Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
If you are a burlesque fan and you haven't gotten this book, you are missing out. If you know a burlesque fan, get it for them for Christmas. The memorabilia and stories will fascinate anyone, whether or not they are a fan of burlesque, with their display of artistry and charm and human interest.
You also don't want to miss her documentary film, Pretty Things, featuring astonishing and entertaining interviews with the great Zorita and my dear departed friend (who I always miss particularly at this time of year--kisses and pasties to you, sweet one) Sherry Britton.
I just did a brief interview with Liz to announce tomorrow's book signing in NYC, and I apologize for the all-caps--she used them to differentiate her answers from my questions, and I won't be able to edit them before tomorrow, when the release party happens. I hope to get that fixed soon! For now, enjoy, and if you can't make it to the signing please add her book, paperback or hardback, to your wish and gift lists. I'll post more images from the book shortly.
Liz Goldwyn Book Signing:
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 8
7:00 – 9:00pm ET
The powerHouse Arena
37 Main Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
How did you become interested in burlesque costumes?
I STARTED COLLECTING BURLESQUE COSTUMES IN THE MID 90S. I WAS IN ART SCHOOL AT SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS IN NEW YORK, GETTING A BFA IN PHOTOGRAPHY. AS PART OF A THESIS PROJECT, I BEGAN PHOTOGRAPHING MYSELF IN THE COSTUMES I WAS COLLECTING, ATTEMPTING TO EMULATE THE GLAMOUR POSES OF GYPSE ROSE LEE, LILY ST. CYR, ANN CORIO—THE GREAT OLD TIME QUEENS. IN THEIR PHOTOGRAPHS I WAS ATTRACTED TO THIS IDEA OF A STRONG WOMAN, WHO TEASED YET WAS IN CONTROL OF HER POSTURING AND SEXUALITY. WHILE IN COLLEGE, I WAS ALSO WORKING AT SOTHEBY'S AUCTION HOUSE, WHERE I HELPED TO FOUND THE FASHION DEPARTMENT. BECAUSE OF MY PROXIMITY TO MUSEUMS AND DEALERS WORKING WITH COSTUMES, I STARTED TO RESEARCH BURLESQUE COSTUMES AND FOUND THAT NOT ONLY HAD THERE BEEN NO DEFINITIVE BOOK ON 20TH CENTURY BURLESQUE QUEENS OR THEIR COSTUMES, BUT THERE WAS NO COMPREHENSIVE COLLECTION IN ANY MAJOR MUSEUM WORLDWIDE! I WAS SHOCKED AS THE BURLESQUE PIECES I WAS SEEING WERE AS INTRICATE AND EMBELLISHED AS THE FINEST COUTURE GOWNS WE WERE SELLING AT AUCTION. I DECIDED THEN, AT AGE 19, THAT I WOULD SPEND THE NEXT DECADE CREATING AN ARCHIVE OF THESE WOMEN, THEIR COSTUMES AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO PERFORMANCE/ ENTERTAINMENT HISTORY. IT MADE ME VERY SAD TO THINK THAT THIER WORK AND THEIR STORIES MIGHT NOT BE REMEMBERED, WHILE THEIR MALE (MOSTLY COMIC) COUNTERPARTS WENT ON TO FAME AND FORTUNE IN TV, RADIO AND MOVIES; AND THEIR FEMALE COUNTERPARTS IN "LEGITIMATE" ENTERTAINMENT (FILM, TV, STAGE) WERE CELEBRATED AS ICONS. I THINK BURLESQUE QUEENS CONTRIBUTED JUST AS MUCH TO 20TH CENTURY ENTERTAINMENT AND POP CULTURE.
How long have you collected? Are you still collecting?
I’M STILL COLLECTING VINTAGE CLOTHING (ALWAYS!) AND LINGERIE, STOCKINGS, ETC... BUT AS FOR BURLESQUE COSTUMES, IVE STOPPED COLLECTING FOR PERSONAL USE. MY COLLECTION IS ARCHIVED AND I PLAN TO DONATE IT ALL ALONG WITH THE PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION I HAVE AMASSED... BUT I'D LIKE TO DO A MUSEUM SHOW FIRST THAT WOULD TRAVEL SO PEOPLE CAN SEE THE COSTUMES AND MATERIAL CLOSE UP, IT WAS ALWAYS MY AIM THAT THIS ART FORM BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A FORM OF STUDY. IF WE CAN HAVE A VERSACE OR DIOR SHOW AT A MAJOR COSTUME MUSEUM, WHY NOT A BURLESQUE COSTUME SHOW? I THINK THAT BECAUSE OF THE ASSOCIATION WITH SEX/ SEXUALITY, BURLESQUE GETS RELEGATED TO A LESSER CATEGORY, BUT HOPEFULLY THAT IS CHANGING....
Above: Liz photographed by Hussein Katz.
What are some of your favorite pieces?
HARD TO PICK FAVORITES BECAUSE EVERY PIECE IS ASSOCIATED WITH A MEMORY, OR SOMEONE I LOVED... MANY PIECES CAME TO ME THROUGH THE ACTUAL QUEENS THEMSELVES. BETTY ROWLAND'S COSTUMES HOLD SPECIAL MEANING; JOAN TORINO, WHOSE WARDROBE WAS DESIGNED BY REX HUNTINGTON, ONE OF THE GREAT 20TH CENTURY BURLESQUE COSTUME DESIGNERS... A G STRING THAT ZORITA MADE FOR ME... ITS REALLY SILLY WITH "GOOGLY" EYES BUT I LOVE IT BECAUSE IT REMINDS ME OF HER...
What is one of your favorite stories connected to a costume?
I LOVE THAT ZORITA USED TO DYE HER FUR G STRINGS TO MATCH HER HAIR COLOR ( BOTH ON HER HEAD AND PUBIC HAIR!)
What burlesque shows have you seen, and what are some of the strongest impressions some of them have made on you?
SADLY I WAS BORN TOO LATE TO SEE BURLESQUE SHOW AS IN THE TYPE THAT ENDED LATE 1950S...( I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO SEE GYPSY ROSE LEE OR LENNY BRUCE LIVE JUST ONCE!) BUT; I LOVE AND SUPPORT NEO-BURLESQUE, WHICH IS A DIFFERENT TYPE OF PERFORMANCE AND FOCUSES MORE ON THE INDIVIDUAL QUEEN THAN THE ENTIRE SHOW, COMICS, ORCHESTRA ETC... I'VE SEEN ALOT OF NEO BURLESQUE, SHOWGIRL REVUES, STRIP SHOWS, ETC...! AS FOR NEO -BURLESQUE---THE EARLY VELVET HAMMER SHOWS IN LOS ANGELES WERE GREAT, DITA VON TEESE, OF COURSE, IS AMAZING AND ONE OF MY CLOSEST FRIENDS, I REALLY LOVE HER ATTENTION TO DETAIL; I HAVEN'T SEEN NARCISSISTER LIVE YET BUT IM DYING TO AND THINK SHE'S SOMEONE ZORITA WOULD HAVE APPRECIATED. OTHER NEO BURLESQUE QUEENS I LIKE INCLUDE IMMODESTY BLAIZE; TRIXIE MINX; AVA GARTER, KITTEN DE VILLE....GOSH SO MANY!
JUST KNOWING THERE IS A COMMUNITY OF WOMEN DEDICATED TO THIS ART FORMAND PUTTING THEMSELVES OUT THERE ONSTAGE, IS INCREDIBLY EMPOWERING AND I ADMIRE THEIR BRAVADO! I AM A HISTORIAN, NOT A PERFORMER, THOUGH IN MY DOCUMENTARY, "PRETTY THINGS" I DO "BECOME" A QUEEN OF SORTS, BUT FOR THE STORY LINE---I DEFINITELY COULD NOT GET ON STAGE AND REVEAL MYSELF IN THAT WAY, AND I HAVE ALOT OF RESPECT FOR THOSE WHO DO!
Above: Kalani Kokonuts, Jo Weldon, Dixie Evans, Liz Goldwyn, and Immodesty Blaize at the MGM Las Vegas for opening of Dita Von Teese's run with The Crazy Horse in 2010.
Would you like to say something about the Burlesque Hall of Fame?
I LOVE DIXIE EVANS! SHE'S A PEACH
What is the one thing you most want readers to get from your book?
THAT TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE PAST... THE LADIES (AND MEN) THAT CAME BEFORE US HAVE ALOT TO TEACH ABOUT SEXUALITY, CREATIVITY AND ECCENTRICITY THAT IS RELEVANT AND EVEN SHOCKING TODAY!
Liz Goldwyn's Site
As always, if you use content from my blog in any way, link back or face my contempt!
Friday, October 22, 2010
How much dance choreography is too much to add into a burlesque routine and how much is too little? I've heard burlesque dancers say "not too much dance choreography."
Formally trained dancers may have a tendency to think more about their choreography than their audience. In many rigidly choreographed dance routines, the dancer's focus is to the choreographer or to the other dancers; in burlesque, it is usually outward, to the audience. And often a trained dancer new to burlesque will merely dance, stop, and take off a piece of clothing instead of making the clothing removal playful, enticing, and innovative. It's not just what's revealed but the tease and play that leads up to the reveal that makes the costume removal worth watching.
A burlesque routine offers a unique opportunity to perform a striptease and/or combine glamour, mischief, and an arc. If the number doesn't take advantage of this, burlesque audiences might get restless and start texting during your number.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Miss Indigo Blue
World Famous *BOB*
If you use any photos from my blog, please link back to me. Or you're a fckin jerk.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
The NY School of Burlesque has student showcases in which new students and alumni perform, and often show producers come to find new talent. There are also shows specifically interested in new performers that make announcements of opportunities on their social media, so having a burlesque FB page is a good way to network. However, it's also a good idea to go to shows, find ones that you like, support them, and offer to be a stage kitten, intern, or assistant, each with their own systems. You will not necessarily get to perform with that show, but you will learn a lot very quickly, and you will meet other performers and be able to associate with people who can suggest other opportunties. Plus, it's fun!
There is more information on some of the ettiquette of getting into shows in my book, The Burlesque Handbook, but it's important to understand that policies vary from show to show.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Melody, second from the right, on the set of the Victor/Victrola episode of Gossip Girl. Photo, choreography, and costume design by me!
How did you come to be a New York performer?
When I first moved to NYC I knew I wanted to sing & started singing right away. I started singing at open-mic nights, making my rounds in drag shows, lesbian cover bands & rasta metal nights... crazy combo, I know! That's NY for you. I QUICKLY got tired of being in the background, singing other peoples songs so, I created my own band with the boys of GOODFINGER www.goodfingermusic.com.After a year of touring & finding our sound we decided to stop playing live shows to concentrate on the recording of our debut album, Killing With Kindness.
I missed the stage tremendously! I felt I needed to be up there, constantly honing my skills. I was afraid if stopped performing for any extended period of time that I wouldn't get back up there again. I thought I'd get cold feet. Luckily, I had a few friends who had me previously addicted to glitter & rhinestones who asked me to be a part of their burlesque show & it clicked! I wrote a couple songs that made we want to take my clothes off... & Voila! Slice of Heaven, Troppo Vino & Marry Juana were born.
I met you at Don Hill's in the 1990s! Then I saw you doing burlesque with the Bombshell Girls at Suite 16. Did you expect burlesque to become such a big part of your career?
Whoa! You must've met me when I first got here in 1999! NYC was a different animal then. I partied. It was 1999. ;-)I remember doing my very first burlesque act ever with the Bombshell girls. Back then I didn't even have a Burlesque name! This was pre GOODFINGER! ....Not that Melody Sweets isn't, of course, my natural given name. ;-)I loved the freedom. I loved collaborating & creating with friends who inspired me..... but my early days in burlesque with the Bombshell girls was short lived. At the time, I was dating someone that didn't approve of what I was doing & I allowed myself to believe the things he would say & to be honest, I wanted to sing & hadn't yet made the connection that I could do both burlesque & my own music... and, since I've never met anyone who has done this before, it was even more difficult to imagine doing this as a career.. or shall I say, way of life!.... & so, Burlesque took a 'time-out' while I concentrated on my "serious" band GOODFINGER. Little did I know Burlesque would come back to get me, and I'm so glad it did! It's opened up a world of doors for me. Personally & professionally. .... to my surprise.
Tell us a bit about what it's like to write your own music, perform to your own songs, make your own costumes, and create your own numbers.
It's AMAZING. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm a bit of a control freak so to be able to be in charge of everything from the ground up is amazing. It does seem to take me a bit longer to come up with new acts because I'm doing my own music. ...before I can even get to the designing or making of a costume or the act, I've got to get a song written, recorded, mastered & copyrighted. It can be very frustrating at times, but the pay off is worth it. It took me more than 2 years to record Slice of Heaven, (maybe even more), but it's one of my most requested acts still today. Slice of Heaven has been running at The Box now for over 3 years & is now a music video making burlesque herstory.
No performer has ever starred in, written & produced her own music video before! What are some of your other projects?
What else is out there?I'm looking to finish my debut album soon which features musical guests The Dap Kings (Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones) & hope to do a little more traveling this winter, hopefully surrounded by my band & fellow performers. You perform a lot at the Box. Tell us a little bit about that!I love The Box. I've been with them since the beginning & simply love to perform there. The lighting technician is amazing.... his lights alone are a show! The sound is always great, which means alot for a singer, & they treat me well. The Box has also been a big influence on me to push myself even farther in terms of performing, music & costumes. They keep me on my toes & keep me inspired by the many different types of performers they showcase.Oh, and the fact that I've been able to perform for celebrities who have inspired me throughout the years such as STING. He likes to give mojo bear hugs.
Tell us about your show at Duane Park.
It's a blast! Every Saturday at 10:30pm my fabulous band, The Candy Shop Boys & I present the best in burlesque, cabaret and other Vaudeville-style variety acts. There is never a cover but we're always packed so I recommend reservations. The food is out-of-this-world good & a great place to bring a date, your family, your spouse, mistress or all of them together! ... we'll make it a party! We've got some amazing performers coming in the next couple months from all over .. Kitten DeVille from L.A., Tatah Dujor from Florida, Annette Bette Kellow from London. And, of course, you Jo! It's getting some great press right now.. Time Out calls it the "Swankiest". ...yeah baby. September 18th will be the start of an all new Sweets' Shop show so I hope to see you then!
You recently produced your video and DVD. What was that like? It looks like a big party!
It WAS a big party! (It better have been! We went through an UNBELIEVABLE amount of champagne that day! ...I figured I'd get 'em all drunk for breakfast, seeing as though we only had 5 hours in total to set up, record, & break down.) Everyone knew each other, it was a cast of about 15, plus tech & crew which brought it to about 25 people to organize. Everyone seemed to feel completely comfortable.. (which is good because it got pretty naughty!!) I loved every moment of it. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of community, love & support during the filming. Not only are the most amazing NYC performers in the cast - MsTickle, Julie Atlas Muz, Amber Ray, Stormy Leather & lots more.....we're all friends that have been brought together in this fabulously shiny world. Who knew there were others out there that felt the need to pile glitter all over their bodies and bare all to the world? A special breed, indeed.What is your ultimate fantasy show? That is a loaded question! I have so many different scenarios I'd like to see played out. Hopefully I'll get at least 9 lives to make it all happen. But, for a start, a common thread through them all is big props, big stages, big bands... maybe even orchestra style & BIG audiences. I'd like to see people leaving my shows inspired, with personal walls broken down.
What do you have planned next?
I have a big show coming up on Sept 9th at Le Poisson Rouge called Melody Sweets & the ladies of La Rouge Coquette! featuring some of my favorite burlesquers Angie Pontani, MsTickle & more! I hope to see you there Jo! We'll be showing a sneek peek of the UNcensored version of Slice of Heaven before it's official release in the fall.
Melody singing "Gold Digga" at The New York Burlesque Festival
Keep up with Melody at http://www.melodysweets.com/. You can hear her music and buy the uncensored version of her DVD!
Note to readers and bloggers: If you use any of the material from this blog, please link back to it or earn my everlasting contempt. Thank you!
I make mine! But I love stripper stores, online and elsewhere. You can buy ANY g-string and decorate with wih rhinestones or fringe, or even add hooks on the sides to make it breakaway. Just remember that if you add fringe and the fringe doesn't stretch, you need to make sure you can get the garment on and off over your hips before you do your final stitching!
Here's a great base for a decorated g-string:
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Lily and Me in Las Vegas for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender
You have such an amazing project in Operation Bombshell. How is that going?
It is beyond insane. I'm frankly startled. I started Op B as a little indie project, hosting the first class on the skating surface at the roller rink on Fort Hood, Texas. Then, my friends at Pin-Up Girl Clothing (www.pinupgirlclothing.com) hosted a few benefits for me in LA, one graciously hosted by Diablo Cody, and raised a bunch of money for me to keep going. I added military installations here and there when I could. Then Op B ended up on the front page of the New York Times, on CNN and on Fox News. Now, military installations are sponsoring my visits. If you had told me that the military would spend money to bring a burlesque teacher to posts to teach, I never would have believed you in a million years.
You and I sat at a table together once and watched Kate Valentine's Vavavoom Room about six years ago, which was one of the first neo-burlesque shows in NYC. What was your impression of burlesque from that show??
My impression was that passion--for glamour, for performance, for feminine excellence, is what's really behind the new burlesque movement. It blends the best of the primal drive for self-expression with the elemental theatrical feminine essence. And it's a blast to watch. Seriously? I have an almost boundless appetite for good burlesque. I could watch it all night, no exaggeration.
In Strip City you describe going to feature dancing school. Did that remind you of burlesque at all??
It did! Because the class was taught by a feature performer, with a slant towards encouraging dancers to become features themselves. Today's feature dancers the true descendants of the old burlesque girls--I learned a lot about developing a persona, how to work with choreography (which I had never done as a house girl), matching costumes to music, themes, how to captivate an audience. I knew I would never have the energy to be a feature, but I loved pretending for a few days.
You've been to the Burlesque Hall of Fame events in both the original location in Helendale and the new weekender in Las Vegas. What are some of your memorable moments from both??
Memorable moments? My heavens, so many. Windstorms. Heat. Kiss curls and big sunglasses. Catherine D'Elish in a golden birdcage, stepping carefully down the runway and opening a huge fan of peacock feathers behind her. Tempest Storm, in her purple sequins, showing the world the true meaning of star power. Beautiful, loving Dixie Evans being surrounded by young women who positively adore her. And shoes, sequins, feather fans, pasties, glitter, headdresses, boas, gowns, gloves, stockings. Bumping horns and nasty drums. Humor. Glamour. Love.
What are some of the most memorable responses you've had to it? Memorable incidents in class or related to running the project??
Op B has really grown my heart. I don't know that I was a Grinch before, exactly, but since starting Op B, I'm certain my heart has leapt up at least three sizes. I'm deeply touched that the military sees the value in the program, and is willing to put resources toward sponsoring my travel so I can teach so many wives. On a personal note, I was moved when one of my students told me that she had recently lost her young son to a tragic accident, and that the day she took my class was the first good day she'd had since he died. I'll never forget that, ever.
And on broader a wife-to-wife level, it's just wonderful for me to meet so many strong, amazing, resilient women. Military wives have a ferocity of spirit that is nothing short of inspirational, and I consider it an honor and a privilege to sass up their lives for an hour or two.
What's next for Operation Bombshell??
We're headed to Germany in September, which is so exciting! Then, Fort Carson, Colorado in October, Savannah, Georgia in November and maybe a couple other places in between.
What's next for you? What projects are nearest and dearest to your heart??
Believe it or not, I'm trying to find another way to approach burlesque. I feel like there's still a new story to be told there. And, of course, I'll be at the NY Burlesque Festival showcase. Can't wait to see everybody there!
Lily on Fox News
Lily in the NY Times
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The first time I saw you at a burlesque show was a Pontani Sisters show at the Slipper Room in either 2002 or 2003. What was your first burlesque MC gig? Did you expect to be MCing so many burlesque shows?
Ahh, the old days...and who can remember all the details! I don't remember my first burlesque hosting gig per se, but I was doing The Murray Hill Show in the late 90's and Dirty Martini was my first showgirl guest. How could I forget her. She is the first burlesque performer I saw in NYC uptown at the supperclub, I suppose it was true love right from the beginning.
Hosting burlesque shows seems like a natural fit (no pun intended) for me...I'm an old-school kinda guy, and burlesque is from the old vaudeville days. Back then, comics and burlesque girls were always on the same bill. I loved seeing the Don Rickles documentary and hear him talk about the Vegas showrooms. He got his start doing comedy bits in between burlesque performers.
I love the ladies, they love me, it just works. They also let me backstage...that keeps me coming back.
How did you develop the Murray Hill persona?
It developed me! Or maybe more accurately, it enveloped me!
You do more than burlesque MCing. What are some of your other frequent gigs?
I make sure to always work different scenes and to be in front of new audiences all the time. Keeps me fresh and challenges me. I do comedy clubs, call Bingo numbers, appear in plays, TV, movies, host annual events, holiday shows, homosexual pageants...you name it, I do it! They don't call me the hardest-working middle-aged man in show business for nothing.
How was the tour and the New Orleans event? Can you tell us about a few of your favorite gigs?
I really enjoyed all the shows and all the new cities I got to check out, but my favorite gig was with Dita Von Teese and the most hopping city was New Orleans. Oh boy, the audiences for those shows were off-the-charts...well-dressed, loaded, and gorgeous. They were so welcoming and were ready to be entertained. I didn't have to do any ice-breaking, it was all heat from the second I hit the boards. I truly admire Dita's show-womanship, it's a great thrill to see her dazzle and tease from the wings of the stage. Dita Von Teese is like UPS in two ways....she's a package and she delivers.
The New York Burlesque Festival is coming up this fall. You've been hosting at it every year since it began in 2003,correct? Is there anything about the Festival you particularly enjoy?
I look forward to the NYBF every year to see all of New Yorkers in one place together! It's like a high-school burlesque reunion.
What's next for Murray Hill?
Trying to quit eating Swedish Fish. Showbiz! I'll be announcing a debut Off-Broadway show in the coming months! Until then, I'll be hitting the boards all over the country and in the concrete jungle.
What is a gig you haven't yet done that you'd like to do?
I'd love to host the Oscars and and a late night talk show like Johnny Carson, the master!
What advice would you give to would-be burlesque MCs?
The most important part of MCing, in my opinion, is the audience. The audience is #1 in my book. They are the reason we are all there, and that is the essence of entertainment. First thing I do is engage the audience, put them at ease, get them involved in the fun and set the tone for the night. If this is missed in the first minutes of any show, it's an uphill battle all night, and I'd rather have it be a Murray Hill night!
Murray's Showbiz Website!
Photos used with Murray's permission. Photo credits pending.
Be an honorable webbie! Please link back to http://burlesquedaily.blogspot.com if you use content from this blog. Thanks!
There isn't any venue devoted to burlesque while the Slipper Room is on hiatus, so you have to look for shows. The best source is Ed Barnas' Calendar:
Don't miss the Coney Island shows! Mine is tomorrow night:
And I'll be performing at the Oak Room this Sunday, at Galapagos on Monday, and at White Slab with the Slipper Room Crew on Wednesday. See the calendar for details.
I perform most frequently at Duane Park with Brian Newman:
Monday, August 2, 2010
I've been enjoying watching fan dances & am ready to try one. You have a pretty silk fan veil routine on your DVD but your clothes stay on. Do you have tips or resources or inspiration for using fan veils in a striptease?
People have been using these fans more and more in burlesque and in other forms of dance. As I say in the video, think about fans as items you use to reveal, conceal, and frame yourself, as well as to create a glamourous and sensual spectacle onstage. Orchid Mei does a fantastic job with them:
It's possible to do a very poor job with these, as they are a little tricky. Rehearse, videotape yourself rehearsing, and if you have someone whose critique is valuable to you, employ them to watch and help you find exciting and elegant things to do with them besides just move them around. You can do some really clever reveals and gorgeous moves if you take the time to discover your own style with them!
You, Deelightful lady!
How would you deal with a jealous performer who is obsessed with being/doing better than you? She's a former student. This is taking the fun out of burlesque for me. :(
Just focus on your own business. If she does anything actually shady or cutthroat, call her on it publicly; but otherwise, her jealousy and competitiveness is really her cross to bear. And if it's REALLY taking the fun out of burlesque for you, if burlesque is only fun for you if it's free of any problems of business and social interaction, you might reconsider what you expect from burlesque.
What do you think of MC's that talk trying to gain more cheers from the crowd, during the dancers performance?
It depends. Generally I could do without it, since I want to focus on the performer and not the MC; but some MCs make it brilliant and energizing and funny; and some audiences really respond to it. So in theory I don't like it, but in action I've seen it both succeed and fail.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I love your videos (Fandance, Honey & Spice) and want to try to make a copy of the cute black top hat you wear with that vintage circus costume. How do you fix it to your hair? Pins? Comb? Rubber band? Thank you!
That hat, made of painted styrofoam, is available online at various places, and my roommate Julie Muz decorated it with feathers and glitter. It's on a headband. Here's a similar one on amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Mini-Top-Hat-with-Veil/dp/B001CVDXPA/ref=pd_sbs_a_2
And for those who haven't seen the hat this formspringer is asking about, here's the video:
I am visiting NYC from Aug 15-20 and was hoping to get a recommendation on where to see the best burlesque show. What would you suggest?
Check out Brooklyn Ed's calendar http://www.edbarnas.com/Burlesque/calendar/index.htm
I can't recommend Bambi the Mermaid's Coney Island show highly enough!!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Someone new in the scene ripped off my burlesque routine I've been doing for almost 4 years. What should I do?
Try contacting them and asking them about it, to be sure that they're ripping it off and not just responding to the zeitgeist. If you're already sure or not satisified with their response, keep doing it better, post more pictures and video of it, and file a cease and desist if you think it's warranted. And let people know if you think someone else is an intellectual property thief--you do no one in the scene a favor if you let them keep hiring an unethical performer.
I have been ripped off a bit and have had people feel entitled to my intellectual property. It's interesting as a teacher, where someone who has taken my class will teach a class that is essentially the same and then say that it's not a rip off because I didn't invent burlesque, ignoring the fact that I manage to work with burlesque teachers from all over the world without feeling that they are compromising my intellectual property. I'm a fan of The Art of War, which means I try to think of all the possibilities and think a few steps ahead. But I will engage in a fight at times. You owe it to your muse to defend your art and your ideas, and you owe it to that person's muse to force them to call on their own instead of on yours.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Why do you think so many of todays Burlesque performers don't take pride in keeping their body in shape? Is burlesque really just an excuse for some out of shape women to take their clothes off and try to feel good about themselves?
The world is full of places where women are encouraged to feel bad about themselves if they aren't willing to diet and exercise into the condition the media says they should be. Feel free to go to those places, and stay in one of them.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I learned to sew in high school and I think anyone, whether or not they really want to make clothes, can benefit from basic sewing skills; but I learned to sew spandex and sequins and fringe in the late 1980s, when I was making costumes for strip joint feature dancers while my knee was too messed up for me to work as a dancer. Since every outfit was unique, and I was presented with unusual challenges like making a breakaway astronaut costume or a light-up skirt or gloves with wings attached, I learned to experiment. I learned that if you keep an open mind, you can make anything happen. Also, the dancers wanted their costumes to come off in interesting and unexpected ways; they didn't want to just take off clothes, they wanted special costumes that were more memorable, and inventive breakaways that made audience members gasp with delight. So basically, I learned by doing things I didn't know how to do until I did them successfully! But the basic sewing skills I learned in basic sewing classes, including draping and construction, were what made it possible for me to understand how to do get started when I designed and made Bambi's lobster costume:
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
There are a few. Michelle Baldwin's Burlesque and the New Bump N Grind is a book I would be honored to consider a companion piece to my own book. Dita Von Teese's book, Burlesque and the Art of the Teese, is a fantastic resource for understanding glamourous showgirl burlesque for our times. The Velvet Hammer by Michelle Carr is spectacular, and Chris Blakeley's book Tassels and Emerald's will give you a great sense of why I think Seattle's burlesque scene is one of the most beautiful in the world.
I also recommend videos. The Velvet Hammer DVD from itsachick.com and A Wink and a Smile on netflix are both amazing. Gary Beeber's Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque is intensely gratifying and gorgeous, and Immodesty Blaize's Burlesque Undressed is uber glam.
You should be able to find these on amazon.com, ebay.com, and google.com!
Other folks, feel free to make recommendations. I always accidentally leave out something I love!
See the trailer for Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque:
And don't forget--the French film Tournee, about burlesque performers on tour and featuring Dirty Martini, Roky Roulette, and Julie Atlas Muz, among others, just won Mathieu Amalric Best Director at Cannes!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
It's true. We at the Burlesque Hall of Fame have been honored by many of the people who have taken an interest in the organization, its personalities, and its events. But it's fair to say that Brian, with his talent, his reputation, his kindness, and his appreciation, ranks uber high in those honors!
I met Brian on a photo shoot for which I'd been hired to bring burlesque models for a promotional project for photographic equipment. I was so charmed, really touched, by his enthusiasm and interest in the legends of burlesque that I requested an interview, which he graciously consented to do!
Brian with Angie Pontani at the shoot in March.
Tempest Storm by Brian Smith. Photo used with express permission.
Q. How did you become interested in photographing burlesque and what was the first burlesque photo you took?
After a decade of shooting Olympics, Superbowls, NBA FInals and conflict in Haiti, I was transitioning into shooting celebrity portrait photography for magazines like Rolling Stone, GQ and Esquire. One day I was watching CNN and I saw an interview with Dixie Evans and I think how great it would be to photograph someone like her. Well you can either just sit around and wait for something like that to happen or you can just go out and do it. So I called Dixie up and she said, she'd love to be photographed. So the next time I was shooting in LA, my wife Fazia and I headed out Route 66 to Helendale and spent an absolutely wonderful afternoon photographing Dixie. It was the kind of afternoon that can't possibly better...until Dixie says it's too bad that we missed all her friends who'll be coming out next month. All of a sudden our great shoot just got better...
Q. What was it like the first time you photographed at Exotic World?
We came back to Helendale a couple months later to shoot our first Burlesque Reunion. My wife and I met Tempest Storm when we were checking into our hotel and quickly became friends. Over at Dixie's ranch, I began looking at the rows of publicity photos by 'Bruno of Hollywood' and was struck by how much they looked like the great Hollywood photos of the 30s and 40s. I realized I had a chance to put the burlesque legends back into the spotlight where they belonged.
Q. What about burlesque has held your interest for so long?
Like Jazz, Burlesque is a pure American art form. Burlesque is Americana. I started shooting it because I didn't want to see a part of Americana fade away. I'm overjoyed to see burlesque alive and flourishing today.
Dixie Evans by Brian Smith. Photo used with express permission.
Q. What are some of your favorite photos from this project?
That first shoot of Dixie will always be a favorite, you know what people always say about your first.... Back in the early days, we always shot the legends outside - either in the desert or where they lived. We went to Long Beach to shoot Jeannine "The Eyeful Tower" France. She didn't really have any costumes left and while she was happy to shoot in her bra, she didn't want stand outside in her neighborhood like the crazy old lady in her underwear. So I ended up her in her kitchen with a statue of the Virgin Mary in the background, At first, I didn't even show the photo since it was so different from everything else, but over the years it's become one of my favorites. There is something about it that's really sad and it just breaks my heart.
Jeanne France by Brian Smith. Photo used with express permission.
Q. What do you find to be some of the most interesting aspects of shooting burlesque?
The first time we met Dee Milo, I saw her standing in her red sequin dress and I showed her some of the photos we'd done. She was just about to go on stage, but said she'd do a shoot once she finished her act. So she comes right off stage straight to us in her g-string and pasties and says she was ready. I asked her to put her red dress back on and that was probably the first time in recorded history that a photographer talked a pretty lady back into her clothes...
Dee Milo by Brian Smith. Photo used with express permission.
Q. How does it compare with shooting celebrities, live sports or nude golf?
The greatest thing about being a photographer is dropping into the lives of all kinds of people from different backgrounds for a few minutes or hours. I can't think of a better way to learn about the world around you.
One of the projects I've been shooting over the past year is an arts advocacy project called 'Art & Soul'. I've photographed portraits of over 250 celebrities from the entertainment industry for a book I'm doing with The Creative Coalition that will pair my portraits of celebrities with their hand-written testimonials about the importance of the arts. We just had a sneak preview exhibit of the photographs at the Library of Congress as part of a star-studded evening that included live performances by Adrian Grenier, Patricia Arquette, Spike Lee, Dana Delany, TIm Daly, Steven Weber, Gloria Ruben, CCH Pounder, Cheryl Hines, Omar Epps and Marlon Wayans.
Photographing that project is similar in many ways to the portraits we shot backstage at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. Even if you only have a few minutes with someone, you have to find a way to capture their personality. Shooting Nude Golf shoot for Sports Illustrated was really a hoot and it reminded me a lot of the early burlesque shoots because the people were so much fun. We all laughed together and had a wonderful time.
Q. Who have you shot lately?
We shot Satan's Angel doing her fire act on stage at Exotic World, but you can't really contain someone like Angel to a stage. So we told Angel we wanted to come out to Palm Springs to photograph her the next time we were in LA. Last July I was out in LA to shoot of one of the actors from Mad Men' and so I called herl up to see if she was up to twirl fire for us and she said sure, c'mon out. Well July in Palm Springs is like 120 degrees in the shade but Angel was game to give it a go, so I discovered that the only thing hotter than Palm Springs in July is a burlesque dancer twirling tassels of fire. We also just did a wonderful shoot in New York with Angie Pontani, Amber Ray, Bunny Love, Darlinda, Gal Friday, Peekaboo Pointe and the one-and-only Jo Boobs Weldon...
Satan's Angel by Brian Smith. Photo used with express permission.
Q. Any regrets?
I wish we'd started earlier. We missed a lot of legends. My wife and I became fascinated by Lili St Cyr. The vintage photographs of Lili are amazing. We tried everything we could to photograph her, even Dixie reached out but we sadly couldn't ever get her to say yes. I think she wanted to be remembered the way she looked in her prime. I wish we could have convinced her that she'd still be just as beautiful in our eyes.
Q. Do you think you'll continue to photograph burlesque?
Burlesque is so much fun to shoot that's kind of like asking if you want to continue to enjoy living, isn't it?
Thank you for your time!
You are very welcome Jo Boobs...
See more of Brian's amazing work on his website. He also has a special site for his burlesque project, Legends of Burlesque.
Please do not use photos or text from this blog without linking back to http://burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.
I saw where you recommended Polly-O shoes but I am curious if you have any other tips on shoes for burlesque performances, especially when its a dancey number.
If your shoes are comfortable, you'll dance better, simple as that! Rehearse your number in the shoes you'll be wearing onstage, not in your practice shoes. You need to know how the shoes and your costume will interact--will rhinestones or buckle catch on the hem of your gown? Will you be able to pivot and twist in the shoes you want to wear? If you're removing them to take off stockings, do they slip easily on and off, and is it any harder to keep them on once you're wearing the stockings? If you rehearse in them, you won't have any surprises.
I will say that I expect to see shoes in good condition, and I love it when they have been decorated to match the costume.
In addition to my love of Pollys, which you can purchase at Betsey Johnson and Patricia Field's stores, I am shameless about my acrylic stripper heels. They make everything easy!
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joweldon/357227494/" title="My Shoes by Jo Weldon, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm1.static.flickr.com/144/357227494_82e08516b6.jpg" width="316" height="500" alt="My Shoes" /></a>
Monday, May 17, 2010
Do you think it impacts how a dancer is viewed by producers, MCs, other dancers if their spouse shows up for every gig?
It depends on how that spouse behaves, of course! Generally speaking, burlesque is a community, and we definitely expect to see each others' partners and spouses at events at least occasionally.
I'm a budding photographer and a fan of burlesque. What does it take to have a performer pose for me to help expand my portfolio and in turn, provide photos?
Performers get approached by photographers frequently. If you want to shoot them, you should be ready to provide samples of your work, and arrange how you will compensate them for their time. For newer performers, simply getting shots they can use for promotion is often excellent compensation; for experienced performers who have already built their own portfolios, they may need to charge a modeling fee. Every shoot is a different set of circumstances, but you should have an idea what you're willing to offer. Keep your appointments to shoot and always be ready with releases, and get images to them quickly. Usually if you are reliable and you understand that the photos have to flattering to them as well as to your skills as a photographer, you have a good chance of doing some shoots!
Check out the website of one of my favorite photographers of burlesque, Don Spiro, to see some shots we all love!
Friday, May 14, 2010
"I don't want to be on the list, I want to pay to get in and support the show."
Just kidding! Actually, the best compliment is always a straightforward expression of appreciation--"I loved your number" or "I was really moved by your number." And of course my favorite compliment in the world is, "Watching you made me want to do burlesque too!"
Occasionally people accidentally insult me or one of my friends when they are complimenting; they'll say, "That was so much better than that skanky pole dancing" (I love to watch pole dancing), or some compliment about liking my number better than a number someone else did. Any comparison should be left out, it's just not necessary! Just say what you like.
I performed a burlesque fan dance number at the 2009 Pole Dancing Championship, after which Carmit Bachar of the Pussycat Dolls came up to me and said how lovely my number was. The pole dancer and the fan dancer should be friends!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I recently bought a pair of feather fans from ostrich.com and have to assemble them myself. Do you have any tips for assembling them? I have read the instructions and it looks a little tough. I don't want to screw up since the feathers are kinda spendy
Just go for it. The feathers are tougher than you think! Assemble it without the glue, though, because you never know when you'll want to change or add feathers. Take your time to make sure all the feathers curve in the same direction--lay it out without attaching the feathers before you begin. And I usually leave the lengths of string knotted between the staves to be about 2.5-3 inches. Check my facebook page, under the name Jo Weldon, to see if other folks have added other helpful tips to this post.
I love the collapsible fans! The fans I'm using in this photo are ostrich.com Junior Sally Rand fans:
Hi Jo, I'll be visiting New York City for the summer from LA! I've never been to a burlesque show in the city, so where can I find out about all the latest happenings?
Whatever you do, don't miss the shows at Coney Island!
To find shows, I recommend Brooklyn Ed's burlesque calendar:
And check out the Burlesque/Variety listings in Timeout NY, which has both a print and online magazine:
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Is it possible to copyright an act? How is it done? Do you think it is important? If a performer seems to be appropriating work, is it best to confront or ignore? Defend idea.. or take as compliment??
I've answered this question before, so this time I'll give the short version.
My tone is going to be a bit brusque, not towards you, but towards people who feel entitled to use whatever they see to choreograph, teach, or perform others' material.
1) In the US, we copyright numbers like so:
If you don't have it in you to research the equivalent in your own locale, that's too bad.
Added note, the only legal advice with any value whatsoever comes from legal professionals. Backstage discussions don't count unless the people involved in them are legal professionals.
2) Most performers would rather be attributed and hired and paid than have their work "complimented" by "appropriation."
3) If you're thinking about doing a tribute to someone, the best person to ask is--BIG SHOCK--the person themselves!
4) Acts you think may be classic reproductions may not be. Acts you think may be original may not be. People you think are dead may not be, and even if they are their families or others may hold rights to their material.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Mother’s Day Burlesque Brunch
A Salute To The Mothers Of Burlesque
Featuring Legendary Burlesque Queens
THE WORLD FAMOUS *BOB*
Show starts @ 1:30PM Doors open @ 12:30PM
Tickets and More Information
The World Famous *BOB* and Jo Weldon of The New York School of Burlesque will co-host this landmark event featuring The Mother’s of Burlesque, Dixie Evans, Dee Milo and Toni Elling. The event will feature a question and answer panel with these legendary Burlesque Queens, select performance and tribute numbers by Angie Pontani, Mstickle, Jo Boobs, Perle Noire, Dr Lucky, The World Famous *BOB*, Ruby Valentine and DJ Momotaro. This is the first time in over a quarter of a century that these legends of burlesque are being showcased in New York City. This is truly a one of a kind event, not to be missed.
DIXIE EVANS - Nobody around today has done more to keep the memory of burlesque alive than Dixie Evans. As the current conservator of Exotic World (a position she's held since 1989), Evans watches over a remarkable collection of g-strings, pasties, fans, and photographs from the golden age of the bump-and-grind. What makes her involvement more incredible is that Evans has a personal connection to 1950's strippers--she was one herself. Back in the era where most strippers had a gimmick, Evans was handed hers on a silver screen platter. Marilyn Monroe fever was running rampant due in no small part to the star's admission that she was indeed the nude model featured in the first issue of Playboy. Evans had been dancing on the circuit since the early 50's, but it wasn't until she decided to become burlesque's answer to Monroe that her career really took off.
TONI ELLING - Toni Elling got her name from Duke Ellington, a close friend of hers, when she began performing in the 1960s. She became known for her originality and her skillful strut.
DEE MILO - Dee Milo is a Burlesque historical figure. She was born in the year 1930 in Queens, New York. At a very young age she moved to San Francisco and when she was old enough started dancing and gained the stage name "Dee Milo Venus of Dance." Between 1949 and 1964 she traveled and lived around the world including Japan, Mexico, and the United States performing in theaters, clubs, and USO Shows.
THE WORLD FAMOUS *BOB* - Known for her over the top blonde bombshell image *BOB* has captivated audiences all over the world with her unique Burlesque stylings, humorous performance art, and MC skills. Famous for mixing martinis in her cleavage *BOB* combines her unique sex appeal with a strong sense of humor to bring you the best in burlesque.
JO "BOOBS" WELDON- Jo is the Founder and Headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque. She has been awarded the title of "Best Teacher" in Arts and Entertainment in the Village Voice, and Best Burlesque Teacher and Mentor at the New York Burlesque Festival.
ANGIE PONTANI - Bedazzled Brooklyn Bombshell Angie Pontani is "The Reigning Queen of Burlesque, Mis Exotic World 2008". She is one of the most sought after burlesque performers in the world. Her classic style, contemporary edge, impeccable costuming, choreography and physique, has made her the go to gal for anyone and everyone who appreciates a serious approach to serious entertainment! She has performed her signature burlesque acts all over the globe, doing her part to bring glamour back to entertainment.
MSTICKLE - Crowned the “Queen of gags and gimmicks” for her sorceress-like ability to design and create gorgeous and unparalleled costumes.
PERLE NOIRE - Burlesque Sensation Perle Noire the Black Pearl has been featured in the L.A Times, Times Picayune and recently won the "Best Debut" Title at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Pageant for her Amazing Stage Presence, Seductive Moves and Artistry.
RUBY VALENTINE - Miss Ruby Valentine, "The Alabaster Beauty", embodies the spirit and essences of classic striptease. You may have seen her as a burlesque dancer on the hit series Mad Men. Since 2003 she has been a mainstay on the New York burlesque scene.
DR LUCKY – LUCKY has been featured in Bust Magazine, NPR's Morning Edition, NY1, Time.com, and her image has graced the pages of the Washington Post, Washington Blade, Express (DC), Bizarre, L Magazine, and many others. She has appeared in documentaries including 5'2" and Showy and WCTV's critically acclaimed Chronicle, among others. Other awards and accolades include being voted "Sexiest Alien" at Coney Island and being featured in the New York Burlesque Calendar as "May."
DJ MOMOTARO - New York DJ Momotaro can be found spinning for burlesque events such as the annual NY Burlesque Festivals, Exotic World this summer in Las Vegas, and as a resident for The Slipper Room, home of NYC's longest running weekly burlesque show.
Presented by Thirsty Girl Productions & The NY School of Burlesque.
Tickets and More Information
As a budding burlesque beauty how does one promote themselves? I just graduated from Trixie Little Burlesque Bootcamp and had my first performance. I live in the Washington D.C. area. Any tips?
Congratulations on graduation!
It depends on what you want to promote yourself to do! If you want to perform, put together a facebook page, create a few more acts, develop them as much as possible, film them any old way you can (rehearsal space is fine), and offer to help at other shows in order to get to know producers, performers, and venues. For many shows in smaller venues, people hire performers first because they are good performers, but also because they are reliable and easy to get along with, and this offers a chance to let them get to know you that way.
If you see auditions, go to them! Even if you don't get the gig, again, you'll develop a reputation for being reliable and easy to get along with.
Various cities are different, too, so this is just a brief answer.
Never offer to perform for free for gigs for which other performers are getting paid. Most producers are also performers, and will feel you're undercutting them. Plus, you'll be lowering the price for all performers, and the business can't sustain performers if they can't afford to keep performing because they aren't getting paid enough.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Pastie adhesive. What do you prefer? I've been using spirit gum, but started to become sensitive to it recently. Looking for a less harsh alternative.
I usually use double-sided garment tape, which does mark me up a little. Dirty Martini always uses eyelash glue. Miss Indigo Blue uses spirit gum. We're all experts and we don't use the same adhesives. You'll find out through trial and error what works for your skin type, type of pasties you use, and the conditions under which you work.
For even more unhelpful contradiction, check out my blog post, "Paste Won't Keep your Pasties On:"
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Is it really so bad to copy moves you see other dancers doing? It happens all the time. And chances are, the person most known for doing the moves, didn't originate it.
I teach people moves which they then all know and which many of them then do. Obviously people do the same moves.
As for appropriating a relatively unique move, or one that as you say the person doing may not have originated, it depends on how associated the dancer is with the move. If they are well known for it, you'll just bore people by repeating it, or possibly pale by comparison. Same with music--if someone uses a piece of music outside the typical burlesque canon, and you also use it, it may not matter; or you may pale by comparison, or they may pale by comparison with you. Of course, it depends on uncountable factors that make each situation unique.
There is a frequent misunderstanding about this, however. A move can't be copyrighted, but choreography can, in the same way that a note can't be copyrighted, but a series of notes that make up a song can. Choreography is a repeatable series of moves. A champagne glass isn't a copyrightable prop idea, but a specific design of a champagne glass is.
Some areas are gray, some are not, but one thing is definitely clear: if you do a move associated with someone else, people may or may not feel contempt for you, but if they have seen a lot of burlesque and associate the move with someone else, they won't be thrilled when you do it; it becomes a "been there, seen that." If that's the effect a dancer wants to have on the audience, there's no reason why s/he should ever try to be inventive and original.
Here are some concepts in choreography and copyright:
And one thing we all know is that people come up with the same ideas independently of each other. But that's understood. Try googling "intellectual property," "proof of access," and "substantial similarity" to get a sense of concepts that address whether or not random inspiration is responsible for these coincidences in particular cases.
Monday, April 26, 2010
How do you deal with dancers who bring their friends in the dressing room? I don't like it. What can I do about it?
As with everything, it depends on many factors, but most of the time we want as few people backstage as possible. Politely let them know it's your workspace, not your playspace. Before the show it's awful to have people's friends backstage. Most backstage areas just aren't that spacious, and sometimes right before we go onstage we're mentally running our choreography in our heads and have trouble being sociable. Most experienced performers ask first, if they even consider bringing anyone back. If someone's making a documentary about you, I'm pretty sure I don't want them backstage at a moment's notice--ask about photography and videography backstage way in advance, not the day of the show. After the show it may or may not be okay, but it's usually more likely to be okay than before the show.
If someone doesn't believe me, check out this picture of a backstage scene at the Slipper Room and see if you see a whole lot of room for guests!
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I bought a set of ostrich fans a couple of years ago, and I can't find anything on how to care for them. Some of the vanes have separated - is any way to comb them back together? Any suggestions on how to care, and properly store them?
I'm glad you asked! There is something I've been meaning to mention here, and this is a great opportunity.
It's really important for folks to know that burlesque feathers are just feathers, and burlesque rhinestones are like any other rhinestones. This means that cleaning techniques used on feathers that are not on burlesque costumes are the same for feathers that are. So, any google search for feather care or evening wear care, etc., will turn up useful results. This extends to copyright law (NEVER take legal advice from anyone but a lawyer or tax advice from anyone but a tax expert), ettiquette, prop-making, and so on. I mention this only so you know that there are people who have hardcore expertise in such things, and few of them are burlesque performers.
This is the feather care resource I cite in my book:
Here's an additional link on how to take care of ostrich feathers:
And, the two performers I know who know the most about feather care are Catherine D'Lish and Legend Fannie Annie. So I may ask them a few questions and follow up for you--and post it here so folks can find it by googling later.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I would love to go on a tour around the country. Are there clubs that routinely book burlesque dancers, and what are some of them?
One of the few clubs I know that is specifically devoted to booking burlesque, the Slipper Room, eagerly books out of town and international performers. However, they are about to close for major renovations. There may be similar clubs in other cities, but I'm not sure.
It depends on what you want to do. If you are looking to produce shows, you will simply have to do some hard research--google performers in various cities and approach them with huge respect for entering their turf, or google and call venues in those towns--it's freaking HARD WORK, I'm in the middle of doing it now. If you are simply looking for shows to drop into, you would contact the producers of shows, not the venues, to see if they have guest performers. Some do, some don't. Prepare to hunker down! It's amazing how much work it is!
Good luck, and wish me luck with my upcoming tour. I need all the help I can get! ;)
I've worked with several performers from Japan, including Sexy Davinci, a boylesque performer who wowed everybody at last year's New York Burlesque Festival. I first met Erochica Bamboo, The Tokyo Tornado, at the Sex Workers' Film Festival in 2001, which occured in San Francisco at the same time that the first TeaseORama convention was happening in New Orleans. She became Miss Exotic World in 2003
I've also worked a lot with Murasaki Babydoll
Just yesterday this article came out about Asian burlesque performers:
Here's a video of Calamity Chang, who now runs Dim Sum Burlesque, performing in my student showcase last year:
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Hi Jo! I've been wondering, how often should a dancer change her act? I've seen dancers do the same act over and over for years, but I feel pressure to always present something new.
It depends! It depends on the performer and his or her goals, on the venues they're in, etc.
I have to say, I love to see someone repeat an act. Sometimes I don't realize how perfect an act is till I've seen it a few times. I could watch Bambi the Mermaid do her chicken routine another hundred times.
I think you HAVE to add numbers to your repetoire, but with care rather than urgency. I'm not a fan of ALWAYS doing something new because then the acts tend to be under developed. It depends on the venue though--if it's a weekly show, it can be fun to present new things that haven't required a ton of work but have great playful energy. However, people always ask me what big festivals and pageants are seeking, and they are seeking developed performers with finished routines.
At a high level of production, it can take over a year to put one act together. Immodesty Blaize is not doing a new act every weekend, and she gets flown all over the world to perform.
I'm a beginner and I have this idea for a number where I'd select a victim from the audience to sit in a chair on the stage, so I could center my dance around them, flirt with them, etc. I'm not sure how that would go over.
Many many performers do this, or some version of this. When it doesn't work it's because the performer is ignoring the audience; you're not on film with multiple cameras showing all your angles and expressions, you're on stage, and you have to think about what the viewer can see. Also, if you're a beginner, pulling a stranger from the audience...well...strangers aren't all on your side, that's all I'm saying!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Do you think you'll perform striptease forever, or do you think you'll stop at some point, and maybe make an occasional appearance at events like Exotic World 2040? Do you think the burlesque performers today will just keep going?
My focus is somewhat more on teaching and writing than on getting performance gigs, but as long as people will hire me, I'll be grateful to keep performing! Some people might think that a performer should stop when they're "too old," etc., but I'm not a fan of the concepts that someone might be "too out of shape to wear those pants" or "too old to wear that hairstyle." I don't like it when "maintaining dignity" is defined as always avoiding the possibility of being considered laughable or inappropriate. Life's too short.
This is beyond the scope of a short blog post, but here are some tips from my old yahoo group: http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/ACHPS61AnwxYrPM5X6rvILtJIdrcHFJWptMrASeaFlntsuNCXKR68bdrd9UgDgDgtXCYGhNP1zx_ngzDhFDZog/gettingbooked.txt
Sometimes you will come across burlesque show auditions on facebook, craigslist, or burlesque message groups. You need to be careful not to be taken advantage of, or to fall for name dropping producers who may not be on good terms with people with whom they've worked. Often the best way to get into shows is to go to them, watch them, make sure you're a good fit for them, and then approach the producer. Some shows are based on a small pool of performers, some are a set cast, so not all are open to new performers; you have to ask around. A good way to get to know established performers is to be a stage maid or stage kitten; you learn more backstage than anywhere else! Here's an interview I did with a stage kitten who's now a performer:
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
By A. W. Stencell
ECW Press, 2000
This is one of my favorite books about exotic dancing. It isn't strictly about burlesque--remember, both Little Egypt and Sally Rand started out a fairs!--but there is plenty of burlesque in it. Stencell describes the evolution of traveling carnivals from World Fairs and circuses. You'll love the photos and stories of Blaze Fury and Ricki Covette, and you'll get to see Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, and Carrie Finnell in this fabulous carnival environment. You'll get to see the hoochie choochie girls of the early 20th century, as well as the graphic chooch dancers of the late twentieth century. You'll be dazzled by Tirza, the Wine Bath Girl, whose act is still tributed in Coney Island. You'll get the inside scoop on girl show female impersonators from Jaydee Easton. You'll fall in love with Bambi Lane, "The Last of the Tassel Twirlers," who says, "I was the last dancer on the Strates' girl show. As soon as I left the stage they started taking down the show for the last time."
There are also lots of descriptions of candy butchers, comedians, producers, and other folks involved in the shows. One of the most valuable aspects of the book is way it details every aspect of the business functioning behind the glamour, charm, and occasional sleaze of the traveling shows.
A.W. Stencell has served as the president of the Circus Historical Society, and I have to say, the circus has been a huge part of my development as a burlesque performer. When I was a teenager I was hanging out with jugglers and magicians and drag queens, and when I moved to New York I was thrilled to get to know the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. A lot of the New York burlesque scene was distilled out of the independent circus and sideshow world as well as the fetish and drag communities. Being a burlesque performer, I constantly feel as if I've run away with the circus!
I have to add that while Stencell's is a book that warms my heart, I always think of it as a companion piece to the more sobering Carnival Strippers by Susan Meiselas, another one of my must-read recommendations, which paints a very unpretty picture of the experiences many of the girl show performers were having in the late 20th century. As a performer who loves every bit of the history of my stripper sisters and wants to support the soul of every lady who ever flashed for cash, I can never think of the glamour without remembering the grit. A great part of my passion for all these dancers comes from knowing they managed difficult circumstances, that being a naked lady on a stage has a lot of different meanings. I don't know if I would love them quite so fiercely if I thought they'd had it easy.
See excerpts on Google!
Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.
Monday, April 19, 2010
The movie’s seductiveness comes from its sexy acts as well as its dark exploration of these performers’ struggle to pay their bills, their quest for romance and inability to envision life after the world of burlesque. In addition, many topics are explored such as the relationship between sex work, burlesque and feminism. The new burlesque, which is defined as performance art combined with modern dance and political satire, is exploding in New York as well as other major cities."
I appear in the film, and I'll be performing at the Dallas premiere April 30 and teaching in Dallas the following day!
40th Annual USA Film Festival (April 28 - May 2)
DIRTY MARTINI AND THE NEW BURLESQUE
Friday, April 30, 9:30pm
Angelika Film Center, Dallas
5341 E. Mockingbird Lane (in Mockingbird Station)
Advance tickets will be on sale via Ticketmaster beginning APRIL 16 at 214-631-2787.
Visit the film's website for more information!
Dirty onstage in The Sex Workers Art Show in Boston. Photo by me.
Read my interview with Dirty
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Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.
Is it ok to do "tribute" pieces in the honor of burlesque performers who are still actively performing, and if so, do you think it is best to ask for permission, or can you just do it?
Of course it depends. But generally, most performers would rather be hired than honored.
Sherry Britton worked with me on my tribute act to her. She worked on my costume, hair, music, and movement with me.
I think there are new performers who believe that many of us are doing acts out of a canon of burlesque acts, but most of us are doing our own numbers. Most of us would rather be paid than imitated; most of us would rather have the audience respond directly to us than to someone else doing a tribute to us. And even though many of the legends of burlesque are retired, their acts still belong to them, and it can be incredibly insulting to do a "tribute" without talking to them about your intentions before you begin to put the act together.
Recreating someone else's act is likely to be pure and simple copyright infringement. The US copyright office has a category that applies: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl119.html. An interesting example of this was when the producers at Burlesque at the Beach in Coney Island started, in the 1990s, to close most of the burlesque shows with a wine bath in a salute to Tirza, and called it "Tirza's Wine Bath." Tirza heard about it and sued to them to cease and desist. You can check out Tirza in one of my favorite books, Girl Show: http://tinyurl.com/tirzawb
Can you do a burlesque number where you go from say, a gown to a corset piece or a one piece and end it there? Or... does it have to be down to pasties and underwear or gstring, etc?
To me, a tease is not fully realized without an eventual reveal. I have to do it all the time, to do demonstrations for morning shows and in bookstores, to show techniques and the flavor of a burlesque striptease, without getting kicked out; but that's not in a SHOW. But I don't think it's much of a tribute to the history of ladies who really did strip to refuse to go as far as they did. To me, striptease is the element that was left behind when mid-twentieth-century burlesque circuits shut down. Their variety performers had the option to move into radio, film, television, etc., while strippers were left behind or quarantined into the sex industry. And pasties and g-strings, after all, are some of the most unique elements of burlesque costuming, so it's a shame to not employ them and then end up wearing something that could be worn in any old venue. And for me personally, the idea of casting myself as "ladylike," or as anything other than a stripper, is repugnant.
There are burlesque performers who don't strip, and by that I mean performers whose careers take place almost entirely in burlesque shows, but who are not burlesque stripteasers. An MC or tap dancer or aerialist who works almost entirely in burlesque shows is still a burlesque performer, to me. But it doesn't sound like you're asking me about being a variety performer.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Does one need to be a burlesque performer to be part of New York City's burlesque community? It seems like everyone knows everyone here! I'm a fan of the burlesque that I've seen in the city, but I'm certainly not a dancer.
Not at all! We have fans who regularly attend shows very involved in our community, and we also have photographers, artists, costumers, and more who are definitely considered part of the family.
We make our costumes or have them made, but you can get started at Halloween Adventure at Broadway and 11th, and you can get tassels from our good friends at Patricia Field's on Bowery! Check out the stripper stores on the north side of 4th Street just west of 6th Avenue. And glam your purchased costumes with trim and crystals from the Garment District, which is in the upper west 30s:
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I notice that most performers like to glam it up with corsets, heels, and feathers. However, what if you feel at your sexiest sporting a suit and tie, a la Marlene Dietrich? Is it still acceptable?
You can wear whatever you want, as long as you take it off ;)
Some shows I've been to have a girl just stripping to a rock song. What is the line between a burlesque act and just any stripper act? Besides the audiences being different, and the motivation of the dancer being different.
Sometimes the audiences and the motivation of the dancer are the only differences. Those are big differences!
However, what I like to see are references to the movements and mischief in vintage burlesque--not a throwback, but a flavor in the performance that indicates that the performer knows s/he represents a long line of undomesticated ladies.
And a performer can't really get to the next level, as far as getting hired goes, if s/he doesn't present some kind of glamourous spectacle or exciting story line. Otherwise s/he'll very likely just keep getting bar gigs.
Some performers, however, get flown all over the world to get gigs!
Friday, April 16, 2010
"BURLESQUE UNDRESSED is a lavish and dazzling journey right into the heart of the art-form, featuring a compelling mix of live performance, interviews from burlesque stars past and present, captivating music and all-round show-stopping entertainment. British burlesque superstar Immodesty Blaize peels back the curtain to reveal her world of high-octane glamour, and gives an exclusive peep behind-the-scenes to expose the work involved in the art of the tease to produce a signature act of perfection."
I first saw Immodesty when she performed at the New York Burlesque Festival in 2005, and everybody stopped and said, "Who is THAT?"
Kalani Kokonuts, me, Dixie Evans, Liz Goldwyn, and Immodesty Blaize at the reception for Dita Von Teese's opening night at Crazy Horse, Las Vegas.
If you watch this film, you won't know much about Immodesty's personal history or how she came to be in burlesque, but you'll know a lot about being a showgirl. In my book I focus on how to get started; but for anyone who has made it to the point in his or her burlesque career where they want to bring it to the level of a full theatrical showgirl production, this is where you'll learn, among other things, that it takes as long as two years to put together an entire show. My favorite quote in regard to understanding what goes into a high-level showgirl routine is when Immodesty says that someone once asked her where she bought her rocking horse prop, and she said, "Oh, at a rocking horse prop shop."
As with giant champagne glass props, you usually can't just pick one up--you have to be involved in the design process and production.
The film shows some of her outrageously glamourous performances in full, including the rocking horse number and her telephone number. Viewers will be completely dazzled by her costumes and by her fiercely sensual persona, which is reminiscent of Italian film stars of the 50s and 60s. She talks about the history of burlesque, about choosing music for numbers, and having costumes made. There are interviews with neo-burlesque performers such as Catherine D'Lish, Dirty Martini, Kalani Kokonuts, Perle Noir, and more, as well as clips of their performances, as well as interviews with burlesque legends like Satan's Angel, Dixie Evans, and Joan Arline.
My photo of Immodesty's shoes, in rehearsal in NYC for the Queens of Burlesque show.
It's a visually breathtaking film, and well worth the shipping from the UK!
Order the DVD
Read my interview with Immodesty
Visit Immodesty's website
If you use this blog post you must include the following footer, including links:
Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.