the dance began and that the lights over the stage were dimmer than the police claimed they were.
 
FINAL WITNESS was Henry Morrison, Jr., a University of Minnesota lie-detector operator. Morgan said he would testify that he had given Darlene a test Thursday night and that she “told substantially the truth.” In the questions, Morgan said, Darlene had answered she was wearing exhibit F when she began her dance and did not remove exhibit E.
 
Judge Sletten refused to admit the test as evidence. After the guilty finding, Morgan said he will appeal the conviction because the test hadn't been allowed as evidence.
 

The Saddle bar stood under garish lights on the 400 block of Hennepin Avenue. This Minneapolis Star photo, taken in 1949, looks south toward Fifth Street, with the Lumber Exchange Building at left.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT