Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pretty Pictures! Dita at Erotica 2007

This article has some photos of Dita that allow you to get a real eyeful of just how detailed and fabulous her costumes really are!

Dita Von Teese Promotes Book, Does Dance

Below is a picture I took of her at Tease-O-Rama. You can't see as much detail, but her chair is covered with the same rhinestones that cover her gown, gloves, and shoes, as well as the spines of the feathers in her fans. Red is my favorite color and I was in heaven watching this!

Dita Von Teese at Teaseorama, 2003

When I was backstage I exclaimed over the chair so much I think she thought I was kidding, but it's true...that kind of detail, even though it's not the focus of my own style, is something I really enjoy seeing when I watch Dita. It's museum-quality stuff. Just in case you don't know, most of Dita's costumes are created and designed by the fabulous two-time Miss Exotic World, Catherine D'Lish.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Georgia Sothern, H.L.Mencken, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Ecdysiasm



'One of the most influential critics of the 1920s and 1930s was H.L. Mencken. He created the expression Bible Belt to refer to the ultra conservative South and while bootleggers reached auspicious heights as booticians, the middle class was reduced to the booboisie. So in 1940 it was a Baltimore stripper that asked him to come up with a unique word to raise the tenor of her profession. Georgia Sothern wrote to Meneken, "I am a practitioner of the art of strip-teasing...there has been a great deal of...criticism leveled against my profession. Most of it...arises from the unfortunate word strip-teasing, which creates the wrong connotation...if you could coin a new and more palatable word to describe this art, I and my colleagues would have easier going. I hope...(you) can find time to help the...members of my profession."
'Ms Sothern was already a phenomenon all her own. Ann Corio describes her performances in the book This was Burlesque(1968):
'Georgia stripped and teased, but that was only a minor part of her act. Her music Hold That Tiger was played by the orchestra at full blast... and Georgia came on stage in full flight ... and she'd work up momentum. Faster and faster the music would roar, and Georgia would be at the front of the stage, one hand cascading her long red hair over her face, the other outstretched to keep her balance as her hips blurred back and forth at a fantastic tempo...The mere sight of this red hot red-headed temptress tossing her hips in fantastic abandon to the wild music of the band caught up everybody in its spell...By the time she was finished, the whole theatre seemed to explode in a sigh. The audience was almost as exhausted watching as Georgia was performing.
'Mencken replied to Ms Sothern, "I sympathize with you in your affliction. It might be a good idea to relate strip-teasing in some way to the...zoological phenomenon of molting,...which is ecdysis. This word produces...ecdysiast."
'Charmed by his reply Georgia Sothern the stripper became Georgia Sothern the ecdysiast and she promoted both the profession, as well as the word. In almost no time at all a union arose called the Society of Ecdysiasts. Nevertheless, it was more than guns and roses for the Empress of Ecdysiasts, Gypsie Rose Lee who was not enamored at all with the new word to describe her profession. In a May interview of that same year, she took aim at Mencken and fired off an angry reply, "Ecdysiast, he calls me! Why, the man...has been reading books! Dictionaries! We don't wear feathers and molt them off...What does he know about stripping?" Despite her scathing review the humorous term continues today.'

From Everything2

Video from Archive.org

Friday, November 16, 2007

Margaret Cho Onstage

Margaret plays so many roles in the Sensuous Woman it's hard to keep track! Here are just a few.

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News Post: Miss Exotic World 2007 Goes Postal!

I love this article! It's not actually about Immodesty, but she plays a part in this woman's charming story.

'A 'PAINFULLY' shy postwoman dressed up as a burlesque artist to raise money for needy children....Through the intensive training of her two mentors, Immodesty and dancer Wayne Sleep, shy Sharon was steadily transformed into a burlesque dancer.'

Postie's risque role for charity


Immodesty Blaize. Photo by Mike Albov.

A Few Snaps from The Sensuous Woman

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Diana Yanez

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Ryan Heffington

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Selene Luna

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Ian Harvie

There are some more in Margaret's blog:
http://www.margaretcho.com/blog/

Gossip Girl Clip

Here's a youtube clip from the episode I worked on.



The woman they flash on in the first few seconds at the club is me.



Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lili's Lingerie

Kelly DiNardo just posted a link to Kara Mae's Lili Ct Cyr Gallery, which features pictures of the lingerie I mentioned in the comments in my November 5 post. The very first picture is the ad I was talking about! Click the images to see lots of great lingerie ads on Kara's site.

Gossip Girl Burlesque, Part Two: Picture Post

On the Set of Gossip Girl for the Victor, Victrola Episode
Peekaboo Pointe, Melody Sweets, and Angie Pontani looking over the Balcony at the Box.

On The Set of Gossip Girl
The dancers onstage during the shoot.

On The Set of Gossip Girl
Leighton and Ed on the set.

On The Set of Gossip Girl
Ed Westwick, very handsome and much sweeter than his character.

On The Set of Gossip Girl
The gorgeous, smart, and talented Miss Leighton Meester. What a doll!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gossip Girl Burlesque, Part One

This is one of those personal posts I was talking about.

Every now and then I get to do things that aren't part of my usual circuit of gigs. Recently I worked as a consultant, dance designer, and movement coach on a television show. This came about when I was approached via email by a woman who'd found my site and was working on a television show whose writers had created a storyline with a little burlesque in it.

I invited her and the director to meet me at one of my favorite teahouses, Podunk (I wish I had a pic of the proprietor, she's adorable), for tea and treats. They weren't particularly interested in who I knew in their industry and who I'd worked for that they might know. They were fascinated by my descriptions of Exotic World, Tease-O-Rama, and Burlesque at the Beach. They identified with my passion for the subject. They paid for my tea and scones. (My favorite food is free food.) I liked them. I actually developed a bit of an art crush on Tony Wharmby, the director, who clearly loves what he does. I love people who love what they do. The entire crew were lovely, lovely people.

I didn't know if they were really interested in my perspective or if they were just being fabulous, but they continued to call me and talk enthusiastically about what we were going to do. Once I finally realized I'd actually been hired, I began researching the show, a new series called "Gossip Girl." I found out that it was based on a series of books with some intense fans, a few of whom were annoyed because one of the characters didn't have big boobs like the character in the book.

The shoot took place in New York at The Box, which is handily within walking distance of my house. Having performed there, I had a good sense of what I thought would work on the stage. The directors gave me a few ideas about what they needed, told me to get some dancers, emailed me some music, and turned me loose. They were incredibly respectful and let me make all the judgement calls, which is not what usually happens on a project that big. It made everything go very quickly--we had to have two numbers costumed, rehearsed, and presentable in about a week, which was a challenge, and a blast.

I was working too hard through most of this process to take pictures, but here are a few I grabbed when I could:

Rehearsal for Gossip Girl Shoot
Selina Vixen at the rehearsal at the spectacular Silver Cup Studios, where we got more free food.

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Melody Sweets in the trailer with Eric Daman, the costume designer, who also worked for Sex and the City. He was great--when I described to him that the costumes had to be a certain way because the structure of the numbers would be based on the way the pieces would come off, he listened to my descriptions. Without any sketches, and without seeing the choreography, he followed my descriptions and came up with pieces that worked perfectly with the dance numbers I designed.

On the Set of Gossip Girl for the Victor, Victrola Episode
Peekaboo Entering the Trailer on Houston Street. We walked up and down Chrystie Street in our costumes. (I was dressed to be an extra, because I'm not in the numbers I created.)

On the Set of Gossip Girl for the Victor, Victrola Episode
Angie Pontani Getting Her Hair Done on the Set.

Well, I love TV. I also love New York. I love tv shows based in New York. I like shows with fancy clothes and locations in them. I watched one of the first episodes of the show and enjoyed it, even though I'm way too old for it. It's gorgeous and fun. After being treated so well I wouldn't pan it here if I'd hated it, you know, but I wouldn't MENTION it, either. It's a genuine guilty pleasure.

I can't tell you which star I coached, because that might be a spoiler for fans of the show. But I can tell you that she was absolutely delightful and right away got what I was so passionate about. When I showed her some glove peel tricks, she loved them. When I showed her photos from shows, she was thrilled by the body diversity. She was interested right from the start, and her acting experience helped her nail the timing for the moves and expressions right away. I was impressed with her talent as well as with her generous and open personality. She was just darling! I know I sound like a suckup, but I can't begin to tell you what an unexpectedly and completely charming experience my gig with Gossip Girl was.

I feel compelled to explain that in the past I have had some seriously unpleasant experiences with people operating at that level in the entertainment industry. I have met nasty, disassociative, arrogant jerks. But I really enjoyed this experience every step of the way. Proof that it is not necessary to be rude to get the job done, even when you're working with multi-million dollar budgets. I'm all in love now. The cast and crew of Gossip Girl ruled my world.

I'll post after the episode airs (Wednesday, November 7) with more backstage pix and a few shots of some of the stars.

To find out where to see the episode where you live, visit the show's episode guide and search for Victor, Victrola, which is the name of the episode.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Influence of Lili St. Cyr and Frank N Furter

Kelly DiNardo lists some of the effects Lili has had on other pop culture icons in her article in USA Weekly. When she asked me about her, naturally I had to talk about Rocky Horror! (Click here to find out why.) I often suspect that when people who are just beginning to examine burlesque talk about the influence of Gypsy Rose Lee, they're really thinking of a combination of Gypsy and Lili and they don't yet know the difference. Gypsy was certainly an all-out showgirl, and she had the saucy tongue and the entrepreneurial genius, but Lili's pictures have inspired a lot of fancy props and costumes too. Do a Google image search on each of them and you'll see what I mean.


Image from the Staley Wise Gallery, which exhibits many amazing collections, including the photos of Bruno Bernard (Bernard of Hollywood). Click the image for more gorgeous shots.

'In the Broadway musical Pal Joey, reporter Melba Snyder sings about meeting a Gypsy Rose Lee-esque character who skewers her competition in song. "Zip! My artistic taste is classic and dear," she sings. "Zip! Who the hell is Lili St. Cyr?"

'Who is she? Try the most influential burlesque dancer in the second half of the 20th century. '

Burlesque Queen Inspired Madonna and Marilyn Monroe

When people hear I went to Rocky Horror as a kid, they always ask which character I played. I had my own character. I was going in Atlanta, and there was a "pre-show" there in the 1970s, which featured drag queens and neo-circus performers and didn't have any Rocky Horror characters in it. I had all these vintage clothes from the 30s-50s, which you could get fairly cheaply then (and which wouldn't come within at least three sizes of fitting me now, if they hadn't been sacrificed to the party gods long, long ago--I mention this because people say, "Don't you wish you still had those clothes?"), and I would wear them to Rocky Horror. I wanted to be in the preshow, but I thought I couldn't be a drag queen and I didn't have any circus skills at the time, so I created a stripping limericist called Prunella Du Bois (The Most Conceited Woman You Ever Saw).

Recently I performed at a birthday party for a member of the cast of Spamalot, and Tim Curry was there. I nearly died. I totally had to restrain myself, and now I kind of wish I hadn't.

When I was a teenager, my mom bought me the Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack Picture Disk. She was very perturbed when I put it on the turntable and the spindle came up through Frank's crotch.

Rocky Horror Picture Disk

You'd think she'd be used to me by now, but she's not!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Big Hot Burlesque

When I said I was going to post more personal posts, I didn't mean ones like what's about to follow. This post was going to come along in my blog in one form or another no matter what.

The fabulous Lady Monster, who so generously shared her pastie-adhesive tips in one of this blog's first posts, just announced a few days ago that Leonard Nimoy's book, The Full Body Project, was to be released this weekend, and she gave a presentation about being a bigger bodied model and performer at the reception at R. Michelson Gallery.


Lady Monster at The Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in Las Vegas. Photo snagged from Neon Salt Mine.

The blurb on amazon.com reads, 'In his provocative new book, photographer and actor Leonard Nimoy captures images of full-bodied women, some of whom are involved in what is known as the "fat acceptance" movement. "The average American woman," Nimoy writes, "weighs 25 percent more than the models selling the clothes. There is a huge industry built up around selling women ways to get their bodies closer to the fantasy ideal. Pills, diets, surgery, workout programs. . . . The message is 'You don't look right. If you buy our product, you can get there.'" '

I am very excited about this book. First of all, Spock is hot, and anything he does excites me. Excuse me! That was shallow and lascivious. What I meant to say is that Leonard Nimoy is a very talented and fascinating man, and I can't wait to see his pictures of hot naked chicks.

And I think the disregard for what kind of woman is generally considered appropriate to show her sexuality is a HUGE part of neo-burlesque.

The Original Fat Bottom Revue at TOR, 2003
A photo I took of the Fat Bottom Revue at Teaseorama, 2003.

While I've always been on the smaller side of average, in my youth being practically scrawny--and I see nothing revolutionary about telling a skinny girl to eat a fucking cheeseburger or accusing every size zero of being anorexic--I have certainly had the experience of having many, many men turn up their noses at me as if I were insane to think they might want to see me naked, even when I WAS a centerfold model. I have seen men get so upset at the idea of certain women getting naked in their presence, or in public, that you would think they were about to be forced to eat chum. I can only describe their responses as visceral; I've never been entirely sure that these reactions were socially-ingrained. I won't go into my whole theory about that now. Wherever their feelings come from, they're the opposite of life-loving and joyous.



One thing I tell my students is that although performing burlesque won't protect them from the remarks and reactions of such people (and women get catty too), they don't have to believe them. "You're too fat to wear that," or "You're too old to rock n roll," are statements that refer to the insecurities of the speaker. They don't want to see you; but that's not your problem. I believe that the attitude I see in, for instance, Howard Stern's interns when they pick apart a woman's appearance, is an attitude that we are entitled to ignore. You don't want those guys to like you, do you? Do you want them in your circle of friends? So if they don't like you, it's a compliment, or at least, not of great importance to you. You don't have to deny that it hurts your feelings, but you need to admit that their approval isn't of any possible value to you. And the kinds of guys who only like men's-magazine approved women (and I like those magazines too!) are always going to try to better-deal any woman they're ever with, so if they don't think you're hot, you're not missing a darn thing. You don't need permission from those men (or women who share their opinions) to have a good time. No explanation they can give of why you're offensive not only to them, but to general ideas of decency, dignity, and the principles behind mainstream aethetics, or that they're really just concerned about your health (bullshit), should mean jack to you. ANY time anybody gives an excuse for the kinds of things these people say, it's self-justifying nonsense. There is never a good excuse for that kind of narrow-mindedness--it's a cage that traps the commenter as well as the commentee, and I recommend to commentees that they let the commenters stay in the cage if they must, and break free themselves. You're not applying for a modeling job at Victoria's Secret, which only about ten women in the whole entire world are going to get anyway, even if thousands of them look EXACTLY LIKE Victoria's Secret models; you're looking to express yourself and have a good time. A person who's genuinely having a good time is always, always sexy. And that's the tip of the iceberg on my little "Why you should get naked in public" sermonette.



While I've got nothing against the Pussycat Dolls, and you know I love Dita Von Teese and Catherine D'Lish, and I'm a bit mad for Christina Aguilera as well, I love big burlesque fiercely. Bring on the plus-size ladies in bikinis and the old women in booty shorts, I say. I think it's hot hot hot. Let Howard Stern's interns cringe!

Click on the babes below to get yourself a copy of Leonard Nimoy's book.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Interview: Sparky Lobo, Purveyor of Burlesque Memorabilia

I first found out about "Sparky Lobo's Burlesque Emporium" when the owner contacted me to find out if I do banner exchanges. Although I don't have a banner, I'm always happy to find out more about people who are interested in burlesque, whether they are motivated by art, commerce, or something entirely other. Sparky sells prints and merchandise featuring vintage burlesque performers, and some of the images were quite new to me. I could tell from the way she talked about the products that she's developed a certain fondness for the women in them and the world they represented. All the images in this article are courtesy of Sparky Lobo's Burlesque Emporium.

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How did you come across these pictures, and what did you think when you first saw them?
I went to a friend's home, to buy some other antiques from an estate he was clearing out for his Uncle, and saw several big file boxes marked photos. Being addicted to "old paper" (postcards, books, etc.), I had to take a peek inside. What I saw were hundreds of old black&white glossy promo photos of lovely ladies in various stages of, shall we say, "deshabille"... My friend had some other buyers in lined up for the pix, and I did miss out on a couple of boxes, but I managed to persuade him to sell me the lions share.
Turns out his Uncle's Uncle was Rose La Rose's theatre office manager (I think his name was Bill Smith), and he brought home all the photo archives when the theatres closed. The pix were found in very good condition. Thankfully they weren't stored in the basement, which was where some props and costumes were found, sadly moldy and ruined.

Did you know anything about burlesque when you started selling them?
I didn't know anything about the Burlesque world, except of course I'd seen the film, Gypsy Rose Lee, with Natalie Wood, and always remembered the fun "You gotta have a gimmick" song. My ol' Pop was fond of pin-up girls, and I always liked the Vargas prints from his Playboy magazines. I named my online store for my Pop. "Sparky Lobo" was his faithful dog, who was 1/2-wolf, and, well, my Pop was a bit of a wolf himself. I'm sure "the girl's" heard plenty of wolf-whistles in their day, so it seems appropriate.
But I had assumed live "Burlesque" had died. I quickly found out otherwise, and have enjoyed reading the many websites and blogs I've since encountered, including this one, of course.
As a long-time antiques/collectibles/ebay dealer, I knew the pix had some market value, but I had no idea they would sell as well as they did. I was very happy for myself, from a monetary point of view, but I was also happy that I was able to get a desirable chunk of history into the hands of the people who really appreciate it. I think that's one of the super things about my job, and about ebay. Matching items with buyers who would not come together any other way.

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Did you expect the response you've gotten to them?
I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are so many keeping Burly-Q alive. I found some were "the girls" themselves, buying back their history. And many were fans with fond memories, replacing their lost souvenirs on ebay. Early on in my listings, (which took 18 months of full-time selling to list them all), I was told that I had the "Mother-Lode". It really was fascinating as I learned a little more about Burlesque. Besides the photos, I also had books and magazines, newspaper clippings of articles and ads, promo brochures, letters... and I read them all.

What are some of your favorites, and why?
My favorite would have to be Rose La Rose, as this whole collection came about because of her. She owned the 2 theatres in Toledo, Ohio, where my girls performed. Roses promo pix are from a bit earlier time period, and have more of that "vintage" look. There was a lot of back story about her in the archives, and her story was very interesting.
roselobo
My other favorites would probably be the ones whose pix brought the highest prices (sorry to sound so mercenary, but selling is my business), such as IRMA The BODY, Betty "Blue Eyes" Howard, Carmela "The Sophia Loren of Burlesque", and Taffey O'Neil to name but a few of many. I'm also fond of the one's who look like someone I know, like Libby Jones, Miss Topsy, Sonia Syzinski (I won't name names as to whom they resemble,in case they read this...)
I really hate to choose, as they all are "my girls". I spent a LOT of time with them, photographing each photo, writing the ads, and packing them up to ship them to their new homes. I never expected to be on such intimate terms with so many naked women! I work alone, and sometimes found myself talking to them... oops, too much information...

ladybirdslobo

What has been your most interesting experience with a collector?
All of my interaction was just online. I had dozens of different buyers, and a many were serious repeat buyers. Several do stand out for me, and I hope to make it to the Las Vegas get-together one of these years, to put some faces with names.
More than once I was told that the buyer had had a date with, or a crush on, the girl whose pic he was so happy to have found. I had a few people saying it was their Mother or Aunt in the pic. Some pix were bought as gifts for Fathers. And locally, whenever I talked about my pix and Rose's theatres, I can't even count how many guys said "Oh, I went there for my 18th birthday" or "when I was in the service, on leave" or "I remeber that place - oh yeah!"
One man I enjoyed dealing with is ebay name the-roxy. He's is an author and expert on the local Burlesque scene "back in the day", especially performers from Rose's theatres. He has a huge collection, and has donated most/all to a college museum. He'd be a great one to interview for your blog.
Really, everyone that I had even the shortest email conversation with was wonderful. I have sold on ebay for 8 years (under the name honeywestantiques), and my time with Rose's girls was the best time ever. The bidders were so happy to see my listings, and had nothing but nice things to say. I didn't want it to end.
Which is why I decided to start my online store, SPARKY LOBO'S BURLESQUE EMPORIUM ( http://www.cafepress.com/sparkylobo ), and sell nice new digital prints, and matching t-shirts and coffe mugs, and more. It's taken me some time to get some pix edited and uploaded, and I have 100's more to do, but I think there is a good representative group already in my inventory.

To see more, visit:
lobologo

I can't wait to see the rest!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Question for Readers of This Blog

Originally I was trying to make this blog not-too personal. Recently, however, I've had some experiences that I think might make interesting posts--for instance, serving as creative director and dance coach for an episode of the television series Gossip Girl, taking pictures backstage at Margaret Cho's Sensuous Woman show, moving the School of Burlesque into a new venue, etc. Would you be interested in reading those posts here, or would you rather it be kept as it has been for the past 70 or so posts? Do you want some of the backstage stories? There are times when I don't have time to produce the interviews and such because of projects I've been working on, but maybe those projects have some interest themselves.

I have no plans to post ads for my events here, but some of these articles would indeed have the effect of making some of my projects more widely known. How do you feel about that?

This isn't meant to be a question of journalism ethics--I'm too involved for that kind of thing. I'm not being paid to be a public servant, and my passions, interests, and affiliations are obvious. I'm just asking if you'd enjoy these kinds of posts.

If you have a negative opinion about this possibility, please post it in a thoughtful non-aggressive manner, as snarky comments will be dismissed without the slightest regard for the opinion of the the poster. Style influences content, darling!