Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Morganna: The Wild Thing






"Hi Girls. It's so hot outside I thought I'd take a stroll downtown today in my new bikini."

The text of the ad in the Charlotte Observer was accompanied by a particularly busty shot of a mod bikini-clad vixen sporting spiked heels, a shoulder bag and a
head full of shoulder-length black locks that were ratted on the
top with heavy bangs in front — in keeping with the style of the
time.
She was, and probably still is, Charlotte’s most infamous
celebutante — not too different from Paris Hilton — someone who’s
famous for being famous. Just like Hilton — she was in the habit
of doing the outrageous for fun and attention. And as much as
Hilton adores the benefits of wealth, so did she.
Known alternately at different times and places as Morganna The
Wild Thing, Morganna The Wild One and Morganna The Kissing Bandit —
chances are — if you’re somewhere over 35, one of those names will
ring a bell for you.
Morganna Roberts — aka Morganna Cotrelle, Ruby Delmar and Nancy Lee
Rose — was an infamous character on the Charlotte scene from the
late 1960s to the late ‘70s.
A professional strip-tease dancer known for her ample endowments,
she performed regularly at nightspots popular during the era like
the infamous C’est Bon, the Zanzibar and the Mardi Gras Club.
It was a period in Charlotte history when most of the names popping
up in the Charlotte press were often a bit more wholesome: TV host
and homemaker Betty Feezor, features columnist Kayes Gary, musician
Arthur Smith, mayor and businessman John Belk, cowboy TV show host
Fred Kirby and children’s entertainer Joey the Clown.
Reportedly born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 4, 1947, Morganna
arrived in Charlotte sometime in 1968.
“I didn’t meet her until 1971,” says Ricky Carter, who would later
work with Morganna as the host of a strip tease act she would do at
the C’est Bon.
“She moved here with her mother and a couple of kids, though I
don’t think a lot of people were aware of that. Her mom took care
of the kids while she was out working.”
Carter recalls socializing with Morganna on a number of occasions.
“We would always ride around in this big red Cadillac convertible,”
he recollects. “She never went anywhere without being completely
made-up and looking fantastic. We’d go out to dinner or clubbing
and she would always get so much attention. She couldn’t get away
from it. Not that she really wanted to, anyway.”
Although stripper Morganna was already well known locally for her
micro-bikini forays across Trade and Tryon that would send
businessmen flocking to the street corners, it was at an Atlanta
Braves Game in September of 1969 that she first caught the
attention of the national media.
At the joking insistence of a friend, she climbed a fence at
Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium and planted a kiss on the Braves’
third baseman Clete Boyer.
“It wasn’t a planned publicity stunt,” Morganna told the News.> “I did it on a dare.
“A girlfriend invited me to go to the game with her. I like Clete
Boyer because on his team, he’s the most outstanding. I was
shouting to him, trying to get his attention, but he ignored me. I
think everybody else in the stadium was looking at us but him.
“I told my friend the next time he came to bat I was going to jump
onto the field and kiss him. She dared me to do it, so I did.”
That antic prompted a reporter to brand Morganna “The Kissing Bandit.”
Back in Charlotte Morganna finally decided to pull the ultimate
publicity-grabbing stunt: she announced that she would stroll
through downtown topless.
It was May 29, 1970. Early spring on a Friday afternoon at one
o’clock. Morganna knew that if she actually did attempt to walk
through downtown completely topless the police would stop her
before she got more than a few feet outside the front door — and
the publicity generated from an arrest couldn’t hold a candle to
the attention generated by the 1,000-plus onlookers that had
already lined the streets to see her fulfill her promise.
When she finally emerged from the front doors of the White House
Inn for her four-block walk she was — for the most part — topless.
No blouse. No bikini top. Practically nothing — save for two small
stick-on gift ribbons delicately attached in just the appropriate
locations and a mod floral print bikini bottom.
It was an election year and up for debate was the construction of
the Charlotte Civic Center — in a nod of approval for the effort
Morganna used a stencil and magic marker to inscribe the words
“Vote Yes Bond” on her stomach.
Cameras rolled and the police kept a watchful eye nearby as
Morganna strode towards the city square and then headed for a
parking lot at Tryon and Third, where she jumped in to her shiny
red Cadillac and quickly drove away.
It was all over in five minutes, but Morganna had finally caught
the attention of just about everyone in town. Besides the downtown
employees that had flooded the streets, she ended up in both city
papers and multiple TV news reports. She was the name on
everybody’s lips.
“And that’s exactly what she wanted,” says Carter. “She had this
crazy sense of humor and she was all about the publicity she could
generate and the money she could make.”
The stunt generated a rather sizable weekly salary for Morganna —
$2500 — and a league of male admirers that would lavish her with
everything from cars and cash to Chinese sailboats and a house on
Lake Wylie.
As the years passed, so too did Morganna’s local and national
infamy, right along with her ever-increasing bust size (1968: 37
1/2; 1973: 46 3/4; 1977: 60)
While many citizens were laughing right along with Morganna’s
quirky antics — some city politicians were not.
In an effort to clamp down on Morganna’s shenanigans and other
“exotic” acts, the city instituted a series of obscenity
ordinances. Topless dancers were now required to pay a $500 license
tax in order to perform. Anyone performing without the appropriate
license would be arrested on the spot. No bottomless dancing would
be permitted whatsoever.
According to reports from the Charlotte Observer and the Charlotte
News, she was arrested August 7, 1970, May 21, 1971 and May 28,
1971. On all occasions she was charged with “indecent exposure.”
She was never convicted in any of the Charlotte cases, but she was
convicted and sentenced to ten days of jail time after the 1970
performance in Alexandria, Kentucky. Always a comedian and forever
cashing in on a possible sex angle, Morganna told reporters at the
time: “I would have preferred going to a prison with some men in
it,” she joked. “I think the time would pass more quickly there.”
Morganna continued to maintain a residence in Charlotte through the
late ‘70s, but found herself traveling to other more
stripper-friendly territories as Charlotte’s live adult
entertainment market had grown extremely lean.
Never one to go out without a bang, she made one final hurrah
before heading off to greener pastures and cashing in on her
alternate “Kissing Bandit” persona.
Now 30, her hair was blonde and much larger, just like her now
size-60 breasts.
In the past, Morganna had always promised to “stroll” through
downtown. This time she claimed she was going to ride through
downtown in a Cadillac. Once again, she promised she’d be topless.
At noon on Friday, October 21, 1977, thousands lined the streets to
see Morganna.



As her car made the turn on to Tryon Street the crowd surged
forward. Sitting on the top of the backseat of a convertible
Cadillac that was indeed topless, Morganna smiled and waved at the
crowds while wearing her traditional two-piece bikini. As always —
she got the last laugh and the publicity.
During the ‘80s and ‘90s Morganna retired her strip act and moved
to Columbus, Ohio with her husband Bill Cottrell, whom she had
quietly married in 1976. As “Morganna the Kissing Bandit” she
continued to lock lips with some of the biggest names in
professional baseball: Pete Rose, Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly,
Nolan Ryan and Len Barker, among others. Often arrested but rarely
ever convicted, Morganna kept up the act until late 2000.
At age 53, Morganna completely withdrew from the public eye,
turning down all requests for interviews.
Charlotte magazine had hoped to speak with the reclusive Morganna —
after much digging we were able to track down her friend and former
agent John Terry in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “She hasn’t done an interview
in years,” he explained. “She just doesn’t want to talk about that
part of her life anymore.”
Terry agreed to approach Morganna’s husband — on our behalf —
about the possibility of an interview.
A few days later, Terry called us back. “Her husband liked the
idea,” he said. “She considered it — but she just didn’t feel
comfortable with it.”
To date, Morganna’s final words came in an article published in the
Seattle Post Intelligencer in 2001. In response to a reporter who
had penned a speculative “Where are they now?” piece she left a
message on an answering machine sometime around four a.m. — clearly
an attempt to avoid speaking with anyone directly.
“I just got sick of talking about myself and always being the
center of attention,” she said. “I loved it for the period of time
I did it, don’t get me wrong. But I just decided to stop being the
Kissing Bandit.
“For anybody who called and wanted me for the weekend or whatever,
I had to say, ‘sorry, Morganna has left the building.’
“The fans were wonderful … the players were wonderful … the road
was wonderful … but I had just had enough.”
According to Terry, Morganna and her husband continue to reside in
Ohio, where they have a large house, a creek and a running trail.
One of her former attorneys says that she recently purchased a
little league baseball team.
No longer so wild and definitely not a bandit, Morganna is now over 60.
Her final words in the Seattle Post Intelligencer article: “I’m
living my dream life.”

2 comments:

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