Back in the days when sex scandals could actually ruin a political career, Fanne Foxe was at the center of a doozy.
At 2 a.m. in October 1974, police pulled over a Lincoln Continental that was speeding, without headlights, near the Jefferson Memorial.
The Washington Post recalls:
The woman, 38-year-old Annabel Battistella, was a plumage-shaking striptease dancer with the stage name Fanne Foxe. She was billed as “the Argentine Firecracker,” and patrons of the local burlesque circuit were captivated by her elaborate costumes — complete with five-foot-tall headdresses and tropical-colored ostrich and pheasant feathers — as well as the artfulness with which she removed them.
On that particular night, after a boozy party at the Silver Slipper club, where she had performed, she got into a loud quarrel with her married lover….
With her plunge into the Tidal Basin, Ms. Battistella (later Annabel Montgomery), who died Feb. 10 at 84, secured her place in the annals of political scandal. Standing near the car — drunk and bleeding — was her paramour, 65-year-old Wilbur Mills, the gravelly voiced chairman of the tax-writing U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and a man esteemed as a pillar of Bible Belt rectitude and respectability.
Mills said that Foxe — a divorced mother of 3 who lived in the same luxury apartment complex as he in Arlington, Virginia — was a “family friend and a social companion of his wife, Clarine.”
Mills was re-elected to his 19th term a month later. But after an alcohol-fueled appearance with the Argentine Firecracker in Boston, he was removed as Ways and Means chairman, and treated for alcoholism.
“With his career in tatters and citing exhaustion, he left office in 1977 and became an advocate for recovering alcoholics until his death in 1992.”
As for Foxe — renamed the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” — she soon earned more than 5 times the $400 a week she made at the Silver Slipper. She acted in low-budget films, and an off-Broadway show called “Women Behind Bars.”
She gave up stripping after a December 1974 arrest in Florida, for public indecency. She was cleared of the charge.
So what’s the Westport connection?
The Post story says:
The next year, she was living with her children in Westport, Conn., in an eight-bedroom, seven-bath manse called Tally-Ho that needed constant upkeep. The only stripping she was doing, she told a reporter, involved. paint.
After marrying contractor/businessman Daniel Montgomery in 1980, Foxe moved to Florida. She earned a BA in communications from the University of Tampa in 1995, and two master’s degrees — in marine science and business administration — from the University of South Florida.
Foxe — then known as Annabel Montgomery — died in Clearwater, Florida this month. She was 84.
(Click here for the full Washington Post obituary. Hat tip: Marc Selverstone)