There were three of us, that night in 1963. Me, Larry and Frenchie Laton. We took a bus ride up to Baltimore to spend an evening at the old Gaiety Burlesque Theatre on East Baltimore Street.
To get there it was necessary to take a bus ride from the fort to The District of Columbia bus station. The bus station itself was almost as exciting as the rest of the trip. You never knew what would happen there.
That evening I went down stairs to the men’s room before we boarded the bus to Baltimore. There were two other guys besides me there. One was a very well dressed business man, and the other was a typical 1963 district hood, with his black leather jacket and greasy hair. I watched as he took a last drag on his cigarette and flipped it half way across the room where it landed on the back of the businessman’s neck. The guy dug the butt out of his collar and took off like his ass was on fire. I mentally braced myself for what might come my way, a fight. However, the guy just took a quick look my way and left. So, we are off to a good start!
The bus ride to Baltimore only took about an hour and all the way there we had to keep Frenchie under control. Frenchie had been hand raised by his mother until he was drafted into the Army, never having to be responsible for even the least things in his life. How he ever got through basic training is nothing short of a miracle. Larry had taken to holding part of his pay for him each month to prevent him from spending it all at once.
But money, or the lack of it was not Frenchie’s problem tonight. His blood pressure was almost at critical levels at the thought of seeing a naked woman for the first time. He was alternately having fits of
hornieness and remorse. If the bus windows could have been opened he might have jumped out.
We finally got to Baltimore and walked the few blocks to the theater, still having to have one of on each side of Frenchie to keep him from bolting.
The Gaiety was an ancient place; run by old duffers who were dinosaurs held over from the 1920s. Every single one of them looked at least eighty years old. Not only that, but they also looked like dirty old men. You could look up at the ceiling and see stars through the holes in the roof of the place. There was an orchestra pit where ancient musicians were playing the same bump and grind music over and over so long, the could do it in their sleep. The guy with the trombone always sat next to the stage so he could do the old slide between the girls legs trick, when necessary.
For a couple of bucks extra the old usher seats us right down front at the left side of the stage by the stairs. We now have to actually hold Frenchie in his seat as he is sweating and making pitiful moaning sounds, his eyes are wide open and he has stopped blinking.
The show starts and Frenchie has now went into an almost rigor mortis state and we no longer have to restrain him; I think he is starting to enjoy the show.
After several acts, a very young, Hispanic woman, today comes out. She is stunning, a beautiful woman if there ever was one. It’s the “Argentina Firecracker” Fannie Foxx! She has a stuffed black cat with a stiff tail. When she sticks the tail between her legs the cat’s red eyes blink on and off. Finally
when she is only wearing a pair of high heels, she comes over to our side of the stage and we can’t believe it, she’s coming down the stairs right at us! Frenchie has reverted back to his state of panic
And is confronted with the fact, he has no where to run.
Fannie comes right up to Frenchie and stops in front of him. Fannie reaches out
and takes Frenchie’s glasses and goes back up on the stage where she proceeds
to dance around occasionally thrusting while holding the folded up glasses.
Until this very moment I have not given it any thought, but Frenchie may have not been able to see what was happening on stage without his glasses. She finally came back down and ever so gently placed them back on his face.
Frenchie was done in; it was almost too much for him, hell it was almost too much for Larry and me too! What a night! We made the trip back to the fort and spent the next week retelling the story to our friends.
No one heard about Fannie again until 1974, when she and Wilbur Mills, a powerful congressman from Arkansas, managed to drive his car into the tidal basin.
Mills lost his position as chairman of the “Ways and Means Committee” and eventually left Washington.
Larry died of lung cancer a few years ago. He was unable to kick the smoking habit and it finally got him.
The last time anyone saw Frenchie was in 1964 at Ft Belvoir, Virginia, he was gassing up a helicopter, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He will probably out last us all.
I did a Google search for Fannie Foxe, but it seems she has faded into history. She should be approaching about eighty years old now. I sort of wonder if the great grandkids ever crawl up on her
lap and say “Granny, tell us about the time you were a stripper in Baltimore”.