Legendary burlesque dancer Tempest Storm has died. Born Annie Blanche Banks, the veteran exotic dancer, who dated Elvis Presley and reportedly had a fling with President John F. Kennedy, died Tuesday in her Las Vegas home surrounded by fellow burlesque performers Kalani Kokonuts and Miss Redd, BurlyCares nonprofit organization nurse Stephanie Castellone, and longtime friend and business partner Harvey Robbins. She was 93.
Robbins confirmed Storm's passing to the Las Vegas Review-Journal Tuesday, the outlet reporting that Storm had been battling dementia in recent months. She also underwent surgery on her right hip on April 8 at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and had been struggling ever since. Following the operation, she was reportedly medicated to offset chronic pain and had been receiving around-the-clock care up until her death. Robbins remembered her as "the last of the great legends in the golden age of burlesque."
"She was perhaps the biggest of all," he told the Review-Journal. "Tempest was easily one of the best-known and highest-regarded burlesque performers of all time, and was an active part of the burlesque community right to the end. She will be missed terribly in the burlesque community and well beyond it."
Born in Eastman, Georgia, in 1928, Storm left home in the seventh grade at 14, working odd jobs before making her way to Hollywood in her late teens, according to The New York Times. While working as a cocktail waitress, a customer suggested she audition to be a burlesque dancer for Lillian Hunt, a choreographer at the Follies Theater in Los Angeles. She landed the gig and Hunt soon gave her a choice of stage names – Sunny Day or Tempest Storm. According to the Burlesque Hall of Fame, Storm changed her name legally in 1957. By 1956, Storm became the highest-paid performer ever with a 10-year contract at $100,000 at the Bryan-Engels burlesque production company. She also had her breasts insured for $1 million by Lloyd's of London. She eventually made the move into the world of film, appearing in Bettie Page's final film Teaserama in 1955 and also appearing in The French Peep Show (1949), Paris After Midnight (1951), and Striptease Girl (1952).
Storm was also romantically linked to a number of big names, including Presley, telling local news outlet WQAD8 in 2013 that they met in 1956 while she was appearing at The Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. She told the outlet, "we had a burlesque review and he came to see the show. He came over and sat down — he had the most beautiful eyes — and we got into a relationship and it was absolutely fantastic. He was a real Southern gentleman. Very polite." She said she met Kennedy in 1957 before he became president and said "it was a great relationship. He was a great man in his politics and everything."
Storm, who moved to Las Vegas in 2005, performed well into her 80s and gave her final performance in June 2010 at a Burlesque Hall of Fame reunion show. She fractured her hip later that night, ending her stage appearances. Storm is survived by her daughter, Patricia Jeffries, and a granddaughter.