Full disclosure: My publisher, HarperCollins, is also Liz Goldwyn's publisher, as well as Dita Von Teese's. HarperCollins KNOWS burlesque! But I bought Liz's book before I ever had a book contract, and it is spectacular. It is one of the most amazing books you'll find on the subject of mid-20th century burlesque striptease.
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
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