Laverie C. Vallee, who went by the stage name Charmion, was born in Sacramento, California, in 1877, according to Ancestry.com, which also has records showing a marriage to a man by the last name of Delaney and a subsequent union with William M. Vallee. (wikipedia lists her year of birth as 1875).
in his book “The Entertainment of a Nation Or Three-Sheets in the Wind”, we have an eyewitness account of her act from drama critic, George Jean Nathan, who attests to seeing Charmion perform no less than four times because his father took him to the show, under the pretense of a particular fondness for the Swiss yodelers. Nathan wrote that while he was quite young, he knew what his father really wanted to see and he remembered Charmion’s act in minute detail. He thought that Charmion was French.
“The strip-tease art … was born forty-six years ago, and its mother — or rather grandmother — was a French baggage named Charmion,” he says. “A small dark hussy, Mlle. Charmion, clad in a black satin cloak with a large feathered black hat on her head, emerged elegantly from the wings. Bowing graciously and flashing her teeth in a provocative smile, she approached a lowered trapeze, deposited herself daintily upon it, and was raised aloft. The stage was darkened, a spotlight was centered on the beauty; and slowly the orchestra began to play.
“Punctuating her process of déshabillé with many a cute oo-la-la or winking très-chic-n’est-ce-pas?, our siren now first took off her hat and dropped it to the stage below. Then followed her cloak and our little pigeon was beheld in a dress of black silk, and with long black gloves. The gloves were discarded one by one, then off came the bodice of the dress, then off came the skirt. Mademoiselle was now in a long covering of pink petticoat, surmounted by an ample pink something or other.
“What one then observed was our Lorelei still in very sufficient black net underthings, black net stockings, and black satin slippers. The slippers were now the first to go, and after them came the net underthings– to the disappointment of the audience (doubtless including my father) revealing Mile. Charmion in still more net underthings, albeit not quite so comprehensive.”
Nathan goes on to describe how Charmion seductively finished her act, managing to end up wearing “enough black net underwear to dress a whole present-day musical show chorus.”
In 1907, The American Magazine (Vol. 67) reported that Charmion’s French impression was the brainchild of press agent, Melville Stotz, urged by her husband to go see her act and inspired by a corset advertisement on the way. Stotz obtained a 23-week run for his new star on Broadway and “That she was a clever woman is proved by the fact that nobody discovered in all that time that she wasn’t French, even the reporters who interviewed her at all hours of the day and night. She must have possessed an ability to keep still rare alike for her sex and her profession. Her Hibernian husband, who was a day laborer before his wife turned French, got half of her first week’s pay and bought himself an opera hat which he wore with a red shirt. But he also was adaptable. Two years later a cable dispatch mentioned him as the best-dressed man in St Petersburg. It is said that his wife made $150,000 out of the act. But again the irony of life enters. Stoltz the real creator made but little and he is today as unknown on Broadway as if he had never been.”