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Bawdy and risque, the comedy of Rusty Warren was daring and revolutionary; one of the few successful female performers in a business historically dominated by men, Warren pushed the envelope further by dealing explicitly with sex, a taboo topic for any mainstream comic of the 1950s and '60s regardless of gender.
Born Ilene Goldman in New York in 1931, she was raised in Milton, MA, and after graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1952, she became a teacher. On the advice of a boyfriend, Warren spent a summer performing in a piano lounge in upstate New York; she immediately fell in love with show business and never returned to academia. Her explicit style began to develop soon after, influenced by underground recordings by Sophie Tucker and Ruth Wallis.
After signing to the Jubilee label, Warren issued her debut record, Songs for Sinners, in 1959. While performing in Toledo, OH later that year, she introduced her trademark number, "Knockers Up," a call for women to shed their sexual inhibitions. Her next LP, also dubbed Knockers Up!, followed in 1960; the album became a surprise word-of-mouth smash, reaching the Top Ten and remaining on the charts for over three years. Overnight, Warren became a notorious figure, the queen of the party records; Sin-Sational! and Rusty Warren Bounces Back, both issued in 1961, hit the Top 40, and a fervent cult following emerged.
1962's Rusty Warren in Orbit was another Top 40 success, but like many comedians, Warren's career faltered in the wake of the cultural shifts brought on by the assassination of John F. Kennedy; after 1963's Banned in Boston?, only 1966's More Knockers Up!, a return to past glories, managed to chart. Still, Warren remained a fixture of the club circuit, occasionally issuing new material like Sexplosion. She continued actively performing in subsequent years, and even issued Knockers Up '76 in celebration of the nation's bicentennial. After reaching the age of 60, Warren retired, but occasionally returned to the club stage for tributes and benefit performances.