by Silvia Pettem, published in the Daily Camera, September 30, 2004
When Tempest Storm visited the University of Colorado campus in January 1955, all she took off was her mink coat. But that was enough to start a near-riot. It culminated in a broken door casing on the new student union building (University Memorial Center), followed by a dramatic get-away in order to protect her well-insured body.
The then 27-year-old burlesque queen was born in Eastman, Georgia, as Annie Banks. In the late 1940s, she moved to Los Angeles where she started a career as a chorus line dancer. With an extremely well-endowed figure and flaming red hair, she quickly advanced to shedding her clothes on stage and legally changed her name to Tempest Storm.
At the time, CU had a humor magazine called “Flatiron.” A month before Storm’s visit, administrators had temporarily suspended the magazine’s publication for what one University official termed “too much sex and emphasis on alcohol.”
Even so, Flatiron photo editor Bob Latham invited Storm to the campus to pose for some “cheesecake” shots. As soon as the stripper’s visit was announced, CU President Dr. Ward Darley made it clear that she was not welcome.
“This proposal to use University facilities for publicizing a night club entertainer is inconsistent with the dignity and purpose of a state university,” he stated. Adding to Darley’s worries was his concern that the timing of Storm’s arrival would coincide with a scheduled visit of 50 state legislators.
Although Latham claimed to have withdrawn his invitation, the publicity-seeker drove her own red Cadillac convertible from the Tropics Nightclub in Denver where she was currently performing. Of President Darley, Storm told a reporter, “I don’t understand his attitude. My profession is not undignified. It’s art.”
Latham escorted her from her car. In a recent phone interview, he said, “The men came out like ants. It was like being in a river.”
When Latham and Storm entered the cafeteria of the student union building, they were crushed by another mob of whistling, yelling, and shouting male students. The Camera reported that the men damaged tables and chairs and broke glasses and dishes while clamoring for a better view. Interviewers were more interested in Storm’s bust measurement than in her safety.
After a half hour, Storm asked to leave, so some of the students hoisted her onto their shoulders. They broke into a run, one student stumbled, and Storm was thrown to the sidewalk. On the verge of tears, she was carried to her car. She sped away, just 15 minutes before the legislators arrived for their official campus inspection. Of Storm’s CU visit, the Camera concluded, “Both are the worse for the wear.”
Storm, now 76 years old, eventually moved from live burlesque shows to movies which included titles such as “Strip, Strip Hooray.” Her most recent film was “Hollywood and the Strippers,” released in 1994. Latham, now retired and living in Florida, dropped out of CU to become a newspaper photographer.
After a few months of suspension, the Flatiron Magazine was reinstated. If Latham managed to take any photos of Storm, they were not printed in any university-sanctioned publication.