Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interview: Kitten on the Keys

I've had the pleasure of working with Kitten on the Keys at Tease-O-Rama and Exotic World many times, and she is one of the most endearing people on the scene. She's fierce and funny, and has incredible glamour and style. I'm performing with her this coming weekend at Tease-o-Rama, and I can't wait!

Photo by Becca Henry for Alarm Magazine.

How and when did you come up with the name "Kitten on the Keys"?
Kitten on the Keys is the name of a 1922 Novelty Ragtime Song by composer Zev Confrey. The song emulates dozens of furry footed creatures running over a piano keyboard. I sometimes feel I have Many small furry animals running around in my brain PLUS I started in the cabaret world as a Tin Pan Alley Flapper Rock Betty Boopish gal so the era of the song was perfect. I am still very obsessed with the 1920’s flapper era of freedom-bob your hair, raise your skirts, smoke and drink and WEEEE..throw away that corset! I came up with the name sometime in the 1990’s while working in a vintage clothing store. People always ask-when you play the ukulele who are you then?=2 0When you just sing who are you then? When you MC who are you? Damn it-stop confusing me…I barely know who I am. I am just Kitten on the Keys.

How would you describe yourself--performer? MC? Musician? You have a unique place in burlesque!
I am quite the goody bundle of kitsh. I started with Harvest Moon and the Cantakerous Lollies and Fisherman’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra in SF. That is where I started singing and everything-I was a lowly pianist who needed to BUST OUT!I just got lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I was unique and could “fill in” while the pretty girls changed their outfits! I am a multi tasker-the ol ADD that the meds are always trying to wrangle and curtail ….a blessing and a curse. I do not know why I fit in but I am glad I do! I think it is my naughty sensibility and passion for playing dress up. Besides the early girlie music scene I was involved in and playing piano in resthomes , this is the first group of folks that seem to “get me” and appreciate my eccentricities.

Kitten on the Keys, Photo from her myspace
Kitten by Jim Fierra

How long have you been performing?
I started very young-3 as a Christmas Angel in a Church Pageant I was a total brat-I remember giving myself crazy updoos with lots of bobby pins and then getting all pissy and sitting under the cross and singing LOUDER than anyone-jeeze I should be embarrassed but it is pretty funny. -I did TONS of performing in the church-I had a VERY religious mom and a musician pop who was never home . I was obsessed with rock and roll but was told only JAZZ and JESUS mattered. I was e ven in an interpretive dance troupe in church called the Earthen Vessels-we wore brown 70’s Danskin leotards and skirts and the air conditioning was on full blast out nubile nipples would show through and POOF! That was then end of the Earthen Vessels….. I went on to do theater at American Conservatory Theater’s Young Conservatory where all my pals were super Punk Rock and I just stopped coming home. My mom just thought I went to all night parties all the time-if she only knew. I played in the ultra hip High School Rock Band with all the music nerds who could not go out to play because they had to practice their violins and cellos. Then there was Rocky Horror Picture Show …… I then got into many all girl bands and made some records. The White Stains, named for an Allister Crowley book was fueled by the singers meth addiction and made it into the top 10 on college radio. We played at all of the old cool punk/art rock haunts –sometimes I get asked to do these reunions and it his great to see who is still alive! I was into theater at College, was the music director of a radio station, made avant garde music in the electronic music department , did tons of crazy performance pieces, and worked in art galleries-all while chemically impaired. Speaking of chemicals- I hooked up with Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland, and Jennifer Finch and made a pretty=2 0famous pre Hole, Babes in toyland, and L7 Demo…it is really super funny and not what you would think at all.… The Band was called Sugar Babydoll and then Sugar Babylon...I quit the music scene after that bundle of hooey ,got my BA in Performance Art from San Francisco State , worked in the coolest Vintage Clothing Stores for YEARS and listened to 1920’s and 1930’s rarities on a Victrola and collected a bundle of naughty flapper sheet music . All of these experiences molded me into who I am today-A mouthy flapper with an edge who just happens to be an attention whore.

How did you get interested in burlesque?
I always liked it NAUGHTY- I was the kind of kid who was making my friends faint in the girls room in elementary school….. That poor girl who was whisked away in an ambulence after I told her about hickeys……Stole Playboys at 8 and read the Happy Hooker at 11. I just met Xaviera Hollander in Edinburgh and I told her that story…all she wanted to know is if my DAD was still horny at 82. (icky thought-yes I am still damaged) I cut Sunday School to watch Shirley Temple save the world from the Depression -she was in these early films called Baby Burlesques wearing nothin’ but a diaper and an attitude like Mae West. All of my male friends were flamboyant and had good taste in school and I flocked to them ….my Mom alw ays told me there was something “not quite right about my little friends”-I thought they had cancer or something and had no idea what GAY was. So in a nutshell, I was always drawn to forbidden and nudge nudge wink wink things. I had the uber religious well meaning mama and the frustrated dorky musician dad. Thank goodness I played the piano for a singer who performed with the Cantakerous Lollies in a San Francisco Cabaret-way back when. Harvest Moon was kind enough to listen to my ideas and the next thing you know-she and the gals have me singing at the best venues in town. Next I am in the Fishermsn’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra and we took a tour to Exotic World! WOW! That was the NEATEST thing I had ever done and it opened my eyes to this entire underground movement based on honoring women , DIY, music, and culture of the past-I was in heaven.

What does burlesque mean to you?
Golly so many things pop into my head-I ike the poor man’s theater (doing burlesque is making me POOR) , I like political satire, I like theater from a kinder gentler era returning to this war torn tabloid ridden technological world where you can see anything you want with the click of a mouse on a computer. I love history, glamourous fashion , feathers, sequins, rhinestones, gorge ous acres of flesh, a wicked sense of humor, jolly good fun, creativity, honoring wicked cool women...

What was your first experience with live burlesque?
My first experience with live Burlesque is a strange one. I was always the eccentric, ahead of her time kind of child who was obsessed with music and the forbidden at an early age. I was fortunate enough to see the rock band QUEEN live at Berkeley Community Theater, a two thousand seater, second row center when I was eleven. Queen was not very well known then-before the arenas and Bohemian Rhapsody. Freddie Mercury came out singing the now way overdone “Big Spender” in a gorgeous kimono and bumped and grinded his way down to teeny tiny little black and white striped shorts- I felt funny all over and became quite obsessed with his sultry moves. I think I was the only kid in elementary school who could not hear for weeks at a time going to these shows. My next turn came when my family and I would walk through Chinatown/North Beach in San Francisco. My Dad would linger in front of the nudie bar to my uber jesus smitten Mom’s chagrin. My Dad is a jazz drummer and he used to go on the road with burlesque dancers. He was born cross eyed and to pay off the eye operation the band leader paid for-my dad toured the mid west several times playing in a three piece bands for dancers. My Dad is quite t he “character” and has some interesting stories of the day. My fave involves an animal loving dancer and her pet birds that helped her “take it off” and a prank the band pulled on her with some laxatives in the bird seed-AGGHHH that is my dad. He has always embarrassed me.

What is one of your favorite experiences so far?
SO MANY! I am blessed with so many wonderful glittery images dancing in my brain because of burlesque! WOW! Meeting Harvest and having her invite me along , Dixie Evans, Tempest Storm, interviewing Liz Renay, Tura Satana, Kitten Natividad, Ricci Cortez, chatting with Satan’s Angel on the phone, traveling the world, working with Catherine D’Lish and Dirty Martini, meeting such talented men and women from around the world…JEEPERS…..I am a kid in a candy store here-I am blessed with so many great experiences and I know I will continue to have more. Walking through Paris and seeing my stage name on a kiosk was OVERWHELMING.

Kitten on the Keys photographed by Valerie Archeno

Tell me a little bit about traveling--a favorite place you've traveled, a favorite tour, just a little bit of info.
I have been on so many fabulous tours…from Burlesquefest with Devotchka and Catherine D’Liish in the old days to the Twisted Cabaret of the Damned with punk rock legends The Damned in the UK. . My gal pal Mi Mi le Meaux, and Scottish Burlesque Starlette Missy Malone and I travele d for 30 days in a bus with the band throughout the UK, Wales and Ireland. Everyone seems to think this rock star life on the road is SO glamourous. Let me tell you-it is all crowded, stinky, dirty, germ riddled, and NOISY! Showers are rare and all I really saw of the country was the rubbish bins behind the clubs! The UK is great though-my fave shows have been at the Candy Box Burlesque in Birmingham. They have a fantastic live band, a family run operation, and a well dressed appreciative audience. I have been back a couple times and did a solo show with them-FABULOUS folks Al and Saffron! I love the UK-they seem to like their “mad” eccentric performers over there.

Who inspires you most, and why?
I have so many inspirations! The Legends really make me swell with pride. They paved the way for me to be doing what I am doing now.

What is your favorite aspect of burlesque as it is now?
I love that more and more legends are being sought out and are coming to the reunions and are coming out of retirement. I like that other counties are recognizing it as an artform and starting their own scenes! It is a glitter explosion out there folks. I think it is so big you can see it from outer space! I just caution those if you do it- DO IT WELL!

What would you like to do or see next in burlesque?
I still would love to do a burlesque themed chat show- That has20been a goal of mine for a few years. Even cable access would be fun. It would have legends for their wise comments on yesteryear, glorious performances, fan dance dance offs, rhinestone tips, burlesque historians, variety acts, of course a glue gun craft corner, business tips, photo tips, ETC. Oh WHAT FUN! I feel so lucky to be a part of such an amazing Burlesque Family-thanks for letting me tag along for the fun!

Get more of Kitten on the Keys (you can never get enough!) at
Variety and Musical Artist

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Burlesque Festival Coverage

Angie Pontani and Murray Hill tied to win the Golden Pastie for Biggest Media Whore, and from the coverage I'm posting you may get the sense that the GP was well-deserved! Here's a link to coverage at Cultural Capitol by JD Oxblood:

The first installment of JD's four-part series

I realize I've never posted this much about any one thing before, but I've never had this much info sent to me before. I do rely somewhat on suggestions.
I can't post everything people send me--this isn't a blog where I want a bunch of show announcements, or just another promo opportunity for press releases not at ALL--but if you have something unique that you're not posting everywhere else, or something that you really think might rock my personal world (this is my blog, not a public service), let me know!! rocknycity@aol.com

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All Cougarness Aside

There's a great video of the fest on time.com:
Burlesque Festival Vid

You get an amazing sense of all the different styles and some great commentary from Angie.

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Some of my pix from the Fest

I had a really emotional performance that night--I was doing my tribute to Sherry.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Am Indeed The Biggest Cougar

Thanks to you, the voters, I won the Golden Pastie for Biggest Cougar! I wasn't very gracious about it--I immediately made out with Legs Malone, and then with the other two nominees, Miss Astrid and Tigger.

Please send your daughters to my school.

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Me with the winner of the Golden Pastie for "Hottest Freshman," Miss Roxi Dlite. Photo by Deirdre Schoo, used with the photographer's express permission.

Click here to see the rest of the photographs from the Golden Pasties event by Deirdre Schoo.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

An Actual Photo of Me from the Festival

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Backstage at Le Poisson Rouge. Photo by Darlinda Just Darlinda.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Picture Post: Cameras, Cameras Everywhere at the Festival

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
The audience at Corio (they're focused on World Famous *BOB*)

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Allen Lee in the audience at the Saturday Spectacular

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Lola Rock N Rolla with Dirty at the Saturday Spectacular

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Trixie Little onstage during the Finale at the Saturday Spectacular

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Paparazzi at the red carpet at SOBs

New York Burlesque Festival 2008
Dirty Martini at The Golden Pasties

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New York Burlesque Festival Begins Today!

A photo essay on the NYBF on Metro Mix


Thursday, September 18th is the night to mix, mingle and get to know the cast, crew, press and VIPs of the Festival at the exclusive This is Burlesque Teaser Party at Corio in Soho. Hosted by NYC Superstar, The World Famous *BOB* with performances from Pepper Potemkin (Sweden) Pandora (NYC), Pookie Patootie (NYC) & many more.

Friday, September 19th, step back in time to Brooklyn’s newest venue, The Bell House. A space that embodies the excitement of a Prohibition-esque extravaganza, it is the perfect start of our show stopping NYBF Premiere Party. The ubiquitous and scandalous Scotty the Blue Bunny is back from San Francisco to host this party, which features burlesque beauties; go-go dancers and side show acts from around the world. Wet your whistle for burlesque at this notoriously wild party that is sure to have extra shenanigans, with performances from over 25 bombshells, including Wild Card Kitty (Scotland), Miss Indigo Blue (Seattle), The Animal Crackers (NYC), Violet Eva (Tokyo) & Vixen Violette (LA).

Saturday, September 20th is the NYBF’s Saturday Spectacular where la crème de la crème of the most eclectic burlesque performers are showcased. Join us at the most talked about, swanky new venue in Manhattan, Le Poisson Rouge. Over 30 burlesque bombshells from across the globe deliver for a night of top notched performances. Comedian, Murray Hill, hosts the evening with festival highlights, including: the newly crowned Miss Exotic World Angie Pontani and The World Famous Pontani Sisters (NYC), Michelle L'amour (Chicago) Murasaki Babydoll (Tokyo), Amelia Wood (Australia), The Flying Fox (SF), Lux La Croix (LA), The Amazing Knicker Kittens (Sweden) and dozens more!

Sunday, September 21st the NYBF goes out with one last tassel twirl at Manhattan’s legendary SOB’s Nightclub for the Golden Pastie Awards and Burlesque Early Bird Dinner! Hosted by Miss Astrid, “the true Weimar fraulein,” this gala event offers live performances and an awards ceremony honoring the world’s finest burlesque performers with a double D sized Golden Pastie. Join the performers at this Oscar styled celebration, full of hi-jinx and peppered with stellar performances from Helen Pontani, NYC, Hot Toddy (Chicago), The Birdman (Australia), Spooky Le Strange (NOLA), Brown Girls Burlesque (NYC), Tali De'Mar (NYC), Tanya Cheex (Toronto) and many more!

Thursday September 18th
This is Burlesque Teaser Party
Hosted by The World Famous *BOB*
Corio Supper Club
337 West Broadway

Friday September 19th
The Premiere Party
Hosted by Scotty the Blue Bunny
The Bell House
149 7th Street (between 2nd & 3rd)

Saturday September 20th
The Saturday Spectacular
Hosted by Murray Hill
Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street

Sunday September 21st
The Golden Pastie Awards
& Burlesque Early Bird Dinner
Hosted by Miss Astrid
204 Varick Street


Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Want to Walk a Mile in Dita's Shoes?

'These shoes have been worn in so many photos and performances that we cannot possibly list them! included is a copy of the Playboy that she is shown wearing them in with a personalized message that reads " these shoes took me around the world! Enjoy! Dita". '

I love the way they've used the shoes to cover her body for the ad, so cute!

Click to view the Ebay auction.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jen Gapay, Burlesque Producer

Jen in the middle. Image from Go Magazine's "100 Women We Love."

With the New York Burlesque Festival almost upon us, this seemed like a great time to nab a quickie interview with Producer/Entrepreneur/All-Around-Hottie, Jen Gapay! Jen is the owner of Thirsty Girl Productions, which produces the NYBF with the Pontani Sisters, and I'm happy to have a chance to tip my pastie to one of the most charming and hard-working producers in the scene. What would we do without her?

How did you become involved with producing?
I was born in Sacramento California, hopped around on the East Coast (NY, Virginia & Maryland) until I was 10. Then we moved to Montana where I spent my “formative years” growing up in Big Fork. I went to college in Missoula Montana and it was there where I started putting on shows. The first show I ever organized was a benefit for a non-profit that I was working for, which involved booking a couple bands and selling beers in a union hall. Shortly after I fell in love with a local band and a girl in the band and started managing them and booking rock shows and I’ve been hooked on shows, and girls, ever since.

How did you get interested in producing burlesque?
I moved to Seattle in 1996 and this is when I started to take my events to another level. I founded my company, Thirsty Girl Productions, and started The Capital Hill Block Party (still in existence) and also threw a weekly lesbian party called Soire De Femme. There was a female dance troupe called The Pussy Cat Dolls who I use to book, and although none of us knew it at the time, they were doing burlesque.
When I moved to New York in 2000, I got a job at the Village Voice as there Promotions Director and started booking burlesque acts at our events and in 2002 booked my first burlesque show as part of the Siren Music Festival.

How did the Burlesque Festival come about?
It was around this time when I learned about a burlesque festival that had happened in New Orleans and I figured if NOLA could have a successful burlesque festival New York could too; so I asked The Pontani Sisters if they would like to co-produce a festival with me and The New York Burlesque Festival was born.

What have been some of your favorite experiences producing the festival?
My favorite part about producing the burlesque festival has been watching all the great performers and how they have evolved over the years and getting to know the burlesque community and making some great friends along the way.

How is it different now than the first festival?
The first New York Burlesque Festival we sold out each venue and had approximately 800 people attend and, last year we had over 1500, so we’ve almost doubled in size.

How is producing a burlesque event different from producing other events?
Producing a burlesque event is different than producing other performance based events in that you deal more with individual performers, rather than their management, and since performances are short you have to deal with a lot more individuals. From an organizational standpoint, all events are about the details; it’s just that some details are a little more fun and interesting to keep track of then others.

What are some things you've produced besides burlesque shows?
I was the founder and producer of The Capital Hill Block Party in Seattle from 1997-1999, and the founder and producer of the Siren Music Festival from 2001-2002.
I have been in Special Events Director at Astroland Amusement Park for the last 5 years and have worked with the Village Halloween Parade in various capacities since 2000.
I’m also the co-producer of an amazing variety show called Sxip’s Hour of Charm. And this summer I worked on one of my biggest events to date, which was co-producing The Establishment, A New World Cabaret Experience held in a circus tent at The Rothbury Music Festival over 4th of July weekend.

What would you like to do next?
Join the circus.

Thirsty Girl Jen Gapay


Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Generation Burlesque

gossip girls ads
When I see the ads above, I'm proud to have worked on the show, I can't deny it.

It was interesting, though, because even though the actress I was coaching was over 20, her character is a high school student. Of course, when I was in high school, I was doing burlesquey numbers at Rocky Horror and dancing in drag bars, so it didn't strain my credulity at all.

Not too long ago a reality show asked me to coach a teenager for an episode, as well. I wasn't able to do it even though I think it's a good show, first of all because it meant leaving town for five weeks and I couldn't leave the project I'm working on or the school, and secondly because the pay was...let's just say mindblowingly inappropriate. But I would have done it under other conditions, and I'm happy to say one of the teachers from the NY School of Burlesque picked it up. More details to come!

And now this:
'Sherman's single mother had him when she was 16, much to the disapproval of her doctor father - and shades of television's Gilmore Girls. She now works nights as a bartender, though her true passion is burlesque dancing. That's right, burlesque, an art form that one of Sherman's friends helpfully - if implausibly, since he's supposed to be a contemporary teenager - explains is "extremely sexy" and "descended from vaudeville." '
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN: FICTION: Sherman and the defiled girls

I can only say that if I'd had access to burlesque the way it is now when I was in high school, holy moly...there is a whole rough patch of my life I think I could have skipped! Thank God for Rocky Horror and Rock N Roll High School.

I suppose this looks pretty incriminating in light of the recent cougar campaign, but sadly, I have no teen scandal to report. It's just a coincidence that those ads, the reality show offer, and this article all happened in the past month. I swear on a stack of "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Link repaired!

The voting link was broken, sorry.

Biggest Cougar! Let it Be Me!

I haven't posted much because I've been writing a lot (re writing, I am very excited and will have some fun news soon for people who read this blog), and now I have a favor to ask...

I know "Vote for Me" posts can be annoying, but you might find this amusing.

I have been nominated for "Biggest Cougar" at the New York Burlesque Festival!
Vote here!

I am proud, proud, proud to be what some people consider "too old to be stripping" and still doing it!

As for the other connotations of "cougar," bring it on LOL Way to be a school teacher, eh?

So vote for me, if you're so inclined! I would love to represent and would be the proudest middle-aged stripper in burlesque.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Miss Coney Island 2008

It's Gal Friday!

The Miss Coney Island Pageant of the Millenium is a burlesque of a beauty pageant with sideshow performers and burlesque dancers. The first one was created by Bambi the Mermaid, co-producer of the Burlesque at the Beach series, and of course she won, and received her crown while all the rest of us had a catfight on the stage behind her.

Bambi now hosts the pageant with the Great Fredini every year, and the audience receives ballots and the winner is by audience vote. It's a real honor to participate. There is a talent segment (a series of burlesque numbers) and a gown competition. I wouldn't miss it!

This year's pageant was a blast, with, among others, Legs Malone as a Siamese fighting fish and Fem Appeal as a gypsy fortune teller. Both of them were celebrating performance anniversaries--Legs two years, Fem three. We are so lucky in New York to have such a huge wave of new, inventive, fabulous talent!

This year I'm particularly proud to announce that the winner is one of the hardest-working ladies to come out of my school, Gal Friday, who won the pageant by portraying a super-tanned, insanely-bewigged, petroleum-jelly brandishing, teeth-whitening-stripped (yes, she actually used whitening strips a week before the show)pageant professional with a simultaneously glamourous and horrifying smile. Her little pageant wave was both disturbing and adorable.

Gal Friday with Petroleum Jelly
Photo by me.

I could make some comment on art imitating life imitating art imitating life (the woman satirizing pageant traditions wins the burlesque pageant), but really, you can fill in the blanks, yes?

Fortunately, after the show she turned back into the playful, easy-going Gal we all know and love!

Gal Friday
Photo by me.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ricci Cortez Passes

Ricci Cortez blew everybody away at the 2005 MEW gathering when she got up on stage for an unplanned striptease. She did the daintiest walk around the perimeter of the stage and then would stop, pose in front of someone, and aim a darling smutty little move at them. Just a couple of weeks ago Indigo Blue and I were conducting a retreat in Washington State, and we showed the video from that night to the attendees, most of whom had never been to Exotic World. They each had very different approaches to performing, but every one of them loved the video.

I don't know how to post that video, unfortunately.

I haven't had time to do a proper post in weeks, and I still don't feel I have time to really give Ricci the honor she deserves, but I had to mention her passing.

Click here to read Laura Herbert's remembrance of her.

Dr. Kay's remembrance.

Sparkly Devil's remembrance.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.