Sunday, October 28, 2007

Why Haven't I Been Blogging More Frequently?

As a rule, I don't intend to use this blog as a vehicle for promoting my stuff. I've got a webpage, a myspace, several yahoo groups, a livejournal, and craiglist for all that. This is intended to be a resource for people who like the kind of burlesque I like and are inspired by the things that inspire me, and to foster a sense of community among us. However, I just posted my events update to my email list and I thought it might give a sense of why I've gotten behind on updating this blog. I just had an unusually busy month! But this blog is as important to me as it was when I started, and I intend to continue to interview, photograph, write, and post as my schedule permits.

Tomorrow:
7:30 pm, free reading
Barnes & Noble
396 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10014
at 8th St. 212-674-8780
Kelly DiNardo reads passages from her biography Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique. Be one of the first to get your hands on this biography of a hugely influential burlesque legend!
I'll be doing a glove peel demo there--and if you've taken my glove and stocking peel class, you know that this is one of my very favorite things to do!

Later Tomorrow:
Animal Crackers! At Galapagos Art Space, 10 pm
A Benefit for the Barc Shelter
I will be doing an incredibly stupid one-off.
All I'm saying is that stripes are involved.
This show is curated by Peekaboo Pointe, Cardio Twirl Teacher, and World Famous *BOB*, Glamour and Confidence Teacher!
Call Galapagos for details. 718.384.4586
http://www.barcshelter.org/
http://www.galapagosartspace.com/directions.html

Tuesday Evening:
Title of Event: Striptease Mystique: Lili St. Cyr
When: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 5:00 PM
Location: The Drama Book Shop, Inc.
250 W. 40th St., Manhattan, NY
Tel: (212) 944-0595
Description: Free Talk and Book Signing with Kelly Dinardo, author of Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique, the life story of the inimitable burlesque queen, Lili St. Cyr.
And me with the gloves again!

Friday:
The Luvely Rae has invited some of the loveliest dames and gents she knows to get down and dirty for one night only at Collective Unconscious. Glitter, water, paint, ice cream, and cake no feather boa will go unsoiled at this sexy dirty burlesque event. I will be making a banana split and doing a split upon it. And that's not even a spoiler.
9:30pm Collective Unconsious
279 Church St. NYC. 10013
$15 general, $12 students
http://spicevarietyshow.squarespace.com/dirtyluv/

Saturday
In Philadelphia--Details on the Way

Sunday:
The New York School of Burlesque Opens at the Slipper Room!
We've been planning for months and are thrilled to finally begin our unique union of school and performance space. Classes will take place in a one-of-kind setting in the Gem of the Lower East Side! The Slipper has been presenting burlesque shows for almost a decade and houses New York's longest-running burlesque show on Saturday nights. 3-4 pm: Costumes and Choreography: You've got to put it on if you want to take it off! In burlesque, your costume IS your choreography. Learn how to make the most of every costume element, how make your outfits eye-popping, how to use decorations to emphasize your moves, how to make your pieces break away, and how and where to shop. 4-5 pm Gorgeous Movement continues! I've been working for about a year to develop a class that incorporates some basic burlesque moves into easily-learned combinations that emphasize and encourage control and inventiveness you need to perform at a high level. This is it!
Details and registration:
http://www.schoolofburlesque.com
Location: The Slipper Room
167 Orchard St. at Stanton, LES
Peekaboo Pointe's burlesque workout and cardio twirl classes will continue every Tuesday at 6:30 pm at 440 Lafayette, as will most evening classes from the School of Burlesque, including World Famous *BOB's upcoming Lash Out, Wig Out makeup and hair workshop on November 12 at 7:30.

Upcoming:
On Wednesday November 7, you can see numbers I choreographed (and maybe a peek of me) on CW-11's Gossip Girl. The numbers feature Angie Pontani, Peekaboo Pointe, Selina Vixen, and Melody Sweets. I even coached one of the stars! I'll be posting pix and the story of the shoot, which was a wonderful, wonderful experience.
November 7, 8, 9, 10, I'll be appearing in Margaret Cho's Sensuous Woman at New York's Zipper Theater. Details to come.
November 11, I'll be presenting a class with a burlesque legend, Candy Caramelo, who performed with both Gypsy Rose Lee and Sally Rand! If you've ever wanted to learn from a burlesque legend in person, this is a rare opportunity to do so! She'll be telling stories about her experiences and teaching a few special walking techniques and hand movement tricks. Details to come.
November 18, Julie Atlas Muz will be teaching a class to optimize stage presence and to improve the composition (the story and narrative) of your numbers. If you want to own the stage, don't miss it.
Saturday November 24, Angie Pontani will be teaching great moves for Go-Go Dancers. Nobody does it better!!!
For details, visit schoolofburlesque.com.
To register, email me at rocknycity@aol.com.


So...that's the result of all my busy-ness over the past couple of months. Whew!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Texas Burlesque Festival News

My friend Susan Wayward has posted about The Texas Burlesque Festival!

'There is one image that will endure as a defining moment for the Texas Burlesque Festival: A voluptuous, pale Black Mariah, clad in Presidential Seal pasties, a sash emblazoned with "Decider," and a rubber George W Bush mask that seemed to have more expressiveness and personality than the president himself. Walking out on stage in her presidential drag, the crowd played along, booing and hissing. “Welcome to Austin!,” I said to my companion, “We hate the president here.” It was a perfect combination of vaudeville, striptease, and commentary that makes up burlesque in Austin.'

Texas Burlesque Festival Roundup

Susan and I originally got acquainted through mutual appreciation of this photo of the Hot Mess performing in NYC:
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Bouffants in Burlesque

While there is no doubt that the first half of the 20th century was the golden age of striptease burlesque, and that's the era I have the deepest appreciation for, I have a sneaky little passion for the late 1960s. It could be because that's about the time I was old enough to perceive glamour and aspire to it. I had an amazing Barbie doll--a Stacie, actually--that looked like Marilyn Monroe with quite the bouff. One of the movies that influenced my taste in glamourous women was the 1967 version of Casino Royale, for instance.

Natalie Wood with what I consider a small but significant bouff:


Ann-Margret, always a worthy idol, in "The Swinger":


One of my all-time favorites (sadly, not embeddable, but not to be missed, and yes I've ordered a boa like that and a wig like that, I'm such a drag queen):
The Silencers

For more on the style my next number will be tributing, visit this amazing site: Beauty and the Bouffant

A little style from flickr.com; click on the photo for more of the poster's 1960s hair images:

Sherry Britton's 85th Birthday

For Sherry's 85th birthday, she had a fabulous party, and the invitation was a charming 8 page booklet. She is allowing me to show part of it here, and I'm very excited to share just a bit of how amazing this woman is and how incredible her life is. She is one of the most gracious, outspoken, and hilarious people you'd ever want to meet! I've been really fortunate to get to know her and have her as a friend. When being involved in the burlesque world means you get to know people with soul, brains, and talent like this, you can see why I stay passionate about the community as well as the art form. Some of the best people in the world are in burlesque.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Burlesque Photo Exhibit in Rochester

I love that this article came out just a week after Dixie was talking about the Palace in her interview!

'From Irma the Body to Blaze Starr, the photos display the women's charms....Every woman in the exhibit exhibited herself at the Palace. There is Tura Satana, star of Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! And Lili St. Cyr — anyone who can sing along with The Rocky Horror Picture Show would recognize this star of several Irving Klaw fetish films. And legendary stripper Ann Corio, regarded as a premier princess of the pasties.'

Eastman House gives us a peep at burlesque photos from famed Buffalo theater

More of Miss Dixie Evans

Did you have close friends in burlesque, and do you still have them?
For some reason I really got along great with all the girls, and I don't remember having any friction with any of them. If you featured you traveled a lot and had your own dressing room, and the locals and chorus girls hung together more, so I usually didn't get to know them well, but I did make friends. I've still got friends that I still write to from way back. I would say it was a very wonderful comaraderie among the women. There may have been more conflict in the big eastern theaters. When I lost my scrapbook in Miami Beach I put an ad out to help me find it, and I got 14 letters from young people saying they wanted to hear about mortal combat backstage! It wasn't like that. I would say every once in awhile there would be two redheads or two very famous dancers and we'd expect conflict because of what they had in common. Sometimes at 9 am we'd be downstairs for rehearsal with the piano player and girls would argue over who used harlem nocturne; I say they fought about music the most. I used songs like "Hooray for Hollywood" and "You Oughta be in Pictures," so I didn't have those conflicts. My songs were tailored to my acts. So girls would be fighting over songs, serious business, but not with me. I didn't understand some of that fuss. You know, once you hit that stage they're thinking of you, not the last person who used that song.


Jennie Lee. Photo snagged from Java's Bachelor Pad.

Tell me a little bit about the history of Exotic World/Burlesque Hall of Fame.
I got involved through Jennie Lee, as you know. I had known her off and on through working with her. After our burlesque careers, she had a little bar called Sassy Lassie in San Pedro, and a lot of us girls would go down there in middle of June and have a reunion. She printed up little cards for us. It was mostly us older ones who lived in the LA area. Her husband Charlie was a bartender and they'd work together. During the last part of her life they moved to the Mojave on an old ggoat farm, and we'd do the reunions there. She died of breast cancer. Sometime afterward Charlie called me up and said that the girls from the reunions were calling. I never got into Jennie's business but I knew that before she died she was still trying to do articles for magazines and keep track of everybody. I was the only one of her old friends around who was able to quit my job and run out there. I was taking care of elderly people for a living, which was very profitable, but I quit my job to go out there. The lady I worked for had a big Chrysler and I wrote her a check for that car and took the car to the ranch. Being involved changed my life entirely. I had always had the hankering to have a little place to hang my memories, and I knew that the industry I was in was worthy of attention. When I saw what Jennie had started to do, collecting the memorabilia and costumes, plus and things from the reunions, I picked up that trail, and it took off. By writing to a lot of fans all of a sudden items started to come in the mail, like programs for shows and signs and autographs and photos from some people who had also collected a lot of them. They'd say, "I've had this in a shoebox for years!" Some things I paid for, like Gypsy Rose Lee's trunk and so on, but people were willing to work with it and they knew why I wanted it and what I was doing. A lot of people have huge collections but haven't opened them to the public. I guess I was the first one to make it available like that. Things came, and then the girls came, and I'm so blessed with all the honor of this. Here I am 81 years old, wending my way! I'm grateful and honored that I was able to come out with no income and do this thing. It really was the faith I had when I was doing it. I knew I could do it. And I'm so happy to leave it in the hands of girls like yourself that are interested in this American tradition.

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Blaze Starr memorabilia at the goat farm in the Mojave.

Tempest Storm
Tempest Storm performing in 2005 at Exotic World in the Mojave.

What is happening with the museum now?
A couple of years ago we had to leave the old farm, and we came to Las Vegas. Luke and Laura are working really hard for the museum and getting local people involved. Local people are interested in helping us, and lots of the people are all Las Vegas born and raised. The mayor is totally flamboyant and very supportive. He shows up with two showgirls everywhere instead of the secret service!
What I look forward to next is having a permanent location. Right now we have a temporary location at Atomic Todd's. We had a great opening this month with 150 people in the Museum. We have items there like Sally Rand' original fans, the trunk of Gypsy's, lots of pasties, and poster and playbills. I loved having the pageant in Vegas. This year I loved Fremont Street with the World's Longest Boa, and oh, all the people there for the pageant spilling out of the elevators, wonderful!

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Dixie in Her World. Photo by Tanja Tiziana.

What else would you like to add to the museum experience?
I have a list of fun facts about burlesque as well as a list of music I like to give out. Tunes like St James Infirmary, the Mooch, that kind of raunchy music that really makes you move. When those saxophones wail it's the music that drives us on. We'd hear that and work like crazy and not want to stop. In San Francisco I worked with Margaret Sullivan, who strutted with that gorgeous burlesque swagger. She'd say to the band, "Drop it to a solid four and drive me home!" and that sounded so great to me! I could hardly wait till I could get to a theater and say that, I thought it was so raunchy and cool. Once she said to me, "Did you check out the basket on that new sax player?" It took me a minute to catch what she meant. There's always one or two around that's totally raunchy, and I love that.

Kitten Deville and Dirty Martini
Kitten Deville and Dirty Martini, Miss Exotic World 2002 and 2005.

Anything you want to say to the newest performers?
People always thank me for what I'm doing, but I have to thank them for keeping this alive. I don't put down the girls that work in porn or on poles, but for girls that want to express a little more story or something cute or funny, this is their opportunity. I'm happy for all the groups that have cropped up all over the country. By teaching and sharing secrets they are helping to keep it alive. And just think of our girls going to France! I'm so happy for them.

You can keep up with Dixie and what's going on with the Burlesque Museum by visiting their myspace: http://www.myspace.com/exoticworld

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Interview with a Legend: Dixie Evans, Part One

I love talking with Dixie Evans. She is one of the friendliest, most gracious, most open-hearted people in the world, and one of the most open-minded as well. If you already know all about her, you'll enjoy the stories she tells in this interview; if you're not familiar with her, you'll find a new hero.


Image snagged from Java's Bachelor Pad. Click the image for more Dixie.

When did you get into burlesque?
I was in chorus lines in Hollywood in other types of shows before I got into burlesque, in the late 1940s. I was a page too, that's a showgirl who walks with the curtain as it opens ad then you thrust your hands open as the star steps forward. I had just worked on a show that closed in two weeks. I was hanging out on the steps of a club and the club manager came out and asked me if I could cut my act short and mix with the audience a little more, and I said, "I don't work here!" and got up to leave. He followed me down the street and offered me a job interview. I met with the boss at a Chinese restaurant and he was shaking his fork at me, noodles flying everywhere, and offered me a job. They made costumes for me and everything. This was 1950, 51, I believe.

How did you come up with your stage name?
Oh, my name is Mary Lee Evans. My grandmother's name was Dixie. I always thought Mary was too bland and so I changed it in third or fourth grade. I was born in Long Beach, California and raised in Hollywood, but I always heard a lot about my grandmother and grandfather in the south, in the Confederacy. Although magazines have referred to me as a Southern girl, the only time I spent in the south was in Burlesque, in New Orleans and Miami.


Image snagged from Java's Bachelor Pad. Click the image for more Dixie.

What were your acts like?
When I was at the Minsky's in Newark, New Jersey, Mr. Minsky came into my dressing room and said, "You look like Marilyn Monroe, so I'm going to call you the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque. I said, "Mr. Minsky, everybody in Hollywood looks like Marilyn Monroe!" But he was insistent, because the trade in Miami Beach was tourist, and he said, "They'll recognize the big name, and we'll put the 'of Burlesque' in small letters." I had been doing a little Hollywood number, so I just started reworking the act and talking like Marilyn and take everything off as if it might be Marilyn's style. He came running backstage and said, "I didn't expect you to do it the next show!" and he laughed. From then on every motion pic Marilyn did I would be first in line, see it once, run to the dime store, and whatever I could get together to make it like the movie I'd put into a number. I'd do a little bit of a scene from each movie. For "The Prince and the Showgirl" I had a life-size dummy dressed like Sir Laurence Olivier in the film, and I used it as a puppet and danced with it across the stage to "I Could have Danced All Night." I always worked in a bit to get on the couch and take off stockings. I had a red one for the casting couch and purple for the prince. I would lay that dummy down and act like I was getting it on with the dummy--and I'd take off the medallion like in the movie. I had an act where I was a girl in love with Elvis, and at the end of it I'd tell a story about how I fell asleep in a theater after one of his shows and got spanked for staying out all night--I'd pull up my dress and rub my hand over my keister like I'd just been spanked. But mostly I did Marilyn. A banner featuring my name attached to an airplane flew over four times a day over the beach, with my tagline, "Dixie Evans the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque," and it was a huge tourist attraction. One time Frank Sinatra saw the banner and mentioned it to Joe DiMaggio, and he came to see me and I went out with him. I went out with Frank too. But in the beginning I was a just honky tonk stripper from San Francisco!

Where did you perform most?
I performed in St Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, and Austin. However, I performed in Miami Beach for six years without a day off, and that's really where I perfected my acts. I worked at The Place Pigalle.

What is your fondest memory?
I loved playing in Buffalo at the Palace because I loved to write home "I'm Playing the Palace!" It sounded so grand. I loved how in almost every city, no matter how small the city, there was a local restaurant where the burlesque girls and comedians were welcome for a free drink or dinner. In Newark Captain Joe's Lobster House sent a note to me at the theater to come get a free lobster dinner. I loved traveling in burlesque--where else would I have gotten to see all those cities?

Any scandalous moments?
Every night in show business there's something scandalous! I'm trying to pick out one. This isn't exactly a scandalous moment, but I love this memory. There was one dancer, Busty Russell, with a natural 72 inch bust. We were coming out of the theater at about midnight walking down the street under fairly bright street lights. She had this tight black skirt with white sweater, and a car ran up on the sidewalk and had a little fender bender. A girl just jumped out of the car and said, "That car was our wedding present!" and Busty said, "I couldn't help it." Police came and she had to keep saying, "Officer, I couldn't help it," because the young woman was saying it's her fault, look at her! I wanted to say, "Officer, it's not her fault she's built that way, it's an act of God!" Busty could walk in anyplace, even a restaurant and the place would get quiet. She'd really grandstand with those boobs. She said, "In Europe we don't have all this whistling on the street"--she was very amused by it.

When did you start to see an end to burlesque as you knew it?
What people don't realize is that burlesque is an American tradition and before television, burlesque held sway! During the 30s there was nothing to laugh about, and at a burlesque show, they could smile and laugh. It wasn't all strippers. There would also be 40 girls marching across the stage and a belly dancer, comedians and straight men, a regular show with big productions and finales. When people went out of that theater they could breathe again. It was like as shot in the arm for them. They couldn't afford anything else! Burlesque is a real, important part of our culture. Think about it--in 1941 Mickey Rooney was the wealthiest and highest paid performer in the country, outdoing Clark Gable and Erroll Flynn, and his Father Joey Ewell was a burlesque comedian who got a contract from Cecil B DeMille. Burlesque was alive and well and doing really good in the 40s, and every city had a burlesque theater. People who couldn't afford an expensive show could go to a burlesque show. But when television started to take over in the 1950s, that's when burlesque died down. Tempest and I, we were sort of ostracized for being in burlesque. The comedians were accepted readily into the motion picture industry and the striptease dancers weren't.

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Coming next: More of Dixie, her colorful past and her fabulous present, as well as the past, current, and future state of her Burlesque Museum.