Sherry Britton, Burlesque Star With Legit Credits, Died at 89

Obituaries   Sherry Britton, Burlesque Star With Legit Credits, Died at 89 Sherry Britton, a 5-foot-3, raven-haired beauty with an hourglass figure who was one of the last great stars of the burlesque stage, died April 1 at her home in Manhattan, it was reported. She was 89.

Ms. Britton was still a teenager when she began stripping on the Bowery, and was a top attraction on the burlesque circuit when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia banned her art form in New York City. Her fellow stripped Zorita called her "without a doubt the sexiest broad that I ever met in my life." A headliner at Minksy's Gaiety Theater on Broadway, the top burlesque theatre in the country, she was known for her wit and intelligence, even though she had never attended high school. One of her better-known lines was, "I strip but I don't tease."

She was good at stirring up controversy. She once performed at a club two blocks from the Eisenhower White House, and Robert Moses banned her from the 1964 World's Fair. She had many gentlemen suitors, including Rex Harrison, according to her account. Her unpublished memoir was titled "The Stripper, by the Hon. Brigadier General Sherry Britton," in reference to being named an honorary brigadier general by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in thanks for entertaining the troops during World War II.

Following the demise of burlesque, she found work in various venues. She was the onstage narrator of Best of Burlesque, show at the Carnegie Hall Playhouse that spoofed the genre. Bizarrely enough, she appeared as a "Green-clad woman" in a 1951 Lee Strasberg Broadway production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. In 1958, she starred in the George Abbott-directed comedy Drink to Me Only.

She also appeared in dozens of musicals and plays across the nation, including a stint as Miss Adelaide in a touring production of Guys and Dolls.

In 1971 she married Robert Gross, a wealthy businessman, who urged her to attend Fordham University. She received her college degree in 1982, when she was in her 60s. Her upbringing had been grim. Her mother left the family when she was still young, fleeing an abusive husband. After that, she lived in foster homes or with her aunt and uncle, vaudeville performers. She married at 15, but her husband, like her father, also proved abusive. Soon after, she took to the stage. Ms. Britton is survived by a half-sister, Emily Gendelman of Brooklyn.

Once asked if she would still strip if she could live her life all over again, she said, ''Yes. But I would have a different view of it. I would know it was a steppingstone. I'd not take it so personally, what people said. I look at pictures of myself then. I should have at least known I was pretty.''