Staying Vital As Time Marches On: Burlesque Pioneer Gail Winns At 80

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Photo: 80-year-old emcee, burlesque performer Gail Winns
Burlesque pioneer Gail Winns, 80, performing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

Gail Winns realized her dream of being in show business when she was young.

Photo: Burlesque dancer Gail WinnsShe became a chorus girl at 15. But she wanted to be in the spotlight. To achieve this, she tweaked her act bit, moving to the more risqué burlesque.

Winns, also known as "The Original Twister," is now 80 and lives in Golden. She still performs, but her current style is more vaudeville, less striptease.

In anticipation of headlining the 6th annual Colorado Burlesque Festival this weekend, "The Original Twister" spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. Here are highlights from the interview:

How she started in burlesque:

“My first act was with my uncle. He would sing ‘Tangerine’ down front and I would go behind him. And at the end of each song, I would take a little bit off and look at the audience and go, ‘More? Do you want more?’ And of course they would scream ‘More!’ And he would take the bows and think ‘Wow, they really like me!’ … It was really a lot of fun to do that.”

What she likes about performing:

“I think every entertainer, to an extent, has control over the audience. I always said, ‘If you have a good time up there, the audience will have a good time.’ And I have a wonderful time when I’m on stage. And I’ve had people say, ‘You really enjoy that. That’s where you belong.’ "