English Heritage are embroiled in a minor tussle over the wording of a new blue plaque:
Phyllis Dixey 1914 to 1964, Striptease Artiste lived here in flat number 15.
The proposed plaque would adorn an Art Deco mansion block in Surbiton, and would presumably be the first English Heritage recognition of this form of entertainment in London.
Its dedicatee was the first stripper to appear in the West End, starting a tradition of performance nudity whose ever-raunchier protagonists made Soho famous in the post-war years. Phyllis Dixey's relatively tame shows in the 1940s attracted police attention and she soon became a household name, dubbed the Queen of Striptease. Her life story was told in the 1978 film The One and Only Phyllis Dixey, starring Lesley-Anne Down.
Dixey's life sounds remarkable, and she certainly influenced London's cultural scene. A plaque, then, seems appropriate. Disagreements over the wording threaten to derail the gesture, however. On one side, English Heritage and the British Music Hall Society (who proposed the plaque) favour the phrase 'striptease artiste'. Residents of the Surbiton block and Dixey's family would prefer something less ouvert. Nobody can think of a wording that keeps everyone happy. 'Actress' is too bland, and 'burlesque' is inaccurate.
So, can we think of a description that would do Dixey justice without compromising the prudish sensibilities of the Surbitonians?