Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dita on CNN

Click here for the video.

I love it when she says, "I can't make myself a six foot tall supermodel frolicking on the beach in a bikini. But I can make myself into this!"

Well, I couldn't make myself into Dita Von Teese, and not just because my style isn't the same. [moment of cheerful envy] But I do find her inspiring, and I'm always thrilled to see her in the news!

Dita frolicking onstage at Tease-O-Rama, 2002.

I found this news piece through Luke Littel's post in the Miss Exotic World Yahoo Group

Another great Dita interview, submitted by Laura Herbert.

What a Bunch of Dogs!

Many of the performers in the uber-friendly New York burlesque community get to know each others' families, and that includes their pets. Bunny Love made the most of these personal connections by producing a Dog Show (striptease optional) at the Slipper Room.

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Bunny Love and Belvedere host the show

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Danny Biondo and Bela sing a song

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Suzanne puts Tiny Doug through the hoops

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Albert Cadabra and Ruby the Wonder Dog prepare to do a magic trick with audience participation

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Dottie Lux and Peggy Sue eat peanut butter

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Bambi the Mermaid and Willow perform a tribute to Love

Audience members were allowed to bring their dogs, and everyone behaved. Bunny reports that there was no cattiness backstage.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Strummin' and Strippin' Across Canada!

'Take one guitar wonderkid and one international burlesque star, throw the two together, and you get a rock-out road show hitting a Canadian city near you! Real life couple, Alistair Christl and Tanya Cheex, have put together a winning combination of tunes and tease. Touring to promote his new CD release, "Unmarked Grave," Alistair is a one-man show in the tradition of Hank Williams and Hasil Adkins. Tanya has just finished a two month stint with the world famous sold-out "Spiegel Show" in Toronto. Don't miss the opportunity to see the two bust out musically and physically! '


When I received this show announcement from Tanya, I knew this had to be good. She's a fierce and fabulous performer with a lovely bit of edge, and always full of good ideas. She and Alistair were good enough to do a quick interview. When I say quick, I mean I emailed the questions and had the answers in half an hour!

How did you get interested in burlesque?
Tanya: My grandmother was into old movies like Gilda that might have a little scene of striptease in them, at least that's what stuck out in my mind. She was a catalogue model and she had a whole closet dedicated to her peignoir sets! We'd get dressed up in these glamorous outfits and watch movies. She had a huge impact on me. When I was eight I organized a strip show in a neighbours backyard with my girlfriends, choreographed a routine and charged admission. It was my first sold out show! It got busted by my parents. My perplexed parents asked how in the hell did I come up with an idea like that and I told them, my Grandma! My Dad's porn collection also influenced me a lot too! Years later in 1998 or so I had been a professional dominatrix for many years and wanted to exercise a softer side so with a few well chosen girlfriends formed Skin Tight Outta Sight! There weren't many points of reference for modern burlesque back then so we were definitely influenced by old stag reels and The Velvet Hammer. We used to strip out of a lot of latex as I was a rep for Skin Two fetish clothing- hence our name. However the rhinestones won out over the latex, even though the name stuck!
Alistair: I've been doing music in one form or another since I was a kid. I've always been intoolder forms of music, i.e., jazz, blues, swing, early country, rock and roll, and of course roackabilly. I think it was doing this type of music that enabled me to fit into the burlesque scene. I started going to Tanya's shows just to give support, not realizing that I would have much of a part in it. Immediately, though, I was drawn to the energyof the performances and soon they were booking me and my band to perform.

What does burlesque mean to you? This can be a definition of burlesque, a description of the effect burlesque has on your life, or both.
Tanya: Burlesque is my job but fortunately it is one I love. Everyday is devoted to it and it shapes who I am. I can suffer from burn-out once in a while, but then I'm right back cooking up a new act. I am naturally a quiet obsever but 'Tanya Cheex' lets me exercise an inclination to over the top extravaganza. I also was most happy on a stage whether as a stripper or a performing dominatrix. And the fabulous community and diversity are very important to me.

What was your first experience with live burlesque?
Tanya: It was our own shows! The only other thing we had seen was the Velvet Hammer website [Note from Jo: The Velvet Hammer website had interviews with Dixie Evans, Zorita, and Anton LeVey]. Our friends were the audience. Some were weirded out that we would be stripping but once they got it they all wanted to sit in "perverts row!" The New York Burlesque Festival was like the first time at a circus for me. I couldn't stop grinning. All these amazing performers like Dirty Martini and World Famous BOB. Oh yeah, I met you for the first time and looked at you and went, "Hmmmm...birds of a feather!"

What is one of your favourite experiences so far?
Tanya: I'd have to say the first time Skin Tight performed at Exotic World, the last year in the desert. Meeting Tura Satana for the first time I started to cry! She is my biggest inspiration for sure. I'm getting a Tura tattoo very soon! The Legends show at MEW still makes me cry. This year performing at The Spiegel Tent has been a tremendous experience too.
Alistair: I've done some festivals and bigger gigs but my best shows are always at local clubs with local talent. Any show where I feel I really connect with people in the audience is a great experience for me.

What is the burlesque scene like in your city?
Tanya: We have a good community. Since STOS has been around so long we realize that we have to set a sort of example for others, and offer some mentorship. Sauci Calla Horra and I started up the Toronto Burlesque and Vaudeville Association (TBVA) as a community board to post shows , provide tips and air grievances etc. We are working on our own International Toronto Burlesque Festival next spring.

They're so hot I don't want to talk about it. Photo by David Hawe.

Who inspires you most, and why?
Tanya: The idea of the larger than life blonde bombshell like Marilyn and Mamie Van Doren etc. We had a strong relationship with the LA girls from the beginning. Ming and Diamondback Annie are like family. Bambi inspires me a lot because we share a sideshow sensibility. I do a tap dancing parasitical twin act and I think of her when I do it. I was influenced by an old photograph of sideshow sweetheart Myrtle Corbain. It was those little legs with their matching striped stockings. My friend Ugly Shyla made the legs- it's puppetry. I find that stuff so sexy. I like women with tails too!
Alistair: I'm strongly inspired by the honesty and emotion of people like Hank Williams. Django Reinhardt is always inspiring for plain musical ability. I watch a lot of footage of the greats like Elvis. Any performer can learn a lot from him.

What is your favorite aspect of burlesque as it is now?
Tanya: The fact that it growing, and that for good or bad the mainstream is taking notice. I never thought I could partially support myself by burlesque and that I now can is definitely a result of the general populace taking notice. I don't think it will ever truly die down now. That being said, there is nothing worse bad burlesque--new performers, take classes, watch movies, practise and DO NOT WEAR CHEAP STORE BOUGHT UNDERWEAR!! Unless its integral to your act. One of my sayings is No street underwear! If you can fit it under your jeans it doesn't fit in the show. Sorry, my troupe members refer to meas an underwear nazi. [Jo: Right, lingerie is not a costume!]

What would you like to do or see next in burlesque?
Tanya: More of this. It's pretty cool that I can work with my partner, Alistair in burlesque. This tour is a big deal for us. We always wanted to do it. Its a whole lot of driving as Canada is a big country! Between guitars, amps and costumes it will be a tight squeeze. Originally STOS's live band was made up of members of British psychobilly band King Kurt so we'd like to get the band together and tour Europe with them next year. When in doubt, spill out!
Alistair: I'd like to get more live music into Skintight's shows and work more closely with Tanya.

Tour Dates:
Aug.3rd: Halifax, NS
Aug.4th The Seahorse w/ Pink Velvet Burlesque: Halifax, NS
Aug.11th Toad In The Hole: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Aug.17th Palominos Bar and Grill, Calgary Alberta
Aug.24th Logan's Pub, Victoria, BC Aug.25th Dollhouse Studios w/ Sweet Soul Burlesque, Vancouver


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sherry Britton in the New York Daily News

' I write about this glamour lady today because I recently learned she is still around and her heels are still clicking. I remember when she was called "Great Britton, a stripteuse with brains." '
She's still one great Britton

You'll love this article! Submitted by Laura Herbert.

I've interviewed Sherry and I hope to share that interview here soon. She has been a good friend to me and a great supporter of the shows I've been in. The shoes I wear for my fan dance and HH tribute number were Sherry's--they're pretty fabulous and she made me promise that if she gave them to me, I'd wear them onstage, so I do.

Laura, Me, Sherry, and Luke at Liz Goldwyn's screening of Pretty Things

One of Sherry's costumes on display at the screening.

I'm currently processing several interviews with Burlesque Legends--that means I'm waiting for all the pix to come in. I admit I'm a big sap and every one of these interviews leaves me a bit misty, even (and sometimes especially) when they're wild and raunchy. I'm such a fan!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Picture Post: Kitten DeVille

I'm incredibly lucky with some of the access I have to take photos. I try to make the most of it! Here are some of my favorite shots I've taken of Kitten DeVille.

Kitten Deville
Onstage with the Pontani Sisters' Burlesque-A-Pades in NYC, 2006

Kitten Deville and Dirty Martini
With Dirty Martini at Starshine Burlesque, NYC, 2006

Kitten Deville Backstage at Exotic World 2006
Backstage at Exotic World, Las Vegas, 2006

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

That Christopher Walken Number

When many neo-burlesquers are asked which is their favorite striptease in a movie (that is, a scripted movie that isn't necessarily about burlesque, as opposed to a collection of clips of burlesque performances), this one is cited the most. And for good reason!

I perform a lecture called "Exotic Dance in Contemporary Film." It's mostly about burlesque, of course. I explain how the film clips of burlesque dancers recorded in the 30s-60s are often overdubbed because either they were shot silent or the music rights were too expensive for the video producers to acquire, meaning that we don't get to see how the dancers utilized the music. Plus, they are usually shot with a single camera and we don't get to see how the dancers utilized an audience. We can see their hair, costumes, and a few of their moves, but we can't get a full sense of them. Frankly, watching a burlesque routine on film, though fun, is not remotely a substitute for watching the number as part of a live audience.

In movies, however, directors can play with all these elements, as well as usually (though not always) presenting the dancers in the context of a story that gives the performance extra dimension. The performances lack the authenticity and improv elements of real live burlesque, but they have added value for what they do bring to the film. One of my favorites is Bob Fosse's direction of Valerie Perrine in "Lenny." Bob Fosse had performed in burlesque variety shows and knew what he was doing when he represented burlesque.

However, this Walken video is something else. It's just pure ridiculous joy to watch, for one thing--the man can dance. The music is great. The striptease makes the most of every element of his costume and environment. And it has one element that is usually cut out of the clips on youtube, which explains the impact of the reveal at the end. This scene actually begins with Bernadette Peters' character introducing herself as "Lulu," and Lulu is the name Walken, a stranger, has tattooed on his chest. That's a frickin' Big Reveal!

In the Closet: Burgundy Brixx


The previous peek into a performer's closet with Paula the Swedish Housewife gave a sense of how a lifetime of devotion to performance and costuming can affect a burlesque devotee's environment (and that of their friends and family) over decades. In this interview, you'll get the same view into the closet of a very new face in burlesque, the fabulous Burgundy Brixx. Multi-talented, like many burlesque newcomers with previous theatrical experience, she sings, sews, does acrobatics, and demonstrates the unmistakable polish of a performer with a professional dance background. She's a force to be reckoned with! Of course I'm partial because she and her partner, the ingenious Fem Appeal, met in one of my workshops and began working together to produce Fem's weekly burlesque show, Kitty Nights, and they say nice things about me. But I have a feeling you're going to become a fan as well.

Are you an organized person?
You kind-of have to be in a New York apartment, but I’m definitely not anal about it.

Do you make your own costumes? If so, where do you sew?
My portable sewing machine has been in permanent residence on the dining table these days.

Did you have costumes before you started doing burlesque? How did you store them? Is that the same way you store them now?
I had odd halloween costumes and fun stuff that I kept in a big plastic bin in my closet. At first, I tried the same with my Burlesque costumes, but it was quickly immensely impractical.

Burgundy's closet is way more organized than mine. Photos by the Prrrrfessor.

Do you keep your costumes separate from your clothing?
God, yes!

How often do you use your costumes?
Two to three times a week, on average.

How much of your house is taken up by your costumes? How much of your storage space (closets, garage, attic, other) is taken up? How has your storage system evolved?
I have a large closet that I originally put all my costumes in. I tried a number of different organizing techniques that would work for a little while, but eventually my props actually started getting a lot more space-consuming and the costumes and props didn’t all live happily together in the closet. Every time I’d open the door, I’d get brutally attacked by fans, canes and wigs. Now I have my props and some wigs in the closet, and this great big armoire that I got for free on craigslist and re-painted to look chinese. I’ve stacked baskets inside, with one costume per basket, and a few hanging garments. My falls hang on hooks inside and most of my headpieces are in a hatbox on top. It’s still stuffed to the gills, but I can generally find what I need quickly.

Gimme that closet, Burgundy!

Does anybody in your life (roommate, sig other) complain about the volume of costumes? If so what do they say? If not, do they seem to enjoy them being around?
Our apartment has definitely been attacked by Burlesque, but my husband generally loves it. He thinks it sweet to find sequins on his feet in the shower. I hope that endearing quality lasts!

Do you ever swear you're going to get rid of some and then not get rid of them? Why or why not?
Not yet! I still haven’t retired any numbers yet. I’m still too new to the scene!

Do you worry about your costumes getting destroyed because of storage problems?
My stacking basket system is definitely not the best for certain fragile or more three-dimensional garments. I try to put the heavier stuff in the bottom baskets and the more fragile things on top. I wish there were a way to hang all of the things that wrinkle so I don’t have to bust out the iron right before I’m running to a gig!

What is this?

A giant bong, what else?

Do you use various pieces with various costumes, or are all the pieces of each costume dedicated? Do you ever wear them out, or do you use them only for the stage?
All my costumes are dedicated to the stage...there are a couple of basic pieces I use in more than one piece and believe me, they’re the bane of my existence...the first thing I’m likely to forget is one of those! I keep swearing I’ll make duplicates one of these days, but it just never seems to happen!

How would you store them in a perfect world?
In my fantastic, mahogany, mirrored, flatteringly lit walk-in closet that’s as big as my bedroom with a crystal chandelier, a velvet chaise lounge and chilled champagne for me and my guests. HA!

Burgundy Sings La Vie En Rose

Burgundy Talks About Getting into Burlesque

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

If You Want to Strip in this Revue, You Need Big Balls (Of Yarn)

' Beneath black tattered ceiling tiles and a perimeter of colorful lights, seven dancers shed their costumes in the nine-act show, coordinated by Nikol Lohr of Lawrence, author of the saucy knitting guide Naughty Needles. Everything in the show was knitted by Lohr and a handful of volunteers. '
Scene: Naughty Needles Knitted Burlesque Revue

Nasty's Knitted Pasties

Monday, July 23, 2007

Picture Post: Peekaboo at Pinchbottom

I just wanted to say "Peekboo at Pinchbottom." Try saying it the next time you're depressed. Better than Prozac.

Nasty Canasta, Clams Casino, Tigger, and Peekaboo in "A Chorus Line."

Peekaboo and Gigi LaFemme in "Jellicle Cats."

Peekaboo in "Bali Hai."

All photos by Jo Weldon.
Taken at the July 20 "Bottoms over Broadway" show.

Peekaboo Pointe
Pinchbottom Burlesque

Sunday, July 22, 2007

In the Closet: Paula the Swedish Housewife

What is your name, and what is your area of interest in burlesque?
I am known as Paula The Swedish Housewife, Ginger! and a few other persona as well. I currently reside in Seattle Washington where I produce a weekly burlesque show, as well as several one offs a year. I co founded Seattle's first live burlesque band Orchestra L'Pow! with Dain Hudson in 06 , I have produced the Exotic World Meet and Greets (Friday night reunions) for the last 3 years and the last two The Miss Exotic World Pageants. I have been performing Burlesque for over 6 years, but have been performing in cabaret for more than 25 years. I am a great fan of burlesque and go see shows in every city and country I can.

Paula on the Rocks. Photo by Christopher Nelson.

Chandeliers Swinging from Paula. Photo by Don Spiro.

Are you an organized person?
Not really.

Click to enlarge. Photo of Paula's closet by Jo Weldon.

Do you make your own costumes? If so, where do you sew?
I make some of my costumes, mostly the head pieces, hats, and props. I do a lot of the embellishing on my own and I like to hand stitch. I have have a few people with whom I work on my costumes; Mark Mitchell, Kim Larsen, Magda, Misty Stevens, and Jamie Von Stratton. I hope to have Grant Phillpo make a creation for me. I create the concepts and like to be part of the design process which I am sure drives them nuts!. I used to sew my own clothes as a child and made a lot of costumes for myself up till I was a teen. I am not the best stitcher in the world so I prefer to leave that to someone more patient than myself. I make my things at home in my living room, kitchen or garden. I buy a lot of vintage costume pieces as well.

Did you have costumes before you started doing burlesque? How did you store them? Is that the same way you store them now?
I have had costumes since I was a toddler and my skills of storing them are probably on par with that of a toddler... well actually I have gotten a little better. When I lived above the Pyramid Club on Ave A in NYC with up to 8 roommates yes... 8 !! We had a costume room where we would fall in and suit our selves up for the evening's assignments.

Do you keep your costumes separate from your clothing?
I try. Sometimes it is hard to decide what really goes where. So much of how I dress is a uniform or a "costume" for the right occasion.

Click to Enlarge. Photo of Paula's Closet by Jo Weldon.

How often do you use your costumes?
At least weekly and sometimes twice in a day!

How much of your house is taken up by your costumes? How much of your storage space (closets, garage, attic, other) is taken up?
3/4 of my three bedroom house and attic. I also have a storage locker.... I know I have an issue....... is there a 12 step program I should consider?

How has your storage system evolved?
According to necessity. It is so irritating to have all the right things and not be able to find them. Makes me want to throw everything out when I can't find the "perfect" thing for the latest harebrained idea I have.

Scott Ewalt presents a new headdress. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Does anybody in your life (roommate, sig other) complain about the volume of costumes? If so what do they say? If not, do they seem to enjoy them being around?
My daughter just shrugs her shoulders at me. The glitter is what gets out of control--just ask my employers, friends, pets, and grocery clerk.

Do you ever swear you're going to get rid of something and then not get rid of it? Why or why not?
Yes! I might need it!

Do you worry about your costumes getting destroyed because of storage problems?

Paula's rack. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Do you use various pieces with various costumes, or are all the pieces of each costume dedicated? Do you ever wear them out, or do you use them only for the stage?
I try to keep my costumes dedicated to one act. It has been a problem many times when I have borrowed a piece from one costume for another costume and when I need it for the original act I cant find it, as I did not out it back where it originally belonged. This has always happened when I have 5 minutes to get ready. I mostly mix up my shoes with other costumes, but for some of my acts the shoes are so distinctive that they really can't be used for anything else.

How would you store them in a perfect world?
In a 1500 square foot walk in closet/ dressing room with mirrors and great lighting arranged by color, persona, and season, and with enough shoe and hat shelving to see all my shoes and hats at once!

Interview Continued

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What Julie Eats

Julie Atlas Muz
Julie performing in Boston with the Sex Workers Art Show. Photo by Jo Weldon.

'I went to La Casalinga and had the spaghetti puttanesca, which means “spaghetti of the whore.” After all, I’m a burlesque performer and a nightlife whore. I like Casalinga — it sounds like cunnilingus, which I really like. All of the food is home cooked. It’s fancy restaurant food at an affordable hole-in-the-wall. The kitchen closes at 11:30 p.m., which for a nightlife person is a very good thing. '

Performer Julie Atlas Muz Eats Chocolate Chips at 5 A.M.

Whatever she eats, it makes her nice and strong.

Julie Atlas Muz at Spiegeltent
Julie performing in Weimar New York at Spiegeltent. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Burlesque in Victoria

' A few days later, I catch the Cheesecakes performing at the Pride celebration at Fisherman's Wharf. There are a record 18,000 people there. The sun is scorching. The beer has run out and the drag queens are getting surly. But the troupe manages to keep the crowd in high spirits. Cheers explode when the women tear away velcro-seamed pants and spray sparkles for their finale, the Village People's YMCA. '
City women embracing burlesque style

Way to go, Victoria! Yay for more burlesque! I love the idea of them performing in front of 18,000 people.

At the end she says you can't teach burlesque, which I don't find to be true; I don't find that teaching people classic moves inhibits their abilities to find their own styles. It just inspires their confidence to give classic burlesque a try. I bet she ends up teaching in spite of herself!

My students at the last School of Burlesque showcase, June 2007. I didn't have any pix of the Cheesecakes!

Recommended Reading: Honey Harlow's Autobiography

Honey: The life and loves of Lenny's shady lady
by Honey Bruce
Playboy Press, Los Angeles, 1976.

In my late teens I became obsessed with the First Amendment and its protection of adult material, about which I had very strong (ahem) feelings. Once I became adult material myself, I was even more passionate about defending adults' rights to uncensored media, and Lenny Bruce was one of my idols. As soon as I read her autobiography, his wife, Hot Honey Harlow, became one of my idols as well.

Hot Honey Harlow, known also as Honey Bruce, produced one of my favorite books by a burlesque legend. She published her autobiography two years after much of her life had already been revealed in Bob Fosse's film "Lenny" (which I highly recommend to burlesque students for Valerine Perrine's depiction of Honey Harlow's routine, and for First Amendments students for the depiction of Lenny's arrests and responses). However, I suspect she would have been open about her past even if she hadn't already been so vividly exposed in the movie.

She talks about her early years in a small Arkansas town, her first unwilling experience with sex (in a story which she chillingly describes as typical of her era), her time in jail, traveling with a carnival, becoming enamoured of stripteasers, and completing her rise to burlesque star status in Miami (driving a convertible with leopard seats, no less). She also describes 1950s/1960s show business from dives to Vegas. She tells all about falling in love with a woman, falling in love with Lenny, getting married and having a daughter, abusing drugs, losing that daughter, losing Lenny, and recovery from drug addiction. The story is heartbreaking, but her honesty and resilience and desire to render true amends make it not only bearable, but inspiring.

The story is even more moving when one takes into account that, after the publication of this book, Honey successfully remarried, reunited with her daughter, and assisted in obtaining a posthumous pardon for Lenny Bruce's conviction of obscenity in 1964.

You may not be able to love Honey without reserve; there are a lot of attitudes to make you think twice in this book. But you will be able to get an indelible sense of her dazzling personality, and of a life well-lived in spite of tough choices, some of them dreadfully, fatally wrong. You will know that this is the genuine article--the authentic Hot Honey Harlow.

Me performing a tribute to Honey Harlow at Exotic World, 2006. Photo by Chris Blakely.
I love this photo, but I'd prefer to have a photo of Honey, and will be happy to credit any submissions. My copy of her book has no cover!

Buy this book used on amazon.com

Born in 1927, Honey Harlow passed away in 2005.
Honey's obituary in Variety Magazine
Honey's Obituary in the NY Times

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Weimar Burlesque in the New York Times

' “The Weimar aesthetic has taken over,” said Justin Bond, the torch singer who performs as the female half of Kiki & Herb, and belts the theme song for “Weimar New York,” the cabaret revue opening tonight at the Spiegeltent, near the South Street Seaport. (“Come pop your cork/Bring a dollar and a dream/It’s a mall where over all hangs a pall that enthralls/Weimar New York.”) '
Life Is a Weimar Dream, Old Chum, and Downtown Loves a Nouveau Cabaret

Daniel Isengart in Weimar New York at Spiegeltent. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Meow Meow in Weimar New York at Spiegeltent. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Pixie Harlot with Rhinestone Baseball Bat in Weimar New York at Spiegeltent. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Article submitted to my yahoo group by Lady Aye.

My own Weimar-ish project is that I've been working on a gallery using all the flyers, articles, and photos I've collected over the past 10 years to do an homage to Voluptuous Panic, but making it look as if what's been happening in the performance art scene in New York has been the dominant aesthetic of New York in my era. By the time I finish it I'm sure no one will remember quite what was going on in downtown NY from 1997-2007, so maybe it'll be fairly convincing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Interview with Burlesque Legend Dee Milo

With their express permission, I teach the moves certain legends of burlesque have taught directly to me. One of my favorites is the one I call "The Dee Milo," a naughty little forward bump n bend move that Dee did in the 1950s and still does today. Dee performs regularly at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Reunions, has taught there and at Burlycon, and traveled to New York last year to perform in our Mother's Day Burlesque Show. You can see her move in my book--or better yet, go to Las Vegas this June and see her perform yourself!

Image from Dee Milo's website.

When did you get into burlesque?

How did you come up with your stage name?
My manager wanted to keep it short to fit on marquees. Since my name is Dorothy we used Dee, and then we used "Milo" so I could be called the "Venus of Dance."

Where did you begin?
New Orleans. I had great instruction from our female master of ceremonies. I don't remember her name! I don't even remember the name of the club. Somewhere on Bourbon Street. I worked a few clubs there, I don't remember anyone I worked with. When I came back to San Francisco I became a headliner in the early 50s. I worked at The Barbary Coast and the President Theater. I worked my way through Los Angeles and San Diego. I didn't make friends with many at first because the house gals don't like headliners, but I made friends with Jennie Lee in Mexico-- we became bosom buddies! In 1957 were on the same billing. I was co-star and she was the star.

What are some of your fondest memories?
Traveling in Mexico and Japan. I loved the theater in Mexico City where I met Jennie Lee. We had leather coats and shoes made together. When I worked in Japan I couldn't help but love the way I was put on pedestal. They were so wonderful, the way they greeted me and made sure everything was taken care of. I got such personal service. I always had an assistant, same as in Mexico, who helped me dress and took care of my wardrobe. The assistant was provided by the club and I didn't have to hire them. I stayed six months in Japan. I had an agent there. The theater in Osaka in 1962/63 was marvelous, huge and fancy compared to today. Dressing rooms were very private and lovely. Then I came back to the States and oh boy! (laughs) Not so fancy!

Dee Milo
Dee rides offstage at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Striptease Reunion, 2009.

Your most scandalous moment?
While I was in San Diego I decided to try a different version of my signature "Sentimental Journey" number using the song "I Married an Angel." I changed from coming on with my suitcase into coming on in a wedding gown. The police were going to arrest me and shut the club down because they said using a wedding gown for a strip act was sacrilegious! I went back to "Sentimental Journey." In Mexico they were so strict the theater wasn't supposed to show bare legs on the posters on the marquee. We decided to push the limit indoors. I wore a fur g string in an act! Audience members shouted "Pelo! Pelo!" They loved it! The police started coming up on the side of the stage, and I took off the fur g-string and had a plain flesh-colored g string on under the fur. If you can get the publicity without getting arrested you should go for it.

What were some of your signature performances?
"Sentimental Journey" is my signature act. The music and the words tell the story. I'd come out in street clothes carrying the suitcase, take a negligee and gown out of the case, and then have the gown drop from under the negligee. If we had a young man in from the audience I would get on his lap and "claim" him. Then I would then place myself on the bed, the man would walk over, and they'd wipe the lights. It was a very well-liked number, and the women in the audience would comment on how nice it was that I left the stage dressed. I would do this number in every show I did, and if I did a nightclub gig I would do just this number. You could always push the envelope more in nightclubs.

That's the way it is now too. We can take more risks in nightclubs, especially in New York, than in more structured shows.
I never worked in New York, but I worked in Boston. (laughs)

Did you twirl tassels? I did! I could do it all, including bending over backwards to twirl and twirling tassels on my behind.

Do you remember seeing any other burlesque performers and admiring them? Did you ever meet people who were legends to you?
I really liked seeing Lili St. Cyr. I saw her in Burbank, in her giant champagne class. I didn't get to meet her, though. It was so beautiful, and she moved very artistically. I just thought, "Wow, if I could stage something that great!" But I'm on the lazy side and it would have been a lot of work carrying that champagne glass around.

That's so funny! I just wrote an article about giant champagne glasses and said it would be too hard for me to haul around. I'm on the lazy side too, that way.
I tried having a shower on stage in Mexico, and after going through setting it up a few times I said, "Forget that one!" If your personality can push you out there to the audience, that's the most important thing. You can have all kinds of great props but not be able to put it across. Lili did both.

Above image by Dennis Cardiff, available for purchase. Used with permission.

Are you glad you got into burlesque?
I wouldn't give up the experience I had for anything. If I'd stayed here I wouldn't be the person I am now. The experience I had touring was great.

When did you stop performing?
I came back to Utah in 1964. I just felt it was time. I decided to embrace the dominant religion in Utah, and my mother said, "Now, if you really repent from all your past sins, you will burn all of your memorabilia and gowns." I bought a house here with the money I'd saved from performing, and I'm still in it. When my daughter was about 10 she found this red red gown in in a box in the attic. I don't know how it hadn't gotten burned! She said, "Look mommy, how pretty!" I didn't tell her what it was at the time. When I saw it, I felt like there was still something of that time remaining in me. I came out of my goody-two-shoes closet.

How did you start again?
I found out about Exotic World by seeing Dixie on the Phil Donahue Show. I just happened to be watching and thought, "Yes, it's about time." I contacted Earl Hansen and said I needed some filming done. I told him I used to be in burlesque and he was shocked, and he'd known me all that time! We did the filming in an Eagle Club. I put on my red dress and did "Sentimental Journey." It gave me the guts to go and perform again at Exotic World.

Dee performing in 2006. Photo by Chris Blakely.

When did you first perform at Exotic World?
In 1995 I contacted Dixie and said, "I think I can perform for you." She was very excited and billed me good! There was a huge crowd at the show and it had so much publicity. HBO filmed it, and the Learning Channel. And tht's how the whole state of Utah found out about my past in burlesque! I have no complaints, it has been an all-around great time. The fans are great and everybody at Exotic World is so nice.

How did you come to perform at Teaseorama? When did you first start performing there?
My lover saw it on Maury Povich and suggested that I do it. I did it and I managed to fit my number into a minute and a half!

I have to tell you, and forgive my corniness, I saw that number and I cried a little. I think it had partly to do with my having been a stripper and having felt the disgust of a lot of society, and then seeing you up there being so loved was fabulous, and I loved you too and I thought, "If I can love her, I can love me too."
Oh yes, certainly a lot of society thought that we in burlesque were the crud of the earth. We felt that too.

What do you think of the performers you've seen at Exotic World and Tease-O-Rama?
I like Daisy Delight--I like gals that can move! Joan Arline does a nice number with class, and her son is very nice. I enjoy Paula the Swedish Housewife and she and I had so much fun in Vegas. I love the new performers and they've all been wonderful to me. Everybody's been so gracious and I couldn't ask for better feelings. My traveling companions were awed by how the star performers like Tigger were coming up to me and how affectionate and appreciative everyone was. Meeting fans is a highlight.

Have you performed in Salt Lake City?
You know, Roger Bennington was putting a show together in Salt Lake City with Dirty Martini and Julie Atlas Muz, and Dirty said to him, "Hey, you have a star right here in your town!" So they brought me in and made me a headliner! Those ladies are great to me. All the new perfomers have such a drive to do burlesque. They do great work.

Have you thought about teaching burlesque?
They want to me teach right here in Salt Lake City! People who work for Catalyst Magazine have been encouraging me to do it. So many young ones here want to learn the old fashioned way.

What do you do now?
I'm a massage therapist. I make the body feel good! I've been doing it for 25 years, started with reflexology and went into accupressure. Then I worked with a physical therapist, got my license, and I love it. I'm into crystals and other airy fairy things. Check out the part of my site that says "Body Balance."

Anything you want to say to the newest performers?
Go for it! It's also a great sexuality excercise.

Dee Milo on CBS News
Dee Milo in The Las Vegas Mercury

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rock N Roll Burlesque Show In LA

' "For a lot of us — the performers, even the audience — punk rock completely altered our lives in a really positive way," said Annie Sperling, a.k.a. Ming Dynatease and one of the organizers behind the show, which will take place quarterly. '
The Music That Moved Them

Ming Dynatease in the pool at Binion's in Las Vegas during the 2006 Exotic World Weekend. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Diamondback Annie performing a fan dance to Kiss in the 2006 Miss Exotic World Pageant. Photo by Jo Weldon.

I found this article in Kelly DiNardo's Candy Pitch.

Michigan Burlesque!

' The performers trained for about 6 months, [Meghan] Solano said, and choreographed all their own dances. In addition, the comedians wrote their own material.

' “Few of us have any dance experience,” said Solano, who also performed in Thursday’s show. “I’m just amazed because all of these people ... this is completely raw talent and everybody was awesome.” '

Vaudeville show a reflection of bygone era

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Knee Deep in Burlesque: Nasty Canasta's Backstage Photos

Most performers have cameras in their bags, same as anybody else, and they capture some rare moments (hardly any work-safe). I'll be sharing plenty of my backstage shots here, but I want to share a few from other performers as well. If you've got some great backstage shots you can share, let me know!

Nasty's Knees at Pinchbottom Burlesque. Photo by Jo Weldon.

Nasty Canasta takes a lot of fun pictures backstage. She's a stylish,creative wench who sews, knits, and makes giant cereal boxes. Her photos reflect her constant search for an additional point of view from which to be entertained. I particularly love her "knees" series. I'm kinky that way. But trust me, even if knees aren't your thing, you should check out her flickr page.

Jonny Porkpie, Jo Boobs, Amber Ray, Veronika Sweet

Creamy Stevens

Scarlet Sinclair

Harvest Moon

Peekaboo Pointe and Anita Cookie

Little Brooklyn

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Girls in Giant Champagne Glasses

Today I received this question from a reader:

"[I] was wondering if you might know where one could purchase an oversized champagne glass, like the one dita von tease or catherine d'lish uses????"

Venus Delight in her Giant Champagne Glass circa 1989-1994. Photo Property of Venus Delight.

Catherine D'Lish in her champagne glass at Tease-o-rama 2002. Photo Copyright Jo Weldon.

Honestly, I probably can't afford a giant champagne glass, and if I could afford it, I probably couldn't afford to store or transport it, and even if I could, I couldn't afford stage hands to get it onto the tiny stages I usually occupy.

It just so happens, however, that I do know how to purchase one. What I know is that you have to have one made, unless you can find one used, as they are not mass-produced. If you want to have one made, you first have to locate a prop maker or custom acrylic fabricator. The same prop makers who make props for movies, theater, and events are the ones who make props for burlesque performers. For instance, you can look at the credits for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and find out who designed the sets and props, and through that find who made the giant glass Cameron Diaz used (note that Dita is credited, as her number and the prop designed with Catherine D'Lish inspired the number in the movie and her permission had to be acquired to use it), or find out who's doing the props for the Pussycat Dolls show in Las Vegas. That is how it's done!

If you want to try one out before you decide to invest, you can rent one from 20th Century Props. They can probably tell you where to get one made, for a fee.

If, like me, you love the image but you can't really imagine owning the prop itself, you might be interested in these:

Caeser's Pocono Resorts, where you can rent a hotel suite with a 7-foot Champagne Glass Whirlpool Bath-for-Two with Celestial Ceiling.

A Figurine of the Playboy Femlin in a Champagne Glass. When I was a little kid I used to wonder if it was a really big champagne glass or a really tiny woman. I LOVE the Femlin and I would love to see someone do a Femlin act.

An Art Print of a Woman in Front of a Giant Champagne Glass, reproduced from a print I'm guessing is from the 1890s.

Or, you can buy a fabulous signed, color photo of Dita in her martini glass, a prop designed by Catherine D'Lish, from her website. If you join her website, you can see video of her and Catherine performing their amazing cocktail duet at Teaseorama.

Dual champagne glasses at an event staged by Rock Events. Photo used with permission.

Somewhere I have a photo of the painting Rik did for his table at the New York Burlesque Festival, of a life-sized woman in a champagne glass, with a hole cut for your head like those boards at the beach where you can stick your head on top of a body builder's body. When I find it, I'll add it. We still have the painting and the board and you'll find it turning up at some of our events, so you can stick your head in there and get your picture taken too!

If you do intend to have your champagne glass made, these people will do it for you:
Set Masters
Just Plastics

Finally, if you have read this article, don't email me and ask if I know where to get one. Duh! read it again! But if you know more about where to get one, feel free to let me know.