Burlesque performer and fetish model Tana Louise surveying her collection of shoes back in the 1950s.
After enjoying success as a popular burlesque dancer and stripper, Tana Louise (not to be confused with actress Tina Louise, aka “Ginger” from Gilligan’s Island, though we’ll get to her later) would truly find her calling by becoming a fetish model and columnist for Exotique magazine.
Exotique followed in the dominatrix footsteps of cult fetish magazine Bizarre, though it didn’t really focus on BDSM and instead featured models clad in corsets and sky-high heels. Acquiring the moniker of the “Cincinnati Sinner” after she allegedly clubbed dancer Emerald Forest in the head while she was sitting in her dressing room, Louise’s bad-girl persona fit in perfectly with Exotique. The assault story was published by Billboard in 1950—Louise denied it ever happened—and this only helped enhance that aspect of her appeal. Exotique publisher Leonard Burtman, considered by some to be the father of the modern fetish business, was so impressed by Louise that he not only made her the primary model for Exotique during its short three-year run, he also married her. Later, and in accordance with his then wife and his magazine’s love of stilettos, Burtman would also produce the pioneering fetish film, 1962’s Satan in High Heels.
Often photographed by the great Irving Klaw, Louise’s column in Exotique “From Me to You” was essentially a primer for “readers” of the magazine for her photo shoots. Most revolved around the process of getting into her leather gear and insane fetish footwear. Though she bore a distinct resemblance to a woman who is arguably the most famous pinup model ever, Bettie Page, the similarity would end up working against Louise during her career. Another issue Tana faced was a lawsuit initiated by actress Tina Louise that accused the model of using the similarities of their names to help promote herself, though it is unclear if the case ever made it to court. It wouldn’t take long for Burtman to tire of the raven-haired model, and sadly, after they divorced sometime in the late 1950s, Louise faded into obscurity.
Later in the 1960s, Tana would briefly resurface along with another burlesque dancer, Mara Gaye. The girls claimed to be in charge of an exotic fashion mail order company called “Tana & Mara” that was rumored to only be a promotional scheme for the two models/dancers, as they allegedly didn’t actually have merchandise to sell, and were merely making money from the sale of the catalog itself which cost two bucks an issue. As there is no shortage of images of Tana Louise from the 1950s, below you’ll find several shots of the gorgeous, sometimes blonde model showing off her fierce fetish footwear below. Dig it.
Louise as a blonde.
A vintage ad for the “Tana & Mara” mail order fetish catalog.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Ass-kicking ‘Faster Pussycat’ heroine Tura Satana during her younger days as a burlesque dancer
Ingenious 1930s burlesque queen, the great Sally Rand
Satanic strippers: Vintage burlesque performers dance with the devil
Looking for a TON of burlesque matchbook covers? Well, you can stop looking.