The one and only Phyllis Dixey

Phyllis Dixey

Phyllis Dixey


Until the swinging sixties Britain was a very straight laced place with strict alcohol licensing and gambling laws and all forms of public nudity frowned on. It’s surprising therefore that probably the UK’s best known striptease artist Phyllis Dixey was at her peak in the repressed 1940s and early 1950s.

Phyllis Dixey was born in Merton , Surrey in 1914 and started her theatrical career as a child dancer in pantomimes moving on to be a chorus girl in Walter Parnell’s variety shows which toured the various theatres of the time. In 1935 she went with Parnell to Australia with a show called “Laughter Express” and on the show met Jack Tracy a very short Irish American comic on the show who she eventually married in 1937. Blue plaque for a Stripper

The couple toured as a comedy double act and Phyllis Dixey also appeared in a couple of feature films and did Phyllis Dixeysome straight acting roles but their big breakthrough came in 1939 when Phyllis Dixey performed the fan dance in Hull for the first time. Moving nudes were banned on stage though nude tableaux’s had been used by the Windmill Theatre in Soho since 1931 and towards the end of the decade they had introduced fan dances {used in US Burlesque} to try to make the shows more animated. The act involved a girl dancing covered by large feathers and ending with the feathers removed and the girl standing still naked in the tableaux style. It’s very tame by today’s standards but it was a bit of a sensation in provincial theatres at the time and Phyllis formed a production company with Jack called “ Dixtra” and started promoting their own shows. Paul Raymond the King of Soho

Phyllis DixeyThe shows were banned by the Lord Chancellor after only 4 months but Phyllis Dixey went to see him personally and got the ban  rescinded , the notoriety of this was of course great  publicity !

Phyllis Dixey recruited a troupe of dancers who she expected to be demure and wholesome {alcohol and sex was officially discouraged though apparently Jack had plenty of both !} and the backstage area was emptied before the nude acts. The couple in the early 1940s moved into the flat in Wentworth Court, Surbiton where in 2011 they want to put on a blue plaque to commemorate her. The war was on and thanks to some photographic books by Roye she also became something of a forces pin up and this cumulated in 1942 when they put on their own show 3 times a day , 6 nights a week at the Whitehall Theatre in London which played to packed houses for several years.

The shows were very successful {they moved to a house with 10 acres in Epsom on the proceeds} and Phyllis Dixeythese were followed on after the war with a series of UK provincial tours and from 1949 tours overseas mainly to Scandinavia. The climate though was changing by the 1950s as the advent of television started closing variety theatres in the UK and a lot of similar touring shows promoted by the likes of Paul Raymond were starting in competition. In Scandinavia the moral climate was also getting more liberal and shows like Phyllis’s put on were looking old hat and her last overseas tour to Norway in 1954 was a financial disaster.

The production company folded and Phyllis Dixey started appearing in other peoples shows including those of Paul Raymond finally retiring in 1958 aged 44 just as the first full frontal Soho strip joints were opening up. Although they had been very wealthy in the 40s the couple were declared bankrupt in 1958 and Phyllis ended her working life as a cook. Classic striptease artists

Phyllis DixeyPhyllis Dixey died in 1964 from cancer and was buried at Epsom cemetery, the unfaithful Jack remarried and apparently only died quite recently in California. Her grave had become untended but in 2005 the British Music Hall Society paid for it to be restored and in 2011 a Blue Plaque commemorating her life has been proposed for the Surbiton flat. In 1978 Thames Television produced a drama on the story of her life called “The one and only Phyllis Dixey” starring Lesley Ann Down {right} and the recent revival of Burlesque type shows in the UK owes quite a lot to the age of striptease that she starred in. The Shocking History of striptease



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Author: Saxon is covering the European Striptease industry with monthly updates on or famous London Gossip, Interviews with industry people, articles and news from the world of striptease. We also offer a Striptalk forum, Industry Directory with Stripclubs and Agents and a Job board for the Striptease industry in Europe.