Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Callie Eisner owned Pink Pussycat

She honed art of burlesque

By Chris Mayhew
Enquirer staff writer

FORT THOMAS - Callie M. "Blaine" Eisner, a former burlesque dancer, once shared the marquee with Gypsy Rose Lee and Blaze Starr.

Eisner, owner of the former Newport nightclub the Pink Pussycat, died Sunday at her Fort Thomas home. She was 72.

"If I had to say anything about my mother, she was always, always a lady," said her daughter Dodie Eisner of Fort Thomas. "Even in times of great difficulty."

As the matriarch of the family, Mrs. Eisner worked hard and guided them through some tough times, her daughter said.

"There was one thing that no one could ever take from her, and that was her dignity - and they tried," her daughter said.

Known as Callie Blaine on the stage, Mrs. Eisner performed at Minsky's Burlesque on Broadway and in top Chicago clubs, her daughter said.

"Symphony and swing was her byline - she had gowns and costumes," her daughter said. "Nightclubs back then had their own bands."

Locally, she danced at the Sportsman's Club, the Merchants Club, the Glenn Rendezvous and the Beverly Hills Supper Club.

"She was a wonderful entertainer," her daughter said. "She was one of the top dancers."

Mrs. Eisner opened the Pink Pussycat nightclub at Sixth and York streets in Newport in the early 1960s, and ran it until a fire destroyed it on Christmas Day 1975. "Mom opened the first go-go establishment in Newport," her daughter said.

Mrs. Eisner attracted recognizable burlesque dancers to her club and charged admission at the door. "Mom was the first one to bring 'featured' exotic dancers back into the city," her daughter said.

She was born in a log cabin in Owsley County in 1932; Mrs. Eisner's family maintained a farm there. After she retired from the nightclub business she retreated to the family farm for several years, her daughter said.

The family had moved to Cincinnati to find factory jobs when she was 5 or 6, her daughter said.

She ran away from home at age 15 to Chicago, where it is believed she first learned dancing, her daughter said.

The experience left a soft spot in her heart.

"She helped a lot of young girls that would come along, some that were runaways, some that were abused," her daughter said. "She would take them all in and care for and help them."

Mrs. Eisner's husband, Sam, died in 1972.

Other survivors include her son Jeff of Taylor Mill; four stepdaughters, Patricia Bowman of Jonesboro, Ark., Georgetta Hall of Mobile, Ala., Tammy Hagen of Alabama and Belinda Eisner of Louisiana; three stepsons, Tom Dooley of Dallas, Dale Hagen of Haughton, La., and Tommy Hagen of Covington; two brothers, Clarence "Buddy" Pendergrass of Latonia and Gary McGeorge of Palmer, Alaska; 24 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Wednesday with service at 11 a.m. Thursday at Fares J. Radel Funeral Home, 822 York St., Newport. Burial will be in Evergreen Cemetery in Southgate. Memorials: Hospice of Northern Kentucky, 1403 Alexandria Pike, Fort Thomas, KY 41075; Billy Graham Evangelical Association, P.0. Box 1270, Charlotte, NC 28201, or Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607.


E-mail cmayhew@enquirer.com

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