Friday, December 21, 2007

Picture Post: Backstage Slipper Room Christmas

Pinkie Special
Pinkie Special waiting for the show to begin.

Bunny Love
Bunny Love prepares to sing "Santa Baby" with the live band.

Gal Friday
Gal Friday straightens the star during a Classic Moves class.

If you have holiday pix, please links to them in your comments! I know a certian Seattle photographer has a pic or two of Miss Indigo Blue performing her Menorah number...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Picture Post: Goats of Burlesque

Julie Atlas Muz
Julie Atlas Muz at the Slipper Room. Photo by Jo Weldon (me).

Coney Island Burlesque at the Beach, 8/25/06 - Jo Boobs Follies Fromage
Honi Harlow at The Follies Fromage. Photo by Norman Blake.

Me As a Kid
Me as a Kid. Photo by Allen Lee

Here's another farm animal in addition to the goat action; my beloved Cherokee (who performed in my first-ever student showcase and who moved away to LA and just did a stint on tv teaching someone burlesque) as a lamb, backstage at Badass Burlesque. Photos by me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Some burlesque performers, both currently and of the mid-twentieth century, have identified themselves as working in the sex industry. Whether you view it as sex work or no, you may find this of interest.

Above: A strippers' reunion in Times Square, 1989; photo taken from "Queen of Burlesque" by Yvette Paris. Pictured are Ann Corio, Bambi Vawn, Leola Harlow, Jennie Lee, Yvette Paris, and Annie Sprinkle. (If anybody knows of a good website on how to get quality scans, please email me at Everything I used to know about scanning seems to be not working now.)

Today, Monday, Dec. 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Here in NYC, $pread Magazine, SWANK, & PONY are co-hosting a vigil from 5-7 pm on the steps of Judson Memorial Church (55 wash square south, ACE/BDFV to w. 4th or NR to 8th st).

The following text is from the Swop website:

Over the past year, the international sex worker community has mourned the loss of thousands of our comrades, with an estimated 2,000 killed in the United States alone. Over the last year, serial killers have been reported in places like Ipswich, Atlantic City, Edmonton, Guatemala and Russia, and many cases remain unsolved. A few days ago in British Columbia, Robert "Willie" Pickton was sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of six women - he has admitted to killing forty-nine sex workers in total before feeding them to his pigs. Gary Ridgway, the Green River killer of the 1980s, picked prostitutes as victims "because they are easy to pick up without being noticed. . . . I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without being caught." We are seen as nameless, faceless, storyless, useless, and utterly without rights. In Philadelphia, the serial rape and assault at gunpoint of sex worker Dominique Grindraw was written off by Judge Deni as "theft of services," amounting to state-sponsorship of violence against sex workers.

But we will not be silenced, nor will we accept what amounts to genocide against our kind - SEX WORKERS' RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS! By participating in one of tomorrow's events, you are helping the world to see that our struggle is not in vain, and that the sex workers killed in 2007 may be gone, but they are not forgotten. We will not rest until the streets, cities, and countrysides are safe for everyone, everywhere, every worker.

For more information on the day and events happening in other towns, check out

Here is a list of Ten Things You Can Do to Participate written by legend Annie Sprinkle:

1. Do something of personal meaning alone at home; take a ritual bath, or simply think about those who have died, light a candle, make a wish, have a cry, call a friend and discuss the topic, etc.

2. Write a short personal quote or a statement about violence against sex workers and send to the SWOP web site for them to post.

3. Send a donation to a nonprofit group that helps sex workers stay safer.

4. Organize a public memorial event in your town. If not, choose a place, and time, where you can gather. Make an email letter and/or flyer and get it around with news of the event. Invite people to bring writings, stories, readings, thoughts, related news items, poems, performances, etc. Make a circle at the event. Take turns sharing. This will make for a wonderful memorial and be great for consciousness raising and outreach as well.

5. Organize a panel discussion about violence towards sex workers. You can ask a church or other community space if you can do it there.

6. Send news of this event to any and all press you know, so the word gets out that there are people who care about murdered sex workers, and who are concerned with the safety of sex workers out there today.

7. Attend one of the events which is listed on the SWOP web site.

8. If you know any sex workers, send them some information about self-defense.

9. Send a personal email letter to people telling them how you feel about violence against sex workers and the women who were murdered by serial killer Gary Ridgway. Or email this letter around.

10. Read Daisy Anarchy's poem, to yourself or to friends, or at one of the public events. Or email it around.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

News Post: Royalty Takes a Peek

'The royal siblings and 10 pals were entertained by acts including US exotic dancers the Wau Wau sisters and French performer La Galu at the Medium Rare show in Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush.'
SEE VIDEO Princes William and Harry enjoy burlesque show

Here's a scary picture I captured of Tanya falling off the trapeze when the Wau Wau Sisters performed at Tease-O-Rama in 2003:

Falling at Teaseorama, large

I used to not be able to look at it because I love her so much and I was so scared when it happened. I had the camera on multi-frame, and I don't think I have the photojournalist instinct to have taken the picture because I thought something unusual was happening. Now I love it because I remember how she jumped right back up and owned that trapeze. I love the fierce ladies of burlesque.

Ms.Tickle's Art of the Striptease

Ms. Tickle is a legend in the New York burlesque and performance art scene, a true original and a favorite of almost everyone who's ever seen one of her charming, sexy, innovative acts. She still performs but works primarily as a costumer and stylist, most recently for Marc Jacobs' holiday parties. Below are some photos of her signature act, "The Art of the Striptease," in which she strips by turning the pages of a book. As clever as that concept is, she goes even further by by adding one little detail after another, doing a whole lot more than just turning the pages! Her imagination and style have rocked my world for nearly a decade.

Ms Tickle
Ms Tickle
Ms Tickle

Ms. Tickle on Myspace

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Burlesque on the Subway? Not Exactly.

One of the interesting side effects of burlesque getting better and better known is that there are more and more people who know the word "burlesque" but don't know what it means. While I find some of the snarkier arguments about what burlesque really is and isn't insanely tedious and self-serving, there's no doubt in my mind that it isn't the same as pole dancing--that is, pole dancing qua pole dancing.

The distinction is most important if someone wants to hire pole dancers and they think that burlesque is pole dancing and they hire burlesque dancers. Let's say they spend all this money installing poles for the dancers, and the dancers show up with a bunch of showgirl costumes and not one of them can get up the pole or whirl around it. In such a case, the distinction isn't a moral or a class issue, but an issue of fact: in order to work regularly as a burlesque dancer, you need skills, imagination, and costumes, but you don't need upper body strength. The distinction is substantial and factual. The same in reverse--let's say they hire pole dancers thinking they're getting fabulous large-scale costumes and a bit of retro or trangressive feel in a group of three-to-five-minute performances, for which they've built a stage. But if they hire pole dancers, the girls show up in small costumes, armed with awesome acrobatic skills, with routines which require poles. Again, a material, not just an aesthetic, difference.

I think pole dancing is amazing. I attended a few pole dancing classes at various venues so I would have an idea about what they might be like. I found them both sensual and athletic, requiring enormous upper body strength and sometimes having much more in common with Chinese pole dancing than with the pole dancing I actually saw when I worked in strip joints.

So why did I mention the subway? Well, yesterday this article came out in the Daily News:
Subway pole dancers enrage MTA

It featured this quote:
'"The last thing we want is for anyone to turn our subways into roving burlesque stages for crude exhibitionists," said NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges.'

Considering some of the things that go on in the subways, I would think there would be one of a lot more upsetting or dangerous things that would be the last thing they'd want, but okay--maybe they're worried that one of these dancers would strike someone in the head with a whirling heel.

Then one of the dancers said:
'"Strip dancing in public can be a little nerve racking, but we were all broke and in between jobs and it seemed like a good way to make some cash," said Masoud, an aspiring actress and choreographer.'

I love that it didn't occur to them to work in a STRIP JOINT, which is, whatever else it is, "a good way to make some cash."

And again, to make a material distinction--or dare I say, a Material Girl distinction--burlesque might not be the best option if you're looking for a good way to make some quick cash, since you first have to spend tons on costumes and hunt down a bunch of places to perform that usually start out with smaller amounts of pay than a waitress would make. In strip joint stripping, on the other hand (depending on the city, of course), you go in, get hired, start that night, buy a spandex dress, and have a good chance to take home all your phone bill money in that first night.

And, just to make it even more confusing, here's a pic of Gravity Plays Favorites at the New York Burlesque Festival:
Gravity Plays Favorites at the New York Burlesque Festival

They brought their own pole! And I guarantee you nobody was more excited than I was that they were there.

Now, if those ladies on the subway had been in pasties...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dissertation on Burlesque

Star Burlesque by Reginald Marsh. Click image to purchase the print on ebay.

'This dissertation undertakes the examination and interpretation of paintings and prints of the burlesque theater produced by Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) during the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s. During these years, social reformers sought to have burlesque banned from New York City, the heart of the burlesque as well as the legitimate theater world. At the same time, however, popular awareness of and interest in this type of entertainment increased. The ensuing public discourse indicates that the burlesque had become a site of cultural contention, onto which broader social concerns about gender, sexuality, and class had been projected. Responding to this conflict, artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Adolf Dehn, Caroline Duriex, Mabel Dwight, Edward Hopper, Gaston Lachaise, Reginald Marsh, and Elizabeth Olds all turned to the burlesque as a subject for their art. Of these, Reginald Marsh produced by far the most images of this subject, and continued to do so after other artists had abandoned it. This dissertation takes a social-historical approach to the study of art. By indexing Marsh's images not only against the rest of his oeuvre and against other artists' images of the same subject, but also against the varying fortunes of burlesque, this study demonstrates that Marsh revealed more about the cultural concerns of the time than about the actual practices of burlesque performance and spectatorship. The multivalence and ambiguity that characterize these images is in keeping with the nature of the entertainment, and enabled Marsh to engage contemporary concerns about class and authenticity, gender and employment, and consumer culture and personal fulfillment, while satirizing the performers, their fans, and the culture at large.
'Subject Area
'BIOGRAPHY (0304); ART HISTORY (0377); THEATER (0465)'

The charms of exposed flesh: Reginald Marsh and the burlesque theater
by Michele Lynne Miller, University of Pennsylvania

I love Reginald Marsh's work.

Sometimes when I talk about burlesque as theater or as a powerful location for gender exploration, the person I'm talking to is very sceptical, as if I just made up all this stuff on the spot and no one else would ever support such an idea unless they were trying to prove that neo-burlesque has any interesting aspects besides the exposed body parts (which, I grant you, are pretty interesting). But the dissertation I linked above is from 1997 and I don't know the author at all, so it just goes to show we burlesque nerds of the millenium are not alone!

News Post: Brown Girls Burlesque at the Zipper!

'Dame CuchiFrita, Lady Luscious, Miss AuroraBoobRealis and others pour a little chocolate on top of your burlesque sundae.'

Burlesque in Color

Get More BGB and find out about their next show on February 2.

Molly Crabapple and Me on the Morning News

There's no doubt about it, this is my month for posting video. That's what happens when a blogger gets busy offline, I suppose!

If you haven't yet checked out Molly's book, you should. Of course she's my friend and all, but you've really never seen a book like this! It's not only packed with wonderful drawings and hot photos (okay, some of them are mine), it's got fantastic tips for budding entrepreneurs in any field.
Dr. Sketchy's

I had a blast on the show with Julie Chang, and I love that she kept on the gloves I gave her for her report. I also loved how the other female anchor showed her moves!
Truly Julie

Sunday, December 2, 2007

News Post: The Amazing Story of the Crazy Horse in Paris

'In 1951, le striptease was an import from America, more daring than the high-kicking kitsch of French burlesque. Bernardin loved American popular culture, loved women, and seems to have particularly liked the way their naked bodies were rendered in an almost abstract fashion by surrealist artists such as Magritte. An amateur artist and friend of Marcel Duchamp, Bernardin was, in his own way, a dirty old Dada-ist, applying an arty European gloss to a product of the fleshpots of America.'

Wait until you read about their strict guidelines for their dancers!

'Tattoos and silicon implants are banned. This is now restricting the club’s traditional international recruitment policy, Deissenberg explains, because the British girls who used to make up about half of the Crazy Horse’s roster tend nowadays to have had something inked into some part of their body. No Brits currently feature in the Paris show, which is largely staffed by French former ballet dancers. When the Crazy Horse sends an export version of itself over to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it can’t take on any local dancers, because they’ve all had cosmetic surgery.'

French Undressing

Because I have nothing remotely like photos from the Crazy Horse, here's yet another video:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Diane Lane Fan Dance

I don't post video clips often because they seem to get deleted from youtube soon afterward, but I can't resist this one! I use this in my "Exotic Dance in Contemporary Film" presentation, and this is the first time I've found it online. As you can see if you look at the video's youtube page, none of the tags are "burlesque;" sometimes I have to be very specific to find the video I'm hoping to see.

In my presentation about strip tease on film, I show a lot of clips and talk about how striptease is used to establish characters, develop plots, set the tone for environments, build up or drop viewer expectations, and so on, and what it reflects about our culture that such scenes can have those effects. For performers, I discuss how, in burlesque loops of actual performers from the mid-twentieth century, it can be difficult to tell how the performers were utilising the music; due to music rights concerns, the music on the clips is often dubbed over. Also, viewers rarely get a sense of how the dancers might have interacted with their audiences. Sometimes in a clip from a commercial film like The Big Town, you get a clearer sense of mood and environment. This clip is from a movie made in 1986/7--not so very far from the mid-twentieth century--and when I watch it I wonder if Ms. Lane was coached by an actual fandancer from the 40s or 50s. If anybody knows, fill me in!

As a former strip joint stripper, my favorite part is when she kicks the beer into the audience member's lap. That, I feel free to assure you, is authentic.

I'll be giving my presentation on exotic dance in film December 30, so if you're in New York, you can check it out! The details are at