The $50,000 Treasure Chest

Charles Rammelkamp

As a teenager in Saint Louis in the Sixties,
I’d gawk at the ads in the Post-Dispatch and the Globe-Democrat
for Evelyn “Chest Sensation” West, the stripper
who headlined at the Stardust Club, her bust
famously insured for $50,000 with Lloyds of London –
and those were 1960 dollars she had on those puppies –
her 39-1/2” bust contained in 42-D cups,
at least when they weren’t on display.
Her name was up there
with Lou Brock and Stan Musial.
Everybody knew about her.

When I read about her sad death in Florida,
I almost felt like weeping.
A cop climbed through the window of her Hollywood duplex;
she hadn’t been seen for several days.
Friends had called police when Amy Charles,
as she called herself, no longer using the stage name,
hadn’t responded to emails and phone calls.
She’d died in her sleep, thyroid and heart drugs
on a bedside table.

The officer ignored the piles of publicity photographs,
the boxes of costumes and memorabilia filling three bedrooms.
He didn’t realize he’d found the body of a St. Louis legend;
the old woman had been a star.  She was 83.

I was in my mid-fifties when I read the news.
Oh, how I wished I’d gone to see her, a teenage fantasy.
The Stardust was just north of Forest Park,
on the old DeBaliviere Strip, along with
the Tic-Toc and Little Las Vegas, a couple others,
not so far from us on Kingsbury Ave., just off Skinker.
“I know you’re looking at my shoes,” she’d quip,
her signature line, and the audience would roar.

Charles Rammelkamp’s latest poetry collection is The Field of Happiness, published by Kelsay Books. Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books. He contributes a monthly book review to North of Oxford and is a frequent reviewer for The Lake, London Grip and The Compulsive Reader. A Magician Among the Spirits, a collection of poems about Harry Houdini, is a Blue Light Press Poetry winner and will soon be published. A collection of flash fiction, Presto!, will be published in 2023 by Bamboo Dart Press. Another poetry collection entitled Transcendence has been accepted by BlazeVOX Books.