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Rose Thompson Hovick

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Title: Rose Thompson Hovick  
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Subject: Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Gypsy (1993 film), Gypsy Rose Lee, Gypsy: A Memoir
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rose Thompson Hovick

Ellen June, Rose Louise (Gypsy), and mother Rose Hovick passport photo

Rose Thompson Hovick (August 31, 1890 – January 28, 1954) was the mother of two famous performing daughters: burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee and actress and dancer June Havoc.


  • Life and career 1
  • Death 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Life and career

Rose Evangeline Hovick was born in Wahpeton, North Dakota,[1] the daughter of Anna (née Egle) and Charles J. Thompson. Her maternal grandparents were German.[2] Hovick married her first husband, Jack Hovick, when she was a teenager. She gave birth to Rose Louise Hovick on either January 8 or January 9, 1911 in Seattle, Washington and her second daughter, Ellen June Hovick, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on November 8, 1912 (some sources cite 1913, but Havoc herself acknowledged the earlier year not long before she died),[3] although she reportedly had numerous birth certificates for both girls which listed them as being either several years older or younger than they actually were. The former to evade child labor laws and the latter for reduced or free fares. As a result, for many years they were never entirely sure of their actual ages. Later in their careers, the two daughters would adopt their more famous stage names, Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc. Rose Thompson Hovick's drive to create a performing career for her daughters eventually led to the end of her marriage to Jack Hovick, who disagreed with her intentions for the girls. Rose married her second husband, Judson Brennerman, a traveling salesman, May 26, 1916 at the Unitarian church in Seattle, Washington with Reverend J. D. A. Powers, officiating.[4]

Later on in her life, her daughter Gypsy Rose Lee rented both a farm in Highland Mills, New York and a lesbian boardinghouse in a ten-room apartment on the seedy West End Avenue in Manhattan. At some point, a young woman, who was said to be Mother Rose's own lover, allegedly made a pass at the visiting Gypsy Rose Lee (according to Erik Preminger, Lee's son by director Otto Preminger), and in a jealous rage Mother Rose shot the woman dead. This incident was publicly explained as a suicide. After the young woman's mother demanded an investigation, a case was opened but a jury declined to indict Mother Rose.[5] Karen Abbott's biography of Rose Thompson Hovick references two other violent incidents from Thompson Hovick's life. One is to an unidentified "hotel manager" whom Thompson Hovick pushed out a window to his death. She claimed self-defence and was not charged. She also shot Bobby Reed, the young man who eloped with Baby June in 1928, inside a police department after cops found him and brought him to the station house. A police officer told the two to make their peace. Reed approached with his hand extended and Thompson Hovick shot him twice with a gun on her person but the safety was still on and no bullets discharged. A policeman tried to hold her but she broke free and viciously attacked the hapless Reed, punching and scratching him.[5]

She became known as the ultimate stage mother by way of the classic musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable, based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Originally staged in 1959, Gypsy - with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents - has since been performed in countless venues on stage and in film. Both versions portray her as a domineering, take-no-prisoners stage mother who will do anything to further the success of her daughters in show business. The character is often referred to as "Mama Rose" (or "Momma Rose"), a sobriquet that does not appear in the script and was adamantly dismissed by its author, Arthur Laurents. In the musical Gypsy, the character is called Momma, Rose, or Madame Rose, again a fictionalization.

The role has been portrayed on stage and screen by a number of notable Broadway and film stars, including Ethel Merman in the original 1959 Broadway production of Gypsy, Angela Lansbury in the original London production and a Broadway revival, and Rosalind Russell in the Warner Bros 1962 film Gypsy. Stage revivals have starred Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Imelda Staunton. Lupone's 2008 revival of Gypsy, won her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, as did Lansbury's 1973 portrayal and Daly's 1990 portrayal. A television movie starring Bette Midler premiered in 1993.


Hovick died of colorectal cancer in 1954, aged 63, in Nyack, New York. She had suffered a stroke two weeks earlier.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Washington, Marriage Records, 1865-2004 from Washington State Archives. Olympia, Washington: Washington State Archives.
  5. ^ a b

External links

  • "The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History",; accessed July 31, 2007.
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