Theater & Dance

Tammi True, R.I.P.

The famous burlesque performer died today at 81.

Tammi True was her stage name. Her real name was Nancy Myers. In 2011, David Hopkins, who would go on to write a book with Myers, profiled her in the pages of D Magazine (the image you see above was the opening spread). Here’s the lede of that story, which bears the online title “Why Dallas Burlesque Owes a Debt to Tammi True”:

I’m sitting with a 72-year-old woman, looking at a scrapbook filled with naked photos of her, naked with the exception of pasties and a G-string. She’s smoking hot, and I’m not quite sure how to react. She turns the page in her scrapbook. There’s a business card for the Carousel Club: “Offering Sophisticated, Risqué, Provocative, Delightful Entertainment—Your Host—Jack Ruby.” She smiles. “The Sixth Floor Museum wants all this stuff when I die.”

In the 1960s, Nancy Myers, better known as Tammi True, headlined at the Carousel Club, the striptease venue owned by Jack Ruby. Throughout her career as a burlesque dancer, she performed in several downtown Dallas clubs and traveled the country with her routine. They called her Miss Excitement.

Unlike some associates of Ruby’s, Myers remained reclusive, shying from interviews. She gave Esquire an interview decades ago, but felt the magazine misrepresented her. It was not easy to find her. The townhouses in her part of Grand Prairie all look the same. The address numbers are not clearly visible from the cracked street, and the lane in the housing complex weaves in an illogical pattern. Fortunately, she stood outside on her small patch of front yard. As I drove past, our eyes met and I knew it was her. I stopped the car, introduced myself.

A few minutes later, I’m in her living room, digging through the contents of a large plastic bin filled with scrapbooks, old newspapers, playbills, and pocket guides to Dallas entertainment. Inside her house, she has a poodle and a cat she named PITA (“pain in the ass”). A finished newspaper crossword puzzle sits folded in half on her coffee table and nearby on a bookshelf there is a crossword puzzle dictionary. There are framed photos, antiques, numerous plants, and crafted knickknacks. It looks like any grandmother’s home. No one would suspect her former life.

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