Rose Thompson Hovick

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

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

Life and career[edit]

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 in 1911 in Seattle, Washington and her second daughter, Ellen June Hovick, in Vancouver, British Columbia one or two years later,[3] although she reportedly had numerous birth certificates for both girls which listed them as being several years younger than they actually were and as a result, they were never entirely sure of their own 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[citation needed].

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, one of the guests made a pass at the visiting Gypsy (according to Erik Preminger, her son by director Otto Preminger), who was said to be Mother Rose's own lover, and in a jealous rage Mother Rose shot the lover/guest dead. This incident was publicly explained as a suicide.

Rose Hovick 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 Rose Hovick 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 book's 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 Rosalind Russell in the Warner Bros 1962 film Gypsy; stage revivals have starred Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams, Imelda Staunton, and Bernadette Peters. Patti Lupone's 2008 revival of Gypsy, won her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, as did Angela Lansbury's 1973 portrayal and Tyne Daly's 1990 portrayal. A television movie starring Bette Midler premiered in 1993. According to numerous press reports, Barbra Streisand is set to star in yet another film version of Gypsy. Leslie Uggams portrayal marks the first African American woman to play Mama Rose in an Equity Production. There is a new biography of Rose called MAMA ROSE'S TURN.

Hovick died of colorectal cancer in 1954.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Lee, G.R. (1957). Gypsy: A Memoir. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 9781883319953. 
  2. ^ Quinn, C. (2013). Mama Rose's Turn: The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781617038532. 
  3. ^ "California Death Records". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  4. ^ Washington, Marriage Records, 1865-2004 from Washington State Archives. Olympia, Washington: Washington State Archives.

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