“Fundamentals of Taking It Off.” “Psychology of Inhibitions.” “Applied Sensual Communication.” The courses I recently spotted on a student application from the 1960s could only have been taught at one place: the Pink Pussycat College of Striptease in Los Angeles. The “school,” which opened in 1961, was held at the Pink Pussycat Club, the city’s most unique burlesque theater for nearly 20 years.
Harry and Alice Schiller owned the fuschia-stained joint. At night it operated like a typical strip club; dancers with clever stage names such as Fran Sinatra, Samya Davis Jr., Deena Martin, Peeler Lawford, Joanie Carson, Edie McMahon, Joie Bishop, and Reegie Philbin put on glittering shows for a packed crowd—which often included members of the Rat Pack.
By day the venue was transformed into a college where young ladies became experts in the exotic arts, like bumping and grinding while flaunting tassels, sequins, rhinestones, and feathers. Of all the strip clubs that offered classes in its day, the Pink Pussycat undoubtedly had the most distinguished facility. Striptease artist Sally Marr served as de facto chancellor, provost, dean, and professor. (She also had the distinction of being Lenny Bruce’s mother, and she sometimes persuaded her son to perform at the club.)
According to Alice Schiller, the Pussycat changed lives. “I myself am an authority on beauty and glamour,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1967. “I’ve probably glamorized 1,000 pussycats. Twenty of my pussycats married multimillionaires. One of my girls got a $2,700 tip one night. She disappeared and we never saw her again.”
In the late ‘70s the property was turned into a discotheque named Peanuts, which was run by Schiller’s nephew, but DBA Dance Club exists in the space today. Thanks to the original marquee up top, the building’s exterior looks much the same as it did when the Pussycat first opened its door—minus a few coats of signature pink paint.
Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to CityThink and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram