How a ping-pong ball act excited both Western Canadian bar patrons and the RCMP


spaminator
#1
How a ping-pong ball act excited both Western Canadian bar patrons and the RCMP

By Michael Platt, Calgary Sun
First posted: Saturday, September 24, 2016 07:33 PM EDT | Updated: Monday, September 26, 2016 01:36 PM EDT
When the first ping-pong ball sailed across his bar, nobody was more astounded than Ron Thompson, proprietor of Kamloops’ soon-to-be infamous Bar-K tavern.
Sure, admits Thompson, he knew the act he’d booked was an exotic dancer from Los Angeles, California, and there was bound to be some R-rated entertainment in his bar that night, but this ... this ...
“I’d dealt with exotic dancers back in Manitoba, but nothing prepared me for that. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind, not at all,” laughs Thompson, who remains a resident of Kamloops, long after the old tavern closed.
Some 35-years after the fact, the name Mitzi Dupree still resonates with many in Western Canada.
Back then, in a decidedly-risque novelty act that left jaws hanging and the local constabularies rushing over en masse to “investigate,” Dupree went from little-known stripper to scandalous celebrity sensation in a cross-province tour that had to been seen to believed.
And according to the owner of the bar where it all started, they saw — everybody saw.
“There were tables full of lawyers, bank managers, businessmen, suits and so many women. Anybody and everybody you can think of was there, watching,” he says.
As the newspapers put it back in 1981, “patrons packed the house daily to see (Dupree) — utilizing parts of her anatomy other than her mouth or hands — perform stunts such as play the flute, smoke a cigarette and popping pong balls into the audience.”
Yes, Mitzi Dupree, forever after known as the “Queen of Ping-Pong” had somehow mastered her own domain, so to speak, and it’s said she could fire a volley of ping-pong balls from the stage into patrons’ pints of beer with remarkable, if slightly cringe-worthy, accuracy.
Thompson admits he was taken aback.
“I’d booked through a talent agent in Vancouver, and I told that agent what I was looking for, and she just said, ‘I’ve got just the act for you.’” he remembers. “I booked Mitzi unseen. I had no idea. My bar manager was in hysterics.”
Perhaps it was the era, but Mitzi Dupree became an overnight sensation.
Western Canada in the early 1980s was a lot like Western Canada now, burdened with a sputtering economy and a lot of long faces to go with the doom, gloom and daily unemployment statistics.
That may explain why something so hilarious, pointless and vulgar captured the popular imagination of the time so completely: There was nothing serious about Mitzi Dupree, and love the act or hate it, she offered a distraction and something to talk about that could only leave people blushing and laughing.
Unless you were the Kamloops RCMP of course, in which case, ping-pong balls were suddenly very serious business.
In October 1981, after a local newspaper reporter broke the story of the ping-pong ball sensation at the Bar-K, police filed charges against Dupree under her real name (Michelle Pradia), claiming the 22-year-old American dancer had violated local obscenity laws.
Of course, a phalanx of cops had been forced to watch the entire show in Thompson’s sold-out bar to reach this conclusion, and so on Jan. 12, Dupree went to trial to explain herself and her unusual talents to a judge.
Thompson himself was a character witness: “She’s not a drinker, she doesn’t do drugs. All she does is dance and shoot ping pong balls and send half her money home to her mother who has cerebral palsy,” he told the court.
Perhaps he was a fan of table tennis, or just considered the RCMP painfully prudish, but the judge acquitted Dupree.
The dancer reportedly thanked the journalist who’d tipped the cops afterwards, saying his story had increased her booking fee from $500 a week to $5,000.
For the next couple of years, Dupree performed for sold-out bars across the country, including major centres like Calgary, and her fame spread far and wide, to the point that the band Deep Purple even penned a song about her.
But one place Dupree never popped a ping-pong ball again was the Bar-K.
“I ended the show after a week — it just wasn’t where I wanted to go as a bar. I just wasn’t prepared for that kind of notoriety,” says Thompson. “It was just too much for me.”
mplatt@postmedia.com (external - login to view)
Ad for a Chilliwack bar that featured the infamous Mitzi Dupree circa 1983.

How a ping-pong ball act excited both Western Canadian bar patrons and the RCMP
 
Tecumsehsbones
#2
Yeah, well, Albertans, y'know?
 
taxslave
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by TecumsehsbonesView Post

Yeah, well, Albertans, y'know?

Albertans hell. Mitzi was all over BC. Took her physics course several times.
 
Tecumsehsbones
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by taxslaveView Post

Albertans hell. Mitzi was all over BC. Took her physics course several times.

I meant "Westerners," but decided to limit it to Alberta because the story was from Calgary. But if you want me to include them, then yeah, pretty much everybody west of the Ontario-Manitoba border (and most of them east of it).
 
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