Tempest Storm: A Documentary


Declared one of the sexiest women of all time by Hugh Heffner and iconized by cult filmmaker Russ Meyer, Tempest Storm was mistress to both Elvis and JFK, and became an international star on the stage and screen in the 1950s. Exploring her dramatic rise to fame as an exotic dancer and her swift fall from grace after pursuing an interracial marriage, “Tempest Storm” is a feature documentary that bares all to tell the controversial life story of America’s oldest living sex icon. Following her at the age of 87 as she continues to perform and appear in Las Vegas, Tempest prepares for her final and most important act: to reconcile with her daughter Patricia, who she has been estranged from for fifty years.

Well into her 80s (although having been born on a leap year she’ll point out that she’s actually 21) Tempest maintains her fiery red hair and a figure that still slips into her showgirl costumes from decades gone by. Her ambition and talent enabled her to rise from a cotton picker in rural Georgia to becoming a front stage superstar in Hollywood. At the height of her fame she caused riots simply by taking off her coat. Sixty years (and four marriages) later, we follow this aging icon as she continues to live and perform in Las Vegas. Tempest dated Elvis Presley in the 1950s, was offered contracts by MGM Studios, and had her name smeared across papers for having a relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Through a myriad of love affairs, complex interpersonal relationships have been a continuous theme throughout her life, resulting in both success and hardship. Growing up in Eastman, Georgia, she never knew her father, who left her family when she was an infant. As a teenager she survived a brutal gang rape, and by the age of 20 she had run away from two abusive marriages. Years later she fell in love with Duke Ellington’s lead singer Herb Jeffries, but the big studios condemned the interracial couple and she was blacklisted for marrying outside her race. The two had a daughter, Patricia Ann, but when their marriage fell apart, Tempest abandoned her family to continue performing. Today, she has reached a crossroads. She remains estranged from Patti, who incidentally, is part of a lesbian burlesque community in Nashville. For the first time in her life, Tempest is trying to reconcile with her daughter and fight for some semblance of family. In the spirit of notable documentaries like Searching for Sugar Man and The Kid Stays in the Picture, Tempest Storm will include never before seen photographs, archival footage and interviews, seamlessly merging her dramatic past with an emotional cinéma vérité story unfolding in the present. We will examine the life of a self-made career woman who remains a symbol of feminist power even today. We have exclusive access to Tempest, as well as her intimate circle of family and friends that includes acclaimed Hollywood director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Happy Days) as well as famed drummer Jimmy Fox from The James Gang. We also have the support of Danielle Colby, star of A&E’s American Pickers, who has been interviewed for the film and is also an executive producer. In addition, Jack White, of the Grammy winning band White Stripes, featured Tempest on an album entitled Interview With Tempest Storm, released by his company Third Man Records.

Last year we filmed an emotional reunion between Tempest and her ex-husband, legendary singer and actor Herb Jeffries, just weeks before he died at the age of 103. Tempest’s surviving brothers and sisters in Georgia have also opened up their lives in order to give insight into Tempest’s past. Tempest’s story reveals the limited options for women in a post-depression America, and raises issues of class, gender, and race, while also addressing the implications of a life in entertainment. Though on stage and screen she exposed herself physically, her personal life of controversy, betrayal, and loneliness has been, by contrast, very private. Tempest has now chosen to tell her story for the first time, and guarantees this film will be her most revealing performance yet.

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