The Road my Life Story

By Rasa Von Werder, May 20th, 2021
YASMEEN

YASMEEN

Chapter 4   The Baker-Berger Circuit

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        The earliest event in my stripping career was the ‘Baker-Berger’ Circuit. Can’t recall details, but I started at $3 hundred a week, due to bad representation, but eventually got $5 hundred a week upon demand. Even that was not enough, the going rate was $6 hundred a week for stars, but I endured. Women less distinguished than I, whose credentials were fake {One claimed she was Miss Nude Canada – there was no such thing. Another said she was Miss Nude France – no such thing {no contests had been held}, another was a SEX CHANGE & they were all getting $6 hundred weekly. It’s all about how PROPERLY your AGENT represents you – btw you CANNOT get jobs without an agent – they don’t take you seriously. It’s the ole’ PIMP SYSTEM – men have to have their CUT from everything we do.

 

My CLAIM TO FAME was legit – I had been in PLAYBOY with 6 pictures of me as Miss Nude Universe – ‘The Most Beautiful Body in the World’ {the first of 9 times in Playboy, they documented my life} one of the most beautiful women of the last hundred years – the votes based on modeling, dancing at that time – I was a well represented nude model in many magazines, such as Gent, Cavalier, Penthouse, dozens of books & mags on covers, centerfolds & articles. The other stars ON THIS CIRCUIT did NOT have this kind of promotion.

 

Stars who got the most attention were elsewhere, had managers usually, made more money than I at the time – but I CAUGHT UP to the best of them simply by being the ONE & ONLY WOMAN OF GOD – STRIPPER – MINISTER – & like all my activities, it was LEGIT, not a fake, I was really the person I purported to be.

 

What put me somewhat in the shade was when they started to get BIGGER & BIGGER IMPLANTS & females like Kitten Natividad, Lotta Top, Candy Samples, {the previous 3 all had their implants removed in time, Candy later put another set in because her bf wanted it}, Topsy Curvy – DOZENS of them had got implanted like FF cup breasts & they also made PORN VIDEOS – which I wouldn’t do. {Not saying it’s immoral to make them, just saying who did, who didn’t.} For a while – until the fad crashed – everyone wanted the BIGGEST, so I did not have implants, I was a normal D to DD when I gained weight. And so, if a star had monster implants & featured in porn movies, it was a hard act to follow.

 

This might be a good place to add that my Stripping for God was NOT a gimmick – I was working for/with a living Guru I call ‘Rev. Judy Swaggart,’ who wanted me to TALK ABOUT HER everywhere I went, be it stages, newspapers, any media, tell them how great she was & about our Church – eventually this lead to my giving sermons. I did not PLAN to give sermons, it EVOLVED.

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The Circuit

 

        The Baker-Berger Circuit was a series of theaters owned by the two men, which went from Midwest areas like Canton, Ohio, to Atlantic City {before it became hot stuff for gambling, in 1972 they were debating it while I was dancing, on the radio & they asked my opinion, I was for it. Little did I know that it wouldn’t help poor people much, big business stayed in the hands of the rich}, New Jersey with their flagship theater on 42nd St, NYC, the ROXY Theater.

 

                Atlantic City before Gambling

 

Anecdote: On the beach with a battery-operated record player & Mario Lanza records blasting. Obviously I was then strongly connected to Mario. Had always loved him since day one, even now, when I listen to his songs on the internet, I feel the Presence of God. My Latin co-star was with me, with this anomaly, it gave plenty men the excuse to chat us up. I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t have.

 

The Atlantic City Show included A REAL SHOW, old-time burlesque with comics & an attractive, busty, bossy lady actress who’d obviously been a stripper back in the day, but was now around 60. Yes, the show was hackneyed, out-of-date, but it was a show, the only one on the circuit.

 

I shared a room with the prima donna. Her German shepherd lunged at me – she refused to be there without him, every stripper that tried to share a room with them vacated. They said he almost bit Busty Russell. {Years later, 1981, I met Busty Russell who came to see my show & she said I had a good act, so, of course I liked her.}

 

Al Baker was present, boss-in-residence, living in a luxurious penthouse. Every stripper got to meet him there, including me – I was the only one that didn’t have sex with him – instead he used me to channel his dead wife. The millionaire did not offer me cab money home, I had to ask. He was one of those Simon LeGree types, pushing people around, telling them off, making them feel small. It might have been here that I pushed him for a raise, but he refused to give the legit amount that all the stars got – $600 as I said before, he only gave me $500 & felt proud of himself.

 

It amused me when my Spanish co-star told me this ditty. She went to see him for sex – he got EVERYONE while I was there, to meet him for sex, even a wretched off-the street drug addict who looked like she crawled out of the gutter in Baltimore {I cringed when she got on stage, she just walked up & down, didn’t know how to move, dance, nothing – was ugly too. But Al Baker solicited her for a date.}

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Anyway, Raymonda told me she taught Baker this trick. She took a handkerchief, put a series of knots into it, & shoved it up his ass. When you pull the thing out it’s supposed to give you a thrill. I thought what a monkey he was.

I recall one poignant scene. In my hotel, in the lobby, a middle aged Irish lady sat there, all alone, singing Irish songs to herself, with a lovely voice. It brought tears to my eyes.

 

Atlantic City, like many seashore towns, made me feel at home, as I spent years living on a farm near Freehold – we used to go to Long Branch, Asbury Park, & Atlantic City summer. They were like small Coney Islands, with Ferris Wheels, all the usual merriments.

 

The greatest vacation I had ever had in my childhood was when Dad took us for a week to Long Branch. We lived at an ancient but wonderful hotel of a Lithuanian named Butkus {like the dog Rocky had!} with those thick feather covers on an old bed, all Lithuanians loved. {Mom was not with us, I believe she was having the baby of her new lover, Marius Bernotas, so we were scooted away to give them privacy}. Dad, who was usually thrifty, pulled out all the stops for a good time. We played all the games, ate all the ice cream & treats we wanted, & most of all, the closeness to Dad made it a dream come true.

 

Many other good times had been at the beach, so dancing in Atlantic City was lovely. Years later, after gambling was initiated, the dream bubble burst. All the old places were torn down; the life was gone out of it. Sterile, everything under strict control, hotels with luxury that didn’t move one’s soul, no old-fashioned rides, everything I liked had been removed – a big waste of nothingness to me – black, empty, meaningless, no soul.

 

                Canton, Ohio

 

I went through the Baker-Berger Circuit a couple times, you’d think I am stocked with memories, but not that many. I will pull out what I can. For me, the things that sometimes stuck out would not be what the average person would note, like this.

 

In Canton, Ohio, can’t recall the name of the theater, but I was in a park & I prayed. I prayed that God would help me make more money. I said I would be charitable. I walked away from the park, & two females came toward me, selling some kind of little flowers for was it veterans? They asked me to buy a flower, but I did not.

 

As they disappeared from view, God said to me,

“You told me you would be charitable, but you weren’t.”

I was SO ASHAMED. God put me to a test & I failed.

 

Another test I was so ashamed of. In fact, I recall it was Atlantic City. They were going to send me someone to bring me to the theater & he would carry my luggage. I had two pieces of luggage, one smaller, one bigger, I managed to put the small one into the bigger, so there would be only one piece of luggage & the guy would carry it. I figured they would send a strong young man.

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But the person who arrived was a slight older man with white hair even. He took my luggage & as we walked, he had to stop every 20 feet or so to get his strength. I was so ashamed. I saw him as Jesus, & I made Jesus carry the Cross. I felt like saying, hey, let me take the smaller luggage out of this, which I’ll carry, but I was too embarrassed as people were all over the street & would stare, wondering what we were doing. So I let him keep struggling & have forever recalled the image of Jesus carrying my cross for me, me not helping, so ashamed.

 

There were plenty more times when I did carry my own Cross & then some. At times I had 3 suitcases, big & heavy blue ones. Why didn’t I ever think of getting some kind of wheels? I would have to carry two like some feet, go back for the third, back & forth. One of these gizmos even had my weights in them, I always exercised on the road, religiously, they were 30 lbs of weights.

Tonawanda, New York

 

One time was dismal. My suitcase weighed maybe 60 lbs, I just had one. I was in upstate NY, Tonawanda, a horrible club where they paid me ‘by the door’ because the business was dead. Why did I take jobs like that? Because I had not many per year, & of course, they didn’t tell me it was dead, they also DID NOT ADVERTISE. If you don’t advertise, even if you have a good star, don’t expect business, so there were very few customers – some shows I made like $15 for the show. I believe they cheated me, also, because there’d be like 30 people in the audience, I was supposed to get the $2 per person they charged, so getting $15 I said what about all the people out there? They said oh, they were friends & people who worked there – it was a lie.

 

My hotel was about a mile away. The manager of the place would give me a ride to work; I usually got a ride back from someone who worked there. But the last night there, there were a couple characters acting up. One Marine was infatuated with me, pulled out a huge switchblade & said he’d take care of anybody that messed with me. No one was messing with me but the owners, so they took it that it was them he’d hurt. Now I was outside with my big luggage. The Marine came out & they locked the door.

 

But I had no ride, they weren’t giving me one – they were so scared of the Marine they just left me locked outside with him & another tough guy, a truck driver, who told the Marine to put his knife away or he’d take it from him.

 

I knocked on the glass door telling the owners I needed a ride back or to call a cab, but they wouldn’t let me in. I didn’t know the guys outside, even though the truck driver wanted to give me a ride in his big Mack, but he was a stranger. So believe it or not, I carried that 60 lb suitcase by myself back to the motel one mile.

 

Montreal, Canada

 

        This was early in my career, when I was feeling things out, experimenting. Actually, most of my career, the last ten years or so on the road, turned out to be mostly in Canada; Montreal, Toronto & some small cities & towns. They paid me the most money because their clubs were bigger – more capacity, so more people, more money. At the very end of my career I was offered two jobs that were amazing, one at the ‘Millionaire Club’ for 5K a week cash, & two, to go to New Zealand for two weeks for that price – the most money they had ever paid an entertainer. And here was the caveat – they said,

        “You don’t even have to strip. Just stand on stage & SPEAK!”

        But just at that moment, I had already made a solemn promise to myself to quit the road & start my own business. I have often looked back to that offer with sadness; I would have liked to have seen New Zealand.

 

        When I started working in Canada the glaring thing I noticed was how different the owners were from the Americans, they had manners & class, Americans were crude, huge difference.

 

        We had a disagreement with my first boss, at the ‘Sex Tuple’ club. I was booked for can’t recall, was it two or five weeks?

        He said my act was too long. I liked staying on stage a long time as it gave me a change to bond with the audience, {I was also used to being on stage 45 mins at a time as a go go dancer} but he had many females dancing & got me a guy to change my music for a good price. That music, which we fixed up, about a dozen audio tapes – served me for the rest of my career. I still have it.

 

        He had a couple advantages. One, he could get me any song I liked, he wrote down what I wanted & got it. Many were the rhythm & blues oldies of the 60’s which I used to dance to. And he gave me a dynamite bilingual intro, French & English, that sounded classy, with an echo chamber on his voice; impressive.

 

        How I stayed thin: Can’t recall what I ate for breakfast, but it wasn’t much. For dinner I went out & ate a modest amount & kept the bread with butter for later. After work, I ate the bread. I was probably downing 1K calories a day & lots of exercise, it was a hard thing to do, being hungry a lot, but you have to do this in show business where your body is the feature.

 

        How to Become a Star – Promotion & Publicity

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        As always, I did all my own promotion. No other star in the stripping field did all I did, that I know of, on her own, with no companion or helper, no boyfriend. Chesty Bounty would take her daughter with her on the road; most of the other big stars had husbands or boyfriends who helped them. Many females, who were not stars but traveled a lot, had guys with them. But I was always & forever alone, I was used to it, possibly because my family ostracized me, I was used to aloneness & standing on my own two feet.

 

        And so, when I got to Montreal, the first thing I did was go to the newsstand & check out the papers. There were two big ones, I called them both. One was the Montreal Star & I the other I think was called The Gazette. They both sent reporters.

 

        The next day I went to the newsstand & I was on the FRONT PAGE OF BOTH PAPERS with huge pictures! When I got to work everyone there was staring at me in DISBELIEF – this had never happened before in the history of the club.

 

        From then on in I had the greatest luck with Press in Canada – everywhere in fact. Most of the time I worked I was either on the front page or big articles inside the paper.

 

        I might add here an important principle I learned. In show business or any endeavor as a matter of fact, publicity / advertising / promotion, does NOT come to you, you have to go to it. Unless you’re willing to make calls to the media, write letters, go on interviews, not much if anything will happen to promote your product / project or person – nothing.

 

        I’ve been involved recently with photography, hiring male models. What dunderheads they are. They think because they’re handsome the world will be at their feet, but the world will not notice them unless they go to the world with gimmicks, promotion, & publicity stunts.

 

        I’ve also met musicians, rappers, who think because they put their music on ‘Sound cloud’ or the like they will get big outfits like Sony to discover them & give them contracts – nothing of the sort. NOBODY will notice your music on Sound cloud or any other venue, unless you GO TO THEM, demonstrate your worth, make appearances that draw people. You have to be pro active, do things, to get the big shots interested in you, you have to work at it, if not every day, a few days a week, week in, week out, month in, month out, for YEARS. Even then there’s no guarantee, but it’s a possibility you might get somewhere if you have what it takes.

 

        I have tried to explain these principles to the models I photographed, but most of them don’t listen. They assume that what I know applies to ‘back in the day,’ but today is DIFFERENT in their field of music or rapping or modeling. It’s the same world of promotion today as it was a hundred years ago; nothing has changed but the technology. Barnum & Bailey was no different, Sol Hurok Presents was no different, the Great Caruso did the same thing a rapper or model has to do today – if you don’t talk to the media, no one knows who you are, no audience, no promotion, no star.

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        And now hear this – you need a manager. If you don’t have a manager who knows what to do or how to do it, you must do it yourself – like I did – & it takes work, guts, dedication, you put your nose to the grindstone, & it never ends, if you stop, it stops – no more publicity.

 

        And as far as manager – why would someone take you on when you’re a nobody, who isn’t making any money, & you can’t pay them? Patrick Curtis took on two different women. The first was Raquel Welch. She was a beautiful nobody, but what she gave him was herself – they got married & worked as a team & both worked full time, with a plan. He got her on many magazine covers in Europe, which was a start; it got her foot in the door for Hollywood.

 

        After Raquel was launched he got with Linda Evans, moved her career upwards in ‘middle age’ {star of Dynasty}. They got married, so that was the deal.

{Patrick Curtis saw me in a beauty contest in Hollywood where I won ‘Most Voluptuous, wanted to get involved, but at that time I was on another project.}

 

My point here is what would you give a manager? Why would a manager want to manage you, to get what? Unless you are sexually involved, romantic or very friendly, they have to make money. You have to be earning money & they get some, or else you have to just straight out pay them. And so, if you’re a nobody, unless somebody wants you in exchange for intimacy, you miss the boat.

 

When Elvis Presley met Col. Tom Parker, one of the greatest managers of all time, he was already a rock n’ roll star, he had hits – ‘That’s Alright Mama,’‘Hound Dog’, ‘Don’t be Cruel’ & ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ He was a monumental hit wherever he went. Col. Parker could see he had talent, looks & sex appeal, a winner. He took him on for money; he led him to the top, for 50%. And so, to get a manager you either have to give yourself to them or lots of money, but if you don’t have what it takes to make money, they have no incentive to take you on – it’s a FULL TIME JOB.

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Only one model listened to me, that I dealt with. I never met him in person – we spoke on the phone. We had two conversations totaling EIGHT HOURS, during which I explained the principles of show biz success to him. He already had ambition, desire, what it takes, he was gorgeous. He did have some drawbacks, but they were not insurmountable & he was willing to work hard & he did. He got to the top of the modeling world by becoming an icon for RALPH LAUREN. You don’t go any higher. His name is Kenneth Guidroz.

 

The rest of the models & rappers haven’t listened, & they aren’t getting anywhere. They think my advise doesn’t apply to them, they can make it in their own way, today is different. But as I said, the principles of promotion are always the same. Anna Pavlova the ballerina & Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, were promoted by Sol Hurok, the same way today as now. Eugene Sandow, World’s Strongest Man, was promoted in the media same as today. He was a counterpart of La Belle Otero, a singer-dancer who had 5 kings of Europe seated at her 30th birthday table, where she danced naked atop the table. Josephine Baker, the black vaudeville star who made it big in Europe, made it the same way everyone else did – through the media. There is nothing new under the sun.

 

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