She shimmied and shook her way through the decades. When she wasn’t on stage, entertaining at some of the world’s most glamorous nightclubs, she filled her off hours with affairs with Elvis and JFK. She is burlesque icon Tempest Storm, the subject of a new eponymously titled documentary from director Nimisha Mukerji.
Storm, born Annie Banks in rural Georgia, always wanted to be famous. As a child she would go to the movies and imagine the actors were just behind the screen. Her career was launched after a move to Los Angeles around 1950. Waitressing paid the bills, barely, so when a customer suggested she might make more money as an exotic dancer she jumped at the chance, changed her name—rejecting her agent’s suggestion, the cheerier Sunny Day, with the curt explanation, “I don’t feel like a sunny day.”—and began a career that continues to this day.
Her life is the stuff of legends. Aside from her dalliances with rich and famous stars, “Tempest Storm” tells of her multiple marriages, childhood trauma, her search for her biological father and, of course, how she famously insured her breasts—her “moneymakers”—for one million dollars with Lloyd’s of London.
What sets the documentary apart from a run-of-the-mill celebrity tell-all is Mukerji’s sensitive handling of Storm’s personal troubles. A fraught relationship with her daughter Patti, who she gave up when the girl was just ten years old, becomes the film’s main theme. Storm wanted fame and fortune and for the most part got it, but at what price.
“Tempest Storm” is a portrait of a taboo-breaker, a woman who has always walked her own path. Her journey is entertaining but her message is profound.