In 1896, a young woman named Ashea Waba—who had adopted the stage name Little Egypt—was invited to do some belly dancing at a bachelor party held at swanky Sherry’s restaurant in Midtown.
Normally the Hootchy-Kootchy was performed in belly-bearing skirts or pantaloons, like in the photo of Little Egypt at left.
But cops were tipped off that she would be dancing naked. The vice squad came to Sherry’s, and Little Egypt was arrested.
After a trial that made all the New York tabloids, she was cleared of violating any vice laws.
Little Egypt then launched a burlesque troupe of Hootchy-Kootchy dancers and raked in $500 a night.
She died in her West 37th Street apartment in 1908 of “gas asphyxiation.”