Rusty Warren Starts Sexual Revolution in Phoenix Piano Bar
Rusty Warren was a comedian who performed in the 50s and 60s at the Phoenix’s Pomp Room. The popular hangout and piano bar was previously located at 16th Street and Camelback.
A classically trained pianist, Rusty would tinkle the ivories and welcome guests with witty repartee. She drew folks in with her bawdy humor, often female-centric. She recorded 16 albums between 1959 and 2003, and hit it big in the early 60s with a song called “Knockers Up.”
“Knockers Up” put Rusty on the national map. She earned enough money to leave her quaint rental in Central Phoenix for a much more spacious home in Paradise Valley – a home she refers to as “the house that knockers built.”
Rusty now lives in Hawaii but was in town recently to perform at the Scottsdale Laugh Factory. Rusty is also gathering ephemera for the Library of Congress, such as music, comedy history and personal items, where she is being billed as the “mother of the sexual revolution.”
I grew up near 24th Street and Camelback. My memory of the Pomp Room is that it was on the south side of Indian School Road, just east of 16th Street. What I recall being at 16th/Camelback was Read Mullan Ford (NW Corner, now Camelback Toyota), an early strip mall that included Dave’s Liquors and a grocery chain store (perhaps a Safeway?) (NE corner, now replaced by a newer strip mall), Hobo Joe’s coffee shop (SE corner), and Lee’s Bars and Stools (SW corner), with Toy’s Restaurant next door.
The Pomp Room is listed in an Arizona Republic ad (Jan. 1959) as “16th St and E. Camelback.” It’s actual address was 4847 N 16th St, on the SE corner. There is an advertisement featuring Rusty Warren (Dec, 1955) at the Pump Room. After a lawsuit from the Pump Room in Chicago, the name changed to the Pomp Room. By 1966 the address is vacant.