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Famed burlesque performer Sparkly Devil killed in California auto accident

David McNew / Getty Images file

Sarah Klein performing as Sparkly Devil at the Miss Exotic World Pageant in June 2003.

Sarah Klein, the modern burlesque performer known around the world as Sparkly Devil, was killed Sunday and 10 other people were injured when the car she was riding in was involved in an accident with a party bus south of San Francisco, authorities said Monday.

Klein, 36, of San Mateo wasn't wearing a seat belt when the car, which was being driven by her husband, apparently slammed into a center divider Sunday and flew out of control into oncoming traffic, state Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel told NBC station KCRA of Sacramento on Monday.


Klein's husband, Raul Padilla, 43, who was wearing a seat belt, was in critical condition, the Highway Patrol said. Nine people on the bus, which was carrying 18 passengers, were treated for minor to moderate injuries after the accident, which occurred about 2 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) Sunday on U.S. Highway 101 in Burlingame.

Montiel told NBC Bay Area that Klein and Padilla had both been drinking and that if toxicology tests showed Padilla was impaired, he could be charged with drinking and driving or vehicular manslaughter.

Although she was only 36, Klein was already a member of the Burlesque Hall of Fame, where she had been preparing for an appearance later this week in Las Vegas.

Klein — originally a journalist with The Metro Times of Detroit —  was considered one of the leading figures of the modern burlesque revival, which features elaborate stage shows incorporating extreme body art, slapstick comedy and horror-movie elements.

She was described by Bust magazine as "Daffy Duck meets Sally Rand — a classic, riotous concoction of vintage burlesque, vaudeville slapstick (and) feminist humor," and she was featured on two episodes of the TV show "LA Ink."

"She was probably one of the greatest comedic burlesque performers I've ever seen, but she could also transition into classic burlesque (and) become this other glamorous person just by doing it," Jim Sweeney, executive producer of San Francisco's Hubba Hubba Revue, which Klein co-founded, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"She was by far one of the most respected and beloved people in our community," he said.

Klein's mother, Julie Thompson Klein, told NBC Bay Area in a telephone interview from Detroit, where Klein grew up, that her daughter was "wonderful in many ways."


"She was the classic model of a creative person who wasn't afraid to cross boundaries," Julie Klein said. "I always wanted to raise a strong woman. I was amazed how strong she became."

Tributes poured in Monday as news of Klein's death became public.

"Sparkly Devil has been a treasured and adored member of the burlesque community for many, many years," Hollie-Mae Johnson, editor of 21st Century Burlesque, for which Klein was a contributor, wrote on the magazine's website.

Scores of tweets from artists and fellow performers lamented Klein's death, including one from perhaps the most famous modern burlesque performer of them all, Dita Von Teese:

The Burlesque Hall of Fame said it was planning a special tribute to remember Klein.

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