Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Naughty Puppets! So NSFW

My friend Basil Twist is involved in bringing these amazing puppets to New York.

From the website:

July 28-August 2, 2009

Grotesque. Charming. Sordid. Tiny.

Los Grumildos are automated puppets, miniature beings that skulk about a world somewhere between Victorian dollhouse and red light district. The brainchildren of Peruvian artist Ety Fefer finally land in North America at HERE Arts Center, after four years of touring catacombs, suburbs, festivals, and bars in Europe.

This voyeuristic experience was inspired by the characters that inhabit the shady areas of downtown Lima, Peru. Fefer creates a kind of magical world that serves as a home for these marginal creatures that tend to be rejected and despised by society. The hyperrealist details of each plasticine puppet bring out their most intimate feelings, but the narrative is left to the viewers.

A 30-minute self-guided tour. Half-installation, half-kinetic theater. $7 only. 6 nights only.

The Camden Council's Statement on Burlesque

"The Council has met with the burlesque community in response to their concerns and agreed to seek a clearer understanding of what constitutes adult entertainment. This will help define what reasonable measures premises should put in place prior to adult entertainment being performed. "
The Camden Council's Statement on Burlesque

Is Camden Council Banning Burlesque?

Certain comments below the Timeout article seem to be related to Penny's argument against burlesque. (I find it so ironic that this article is illustrated with an image of Julie Atlas Muz.) Penny diluted her argument herself in her discussion with Dr. Lucky when she said, "I'm a massive fan of burlesque," a position nowhere reflected in the inflammatory article. It appears certain kinds of burlesque are ok, others not so much. If it's not laden with politics, if it's just pretty, watch out! There goes the neighborhood.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Remembering Cronkite Remembering Wassau

'One of his most memorable interviews, he later said, was with Hinda Wassau, the burlesque star who invented the stripper pole.
'When [Walter] Cronkite, desperately searching for something he could get into family-friendly newspapers, asked her about the role of burlesque in boosting wartime morale, Wassau grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket. ''Let me tell you something,'' she snarled at the shaken Cronkite. ``The morals behind a burlesque stage are just as good as the morals at Radio City.'' '

Click here to read remembrances of Walter Cronkite.

Read More: Most trusted' voice in America goes silent

Does anyone have any pictures of Hinda Wassau?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

International Burlesque in Our Flickr Group

The Flickr Burlesque Group now has over 1200 members! Recent posts have included images from Milano, London, and Paris! Click the images to find out who and where.

Panty Raid!

Miss Polly Rae

Eve La Plume @ Rha Bar

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sealboy and the Blondes

Sealboy and the Blondes

One of my favorite burlesque shows of all times was Sealboy and the Blondes at the Slipper Room in 2008, featuring Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz. I was in a dark place and it brought me to the light. And it ended with this cream pie fight:
Pie fight

Night before last they took this show to Fire Island--read all about it!
Nardicio Presents Sealboy & the Blondes at the Palace, Burlesque for a Full Moon Night

Lisa Kereszi's Burlesque Photos on Display!

Last fall I reviewed Lisa Kereszi's book, Fantasies.

Burlesque continues to inspire visual artists, as it always has!

There is a new interview with Lisa at Photoeye, one of my favorite photography websites.

Also, Lisa's photo of my roommate, Julie Atlas Muz (who is a visual artist as well as one of everybody's favorite burlesque performers, is in a new exhibition.

The exhibition's press release:

Sexy and the City
New York Photographs
July 9, 2009­August 28, 2009

Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to announce Sexy and the City, a summer group show on view from Thursday, July 9, through Friday, August 28, 2009.
Sexy and the City shows the alluring, romantic and sometimes scandalous side of New York¹s people and places. Capturing private, intimate moments and blatant displays of sexuality, these photographs span the decades from the 1940s to the present day, taken in landmark locations like the Brooklyn Bridge and in the quiet, out-of-the-way corners of the city.
From Alfred Eisenstaedt¹s iconic image of a kissing couple in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945, to Nan Goldin¹s drag queen on an anonymous New York street in the 1990s, from Garry Winogrand¹s topless woman surrounded by a crowd in Central Park to the homosexual couples photographed by Alvin Baltrop in the seclusion of the West Side piers, Sexy and the City celebrates diverse views of New York City passion.
Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Merry Alpern, Will Anderson, Diane Arbus, Alvin Baltrop, Bruce Davidson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Mitch Epstein, Louis Faurer, Leonard Freed, Nan Goldin, Gail Albert Halaban, Charles Harbutt, Lisa Kereszi, André Kertész, Arthur Leipzig, Leon Levinstein, Joel Meyerowitz, Duane Michals, Tod Papageorge, Frank Paulin, Anton Perich, Charles Traub, Arthur Tress, Weegee, Ryan Weideman, and Garry Winogrand.
This show is part of the citywide exhibition NEW YORK PHOTOGRAPHS. A number of galleries specializing in photography have joined forces to present over a dozen gallery shows this summer featuring views and perspectives on New York City. Other participating galleries include Bonni Benrubi, Danziger Projects, Deborah Bell, Edwynn Houk, Howard Greenberg, Hasted Hunt, Janet Borden, Laurence Miller, Pace/MacGill, Robert Mann, Julie Saul, and Yancey Richardson.

Click here to buy Lisa's book on

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Book Review: This Was Burlesque

This Was Burlesque

"The exciting strippers, the great baggy-pants comics, the shabby straight men, the off-key tenors, the fast-talking candy butchers and the chaotic chorus lines--all of the great moments of america's most colorful theatrical art."

So reads the back cover of Ann Corio's history of burlesque, published in 1968. Corio herself was a star in the 1930s and 40s, beginning when she was 15, and her self-deprecating autobiographical chapter is one of my favorite parts of the book. Of her first encounter with burlesque, she said, "Stripteasing was already in full swing when I arrived, and my eyes opened wide. What kind of show business was this? Girls were taking off their clothes and making gestures never seen in church plays....Then I noticed something...I was wearing less clothes in the chorus than the featured stripper at the end of her act....I wrestled with my conscience and my pocketbook and you know who always wins that match."

In the opening, titled "It all began with Aristophanes," she gives as her reason for writing the book that "few people know the real story of burlesque." She repeatedly makes the case for burlesque as a "legitimate branch of show business...[although admittedly] the lower branch." She makes no apologies for the roughness and rowdiness and working-class appeal of burlesque, and no apologies for her love of the same.

This Was Burlesque

The history of burlesque she presents is one very commonly referenced in other works about burlesque, and credits the first appearance of burlesque in the English language to a play produced in London is 1600, "The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe." She describes the original Mazeppa, Adah Isaacs Mencken, causing a sensation by wearing tights as she was carried across the stage on a live horse in 1861. She also describes the arrival of Lydia Thompson and her British Blondes in New York City in 1869 for their production of Ixion, which ran for ten years. There are excerpts from reviews published in the papers of the time, as well as images of advertisements and pictures of the performers. There are dozens of reproductions of tobacco cards and playing cards featuring players of 19th century burlesque. It's a very satisfying chapter for a student who's new to the idea that burlesque began before 1940.

Of course I'm partial to the striptease, and she introduces the art as the saviour of a dying form of theater. "When those shoulder straps started slipping slowly off snowy flesh," she says, "the crowds began to return to the burlesque theaters." She describes various versions of the striptease taking place in 1908, 1913, and 1920, but admits she doesn't know which stories of the first striptease are true, adding, "If they happened at all, they happened before my time."

Between the stories and the images (including a few of Reginald Marsh's works), this book is an amazing treat for fans of burlesque. I've focused on my primary area of interest, but for those who have a passion for the comics who emerged from burlesque, such as Burt Lahr and Buster Keaton, there are chapters packed with photos and tidbits.

The book is amply illustrated, and some of the comics and musicians have a surprisingly modern look of irony about them. Some of them are also outdatedly offensive by current, more informed standards of cultural sensitivity, but there's no doubt that they accurately represent the era. We can be glad we're working toward improvement!

This Was Burlesque

In the 1960s Ann Corio produced a show called "This Was Burlesque," and actually had some conflict with Sherry Britton, who had narrated an album called "The Best of Burlesque" in 1958. Of course Sherry's my friend, but I can't deny the value of this book to burlesque fans everywhere--and Ann does give Sherry credit for her considerable influence on the development of burlesque style, so I have to recommend "This Was Burlesque."

This Was Burlesque on

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for

Book Review: The American Burlesque Show (reposted by request)

The American Burlesque Show
Irving Zeidman
Hawthorne Books, New York, Ny 1967

"The trouble with the American burlesque show, from beginning to end, is either that is has been too dirty--or else that it hasn't been dirty enough."

The first sentence of Irving Zeidman's history of burlesque in the United States (primarily New York) cites a dilemma that continues to haunt burlesque even now, when burlesque is serving in most venues as a couples' or women's alternative to the more commercial, more directly sexual environment of strip clubs (although in New York we have a few venues that are decidedly more hardcore than any burlesque shows of the past--and my story on that is upcoming). Zeidman quotes Sime Silverman saying, "Were there no women in burlesque, how many men would attend?" in 1909. He describes the history of American burlesque as "the history of its producers' endless efforts to please both the censors and the audience."

The American Burlesque Show Irving Zeidman

This book offers so much detail in less than 250 pages that anyone can count themselves a scholar in a matter of days. It is a seminal reference on American burlesque, and is a significant source in the bibliography of almost every book written about burlesque since its publication. While the history of burlesque is longer than the history of American burlesque, this book is invaluable for those who are primarily interested in the burlesque standard that began with the arrival of British burlesque in the United States in the 19th century. Zeidman describes the path of burlesque from the Black Crook to the Great White Way. He calls the Black Crook "the acknowledged forerunner of modern burlesque because here, for the first time in the history of the American stage, female nudity was exhibited not as an integral part of the plot, but frankly and with bravado for its own crass and pleasant appeal."

If the reader sets Zeidman's commentary aside, the history presented is a story of broad comedians and saucy wenches owning the stage for nearly a century. The arrival of Lydia Thompson and Her Imported British Blondes in 1868 in New York set the standard for shows that mocked politics and popular culture while including women who put themselves shamelessly on display. The shamelessness of the women presented a visual metaphor for the shameless attitude taken in the skits, taunting the pretenses of upstanding citizens and authorities--particularly those who worked to close the burlesque houses down, and succeeded in doing so in New York in 1937 by editing out the strippers.

As with any history, it's hard to know how much of it is biased, but Zeidman's facts are always backed by sources. For all of its thorough documention, it maintains an easy and enjoyable read with plenty of photos, including many of the comics and variety artists as well as of the female dancers he describes as being central to burlesque's appeal. Zeidman has a a dry and companiable tone as he describes the Irving Place Theatre, the Columbia Wheel, the Minksys, and the development of the striptease. He gives details about burlesque in Brooklyn, on the Bowery, in Harlem, and in a chapter titled"Beyond New York" he describes show producers' battles with censors taking the same shape in other cities.

Carrie Finnell

He devotes chapters to the candy butchers, the comics, and of course to the strippers, all with photos to illustrate his quotes from the entertainment media of the eras. He also includes photos of the theatres and neighborhoods.

The history of burlesque via secondary sources can be hard to verify, since so much of the material offered by the burlesque producers is colored by their desires to promote, and so much of what remained in the news media was the result of publicity stunts and press releases offered by those same producers. However, Zeidman makes the most of this and analyzes all of it with an eye to informing and entertaining the reader while taking every claim burlesque has made about itself with a grain of salt--just as burlesque has historically taken the authorities and moral standards of every era with a grain of salt. He studies an irreverent art form irreverently, which is as it should be.

Zeidman says, "Burlesque, unfortunately, has never been any of the fancy or sentimental things ascribed to it--neither now nor then. It has never been a lusty form of folk expression or a national forum for satire or a showplace for knockabout hilarious slapstick. If burlesque ever became too talented, it ceased to be burlesque. It became vaudeville or musical comedy and even...light opera." He often seems to have a quite low opinion of burlesque, albeit with affection for its shortcomings. He never admits how he came to be interested enough in burlesque to do the enormous amount of research labor this book represents. I wonder what he would make of burlesque as it is today.

Out of Print. Available Used.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for

"What happens when burlesque comes back to Baltimore’s red-light district?"

Something like this!

"This will be Trixie and Monkey’s debut at the Hustler Club, the largest and newest club on the Block, the city’s radically diminished but still-breathing downtown adult entertainment district. Most of their local shows have been in very different venues—stripping for artsy crowds at the Creative Alliance or hipsters at the Ottobar. If there is any doubt that Trixie and Monkey will be out of their element here, it vanishes at noon, when the club opens and the house dancers hit the stage. These strippers begin their routines where Trixie and Monkey leave off...." Read more of this great great article, featuring interviews with everyone from Gal Friday to Satan's Angel, at Urbanite Baltimore.