Thursday, October 24, 2013
Lulu Leslie -- Leave Nothing to Chance
Fearful that she would die among strangers and receive a pauper's burial in potter's field, the 75-year-old woman known to fellow boarding house tenants as "Mrs. Eva Smith" was in daily contact with a Staten Island undertaker. Once assured by the firm that she would be buried with her family in Philadelphia, the single woman gassed herself to death in her two-room basement apartment at 139 W. 101st Street in New York City on September 27, 1929. "Mrs. Smith" was found lying on the floor of her kitchen near a gas jet with one of its three jets wide open. A canvas bag strapped around her waist contained $720 in new bills. A letter from the Staten Island funeral home confirming her burial plans was found atop one of several trunks filled with tattered costumes, press clippings, and handbills identifying the gas victim as former burlesque and vaudeville queen Lulu Leslie, who 50 years earlier had danced in the musical extravaganzas The Black Crook and King Cole the Second, and with Billy Watson's Beef Trust.