The Girlie Show
In the gritty world of carnival strippers, Babe, Marla, Lily and Kitty strive for a better life. Sam, the concession's man, is the master manipulator of illusions. Reality blends with fantasy as the girls wishes come true but not in the way they expected. More
“Mornin' folks and welcome to the carnival. It's too early for the festivities to begin, for the Girlie Show to hootchie-kootch, for the ferris wheel to spin. They call me the hamburger philosopher. Sometimes I run the concessions stand. I say sometimes 'cause I play a lot of roles in the carnival. The carnival of illusions,” so says Sam, who changes into different characters: Old Harry, an ancient black man; Billy Day, a charming carnival barker; Georgie, the con man owner of the Girlie Show; Amos, a young soldier. These characters affect the lives of four carnival strippers - Babe, Marla, Lily and Kitty.
Clouds somersault in the restless sky sending a steady stream of rain over the small town as an old Rambler glides through the village square in the wee hours of 1954. With her dyed blonde hair meticulously coiled in a beehive, Babe sits on the passenger side. Bored, she amuses herself by priming.
Slumped in the back corner is Marla, a woman skidding into her fifties. Puffy-faced, she reminds one of Liz Taylor at her pudgiest. There is a child-like innocence about her that lights
up when she notices a white mansion that looks like Tara.
Leaning on Marla’s shoulder is Lily, a bird-like woman. She's probably in her thirties but a life marred by drugs makes it hard to tell.
Looking out the side window is Kitty, the youngest whose tough exterior masks an inner beauty.
In the Pine Tree motel room the girls play poker to pass the time waiting for the carnival to open. For them, life is an endless string of motel rooms, one-horse-towns and broken dreams.
Babe - "Gaudy, gaudy, gaudy, a red satin dress with slits up the sides an' six inch spiked heels. I could picture myself slinkin' down a runway under those colored lights, a bumpin' an' a grindin'. I had what you call a suppressed childhood. I suppressed the hatred I had for my old man. I couldn’t wait to get out. Then, I met Billy Day - the sun flashed in his smile...” Unexpectedly, Billy Day comes back into Babe’s life. Marla -“My mother was brought up in a grand house. She'd tell us of the happy times she spent there with her brother Amos in the big house. He died mysteriously. Amos knows I belong in the big house just like my mother.”
Old Harry brings news that Georgie is going to fire some of the girls. Babe and Marla, who have spent most of their lives stripping, are forced to confront their age and a future of limited prospects.
Kitty longs for children and a conventional family life but finds something else.
Kitty - "I got through high school by the skin of my teeth. My name is Karen but I call myself Kitty after this kitten who was my friend. She ran away, like me. I went from job to job trying to find happiness, trying to find myself. I found the Girlie Show."
Lily - "Movin'. Keep movin'. Movin' where? Who knows? Keep movin'. Running from what? Who cares? Keep movin'. From life? Why not? What's life ever done for me 'cept give me gas. I've farted half my life away.
Lily begs Georgie for drugs that he supplies as long as it suits his needs. Lily clings to a relationship with Kitty but she knows she is losing her. Lily hides her pain in the fantasy of her first love - Sister Mary Rose.
The girls meet in the town: Fred, an apple-cheeked farmer who has a night-on-the-town with Babe. They discover love can take many forms. Joe, a brooding man, who runs a garage. His night of sex with Lily turns into violence.
Martin, a school teacher who invites Kitty to meet his family. Ashamed for her lifestyle, Kitty wonders if she’s a freak on display. Sam’s orchestration of fantasy and reality allows Babe to settle past accounts with Billy Day; Marla to meet her Uncle Amos; Lily to find Sister Mary Rose and Kitty to find hope in Martin - all against a backdrop of the seething, gritty world of carnival strippers.