Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is it appropriate or inappropriate for performers to bring their own contracts for producers of shows, big or little, to sign that include information such as pay, photo and video rights and release, call times, ect. It seems like small town shows are som

Your question is cut off after "smalltown shows are som..."

The annoying answer to this is, it depends.

The majority of smaller shows that take place in bars aren't going be remotely interested in contracts.

If you don't want to be filmed or have your picture taken, or have specific requests about such, you should by no means be expected to violate your limits.

It can be a challenge to work with a show that has been operating as it is for several years and bring a contract that asks them to change their standards for one performer--although there is certainly nothing wrong with making suggestions or voicing opinions, or with sticking by what you need to have or do in order to feel that you are being treated correctly (which often means not taking the gig).

I believe it's important for performers to tell shows when they feel their policies are unfair or exploitative. However, it gets tough when other performers in the show are satisfied and don't feel exploited and you are the only one with an objection.

What is unfair in every way is to talk smack about a show without telling the producers how you feel, and to get paranoid about imaginary gatekeepers who produce the shows. They are usually just overworked and not thinking when they're being rude or unfair. Most show producers want to hear from you, even if they may not enjoy it and may seem resistant at the time. If they don't want to hear from you, you don't want work with them anyway!

Follow the link below for some interesting points about negotiation:

Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chair Dance

Every time I teach a chair dance class, I end up thinking not of strip tease, but of some of my favorite examples of ways to play on a classic chair dance. Here are a few clips for inspiration and amusement!



Office Olympics

Janet Jackon

Friday, April 15, 2011

A local burlesque school is holding its graduation show in a few weeks and half of the new performers have chosen stage names already in use by established burlesque performers. What is the proper way to handle this situation?

This is a tough one. Issues with stage names have been coming up almost weekly lately. I tell my students that commonality--a name that is the same as or too similar to existing names--is a real detriment to their career potential. I think it's fair to let them know!

Here's a document I'm working on to help students avoid difficulties with their names. It's open to comments and suggestions! I welcome critique of this, descriptions of names you like, and madeup examples of names you don't like, as long as you say why ("It's self-explanatory" really isn't.)


It can be very confusing to come up with a stage name. New performers want their names to sound burlesquey, but they risk coming up with a name that will make them blend in with the crowd. If they try to hard to avoid blending in with the crowd, they run the risk of having too difficult of a name. However, chances are good that if they come up with a name that feels more personal, they'll avoid most of the pitfalls.

The following is not a critique of existing names! If your name breaks the rules below, we don't care. This is a guide for folks who are coming up with new stage names to avoid potential issues among those who already have stage names.

Our goal is not to make you conform but to help you avoid conforming, and not to make you less offensive but to help you get as many gigs as possible.

None of this applies to names you had before you got to burlesque. If you were born Kitten Lola Martini Von L'Amour, so be it.

Problem: Commonality.
Definition: Having a name that is too common or is likely to get you confused with someone else.
Examples: Kitty, Cherry, Lulu, and similar. Lamour, Martini, Deville, and similar.
Reasons to avoid: If someone googles looking for you, someone who has had a similar name longer will come up first and will get your gigs. Also, you'll get lost in the crowd.

Problem: Punnage.
Definition: Having a name that is a pun.
Example: Miss Behave.
Reasons to avoid: It is probably already in use, and if it isn't, it's probably too obscure.

Problem: Difficulty.
Definition: Having a name that is hard to spell, pronounce, or hear correctly.
Examples: Kayrain Kadylllackk, Saoirse (unless you're actually Irish), etc.
Reasons to avoid: You will be repeatedly annoyed when your name is spelled wrong on promo, mispronounced by MCs, and misheard by audience members. Because you are constantly annoyed by the results of something that is your own doing, fewer people will like you.


Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shoes. I am a flat-shoe girl trying to break into a high heel world. Do you recommend a style to start with (I just wobble on stilettos, and it restricts my movements) and some sources to start with?Thank you in advance!

My Red Pollys

Take your time, and don't worry about working your way up to the very highest heel. Dita Von Teese has her Louboutins, strip joint strippers their lucite Pleasers, but for most of us in burlesque, anything over four inches is a bit much. True, I have my eight-inch lucite tip jar shoes, but I wear them only when I'm hosting, and not when I'm dancing.

You can start in character shoes. Take a look at some here:

Then try these sparklers once you get comfortable in character shoes, available from New York School of Burlesque friend PinupGirl Clothing:

Many New York burlesquers are addicted to Pollys, available in various versions from Pinup Girl, Betsey Johnson, Patricia Field, Bordello Shoes, and on Ebay. I love them so much I wrote an article about them:

Personally, I can be in a terrible mood, but the minute I step into a pair of heels I feel not only taller, but lighter. Dolly Parton says, "The higher the hair, the closer to God." And a pair of heels raises not only your mood and your behind, but your hair as well!


Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Burlesque Hall of Fame 2011 TOURNAMENT OF TEASE

From BHOF:

We’re thrilled to announce the lineup for BHOF Weekend’s 21st annual Tournament of Tease. Dubbed “The Superbowl of Striptease” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), “The Grand National–The Oscars–of burlesque striptease” (London Daily Telegraph) and “The world’s top showcase of international burlesque entertainers” (Las Vegas Sun), the Saturday night competition features top-flight entertainers from around the globe, each hoping to earn coveted specialty titles and their place among the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s 2011 royal court.

Angelique DeVil (Portland, OR)
Charlotte Treuse (Portland, OR)
Ginger Valentine (Dallas, TX)
Imogen Kelly (Sydney, Australia)
Iva Handfull (Seattle, WA)
LouLou D’vil (Tampere, Finland)
Minnie Tonka (Brooklyn, NY)
Miss La Vida (Auckland, New Zealand)
Randi Rascal (Seattle, WA)
Stella LaRocque (Chicago, IL)

Bazuka Joe (Chicago, IL )
Captain Kidd (Brisbane, Australia)
Jett Adore (Chicago, IL)
Mahogany Storm (Toronto, Canada)

Brown Girls Burlesque (New York, NY)
The Dolls of Doom (Chicago, IL )
Melody Sweets & The Candy Shop Boys (New York, NY)
Razzle Tassel Tease Show (Vancouver, Canada)
The Schlep Sisters (Brooklyn, NY)
The Stage Door Johnnies (Chicago, IL )

Anna Fur Laxis (Yorkshire, UK)
Coco Lectric (Austin, TX)
Miss Indigo Blue (Seattle, WA)
Kristina Nekyia (Los Angeles, CA)
Lily Verlaine (Seattle, WA)
Lux LaCroix (Los Angeles, CA)
Melody Mangler (Vancouver, Canada)
Midnite Martini (Denver, Colorado)
MsTickle (New York, New York)
Nasty Canasta (Brooklyn, New York)
Ophelia Flame (Minneapolis, MN)
Sparkly Devil (San Francisco, CA)
Sweetpea (Minneapolis, MN)
Vicky Butterfly (London, England)

Get all the details about the show here!


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Interview with Burlesque Legend Dee Milo.

With their express permission, I teach the moves certain legends of burlesque have taught directly to me. One of my favorites is the one I call "The Dee Milo," a naughty little forward bump n bend move that Dee did in the 1950s and still does today. Dee performs regularly at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Reunions, has taught there and at Burlycon, and traveled to New York last year to perform in our Mother's Day Burlesque Show. You can learn her move from my book--or better yet, go to Las Vegas this June and see her perform yourself! In anticipation of that fabulous weekend, I'm reposting my interview with Dee, for your pleasure.

Image from The Las Vegas Sun.

When did you get into burlesque?

How did you come up with your stage name?
My manager wanted to keep it short to fit on marquees. Since my name is Dorothy we used Dee, and then we used "Milo" so I could be called the "Venus of Dance."

Where did you begin?
New Orleans. I had great instruction from our female master of ceremonies. I don't remember her name! I don't even remember the name of the club. Somewhere on Bourbon Street. I worked a few clubs there, I don't remember anyone I worked with. When I came back to San Francisco I became a headliner in the early 50s. I worked at The Barbary Coast and the President Theater. I worked my way through Los Angeles and San Diego. I didn't make friends with many at first because the house gals don't like headliners, but I made friends with Jennie Lee in Mexico-- we became bosom buddies! In 1957 were on the same billing. I was co-star and she was the star.

What are some of your fondest memories?
Traveling in Mexico and Japan. I loved the theater in Mexico City where I met Jennie Lee. We had leather coats and shoes made together. When I worked in Japan I couldn't help but love the way I was put on pedestal. They were so wonderful, the way they greeted me and made sure everything was taken care of. I got such personal service. I always had an assistant, same as in Mexico, who helped me dress and took care of my wardrobe. The assistant was provided by the club and I didn't have to hire them. I stayed six months in Japan. I had an agent there. The theater in Osaka in 1962/63 was marvelous, huge and fancy compared to today. Dressing rooms were very private and lovely. Then I came back to the States and oh boy! (laughs) Not so fancy!

Dee Milo
Dee rides offstage at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Striptease Reunion, 2009.

Your most scandalous moment?
While I was in San Diego I decided to try a different version of my signature "Sentimental Journey" number using the song "I Married an Angel." I changed from coming on with my suitcase into coming on in a wedding gown. The police were going to arrest me and shut the club down because they said using a wedding gown for a strip act was sacrilegious! I went back to "Sentimental Journey." In Mexico they were so strict the theater wasn't supposed to show bare legs on the posters on the marquee. We decided to push the limit indoors. I wore a fur g string in an act! Audience members shouted "Pelo! Pelo!" They loved it! The police started coming up on the side of the stage, and I took off the fur g-string and had a plain flesh-colored g string on under the fur. If you can get the publicity without getting arrested you should go for it.

What were some of your signature performances?
"Sentimental Journey" is my signature act. The music and the words tell the story. I'd come out in street clothes carrying the suitcase, take a negligee and gown out of the case, and then have the gown drop from under the negligee. If we had a young man in from the audience I would get on his lap and "claim" him. Then I would then place myself on the bed, the man would walk over, and they'd wipe the lights. It was a very well-liked number, and the women in the audience would comment on how nice it was that I left the stage dressed. I would do this number in every show I did, and if I did a nightclub gig I would do just this number. You could always push the envelope more in nightclubs.

That's the way it is now too. We can take more risks in nightclubs, especially in New York, than in more structured shows.
I never worked in New York, but I worked in Boston. (laughs)

Did you twirl tassels? I did! I could do it all, including bending over backwards to twirl and twirling tassels on my behind.

Do you remember seeing any other burlesque performers and admiring them? Did you ever meet people who were legends to you?
I really liked seeing Lili St. Cyr. I saw her in Burbank, in her giant champagne class. I didn't get to meet her, though. It was so beautiful, and she moved very artistically. I just thought, "Wow, if I could stage something that great!" But I'm on the lazy side and it would have been a lot of work carrying that champagne glass around.

That's so funny! I just wrote an article about giant champagne glasses and said it would be too hard for me to haul around. I'm on the lazy side too, that way.
I tried having a shower on stage in Mexico, and after going through setting it up a few times I said, "Forget that one!" If your personality can push you out there to the audience, that's the most important thing. You can have all kinds of great props but not be able to put it across. Lili did both.

Above image by Dennis Cardiff, available for purchase. Used with permission.

Are you glad you got into burlesque?
I wouldn't give up the experience I had for anything. If I'd stayed here I wouldn't be the person I am now. The experience I had touring was great.

When did you stop performing?
I came back to Utah in 1964. I just felt it was time. I decided to embrace the dominant religion in Utah, and my mother said, "Now, if you really repent from all your past sins, you will burn all of your memorabilia and gowns." I bought a house here with the money I'd saved from performing, and I'm still in it. When my daughter was about 10 she found this red red gown in in a box in the attic. I don't know how it hadn't gotten burned! She said, "Look mommy, how pretty!" I didn't tell her what it was at the time. When I saw it, I felt like there was still something of that time remaining in me. I came out of my goody-two-shoes closet.

How did you start again?
I found out about Exotic World by seeing Dixie on the Phil Donahue Show. I just happened to be watching and thought, "Yes, it's about time." I contacted Earl Hansen and said I needed some filming done. I told him I used to be in burlesque and he was shocked, and he'd known me all that time! We did the filming in an Eagle Club. I put on my red dress and did "Sentimental Journey." It gave me the guts to go and perform again at Exotic World.

Dee performing in 2006. Photo by Chris Blakely.

When did you first perform at Exotic World?
In 1995 I contacted Dixie and said, "I think I can perform for you." She was very excited and billed me good! There was a huge crowd at the show and it had so much publicity. HBO filmed it, and the Learning Channel. And tht's how the whole state of Utah found out about my past in burlesque! I have no complaints, it has been an all-around great time. The fans are great and everybody at Exotic World is so nice.

How did you come to perform at Teaseorama? When did you first start performing there?
My lover saw it on Maury Povich and suggested that I do it. I did it and I managed to fit my number into a minute and a half!

I have to tell you, and forgive my corniness, I saw that number and I cried a little. I think it had partly to do with my having been a stripper and having felt the disgust of a lot of society, and then seeing you up there being so loved was fabulous, and I loved you too and I thought, "If I can love her, I can love me too."
Oh yes, certainly a lot of society thought that we in burlesque were the crud of the earth. We felt that too.

What do you think of the performers you've seen at Exotic World and Tease-O-Rama?
I like Daisy Delight--I like gals that can move! Joan Arline does a nice number with class, and her son is very nice. I enjoy Paula the Swedish Housewife and she and I had so much fun in Vegas. I love the new performers and they've all been wonderful to me. Everybody's been so gracious and I couldn't ask for better feelings. My traveling companions were awed by how the star performers like Tigger were coming up to me and how affectionate and appreciative everyone was. Meeting fans is a highlight.

Have you performed in Salt Lake City?
You know, Roger Bennington was putting a show together in Salt Lake City with Dirty Martini and Julie Atlas Muz, and Dirty said to him, "Hey, you have a star right here in your town!" So they brought me in and made me a headliner! Those ladies are great to me. All the new perfomers have such a drive to do burlesque. They do great work.

Have you thought about teaching burlesque?
They want to me teach right here in Salt Lake City! People who work for Catalyst Magazine have been encouraging me to do it. So many young ones here want to learn the old fashioned way.

What do you do now?
I'm a massage therapist. I make the body feel good! I've been doing it for 25 years, started with reflexology and went into accupressure. Then I worked with a physical therapist, got my license, and I love it. I'm into crystals and other airy fairy things. Check out the part of my site that says "Body Balance."

Anything you want to say to the newest performers?
Go for it! It's also a great sexuality excercise.

Dee Milo on CBS News
Dee Milo in The Las Vegas Mercury

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Burlesque Handbook Wins an Award!

The book's designer, Paula Szafranski at HarperCollins, won an award from the Book Industry Guild of New York for the design of The Burlesque Handbook!

It was a pleasure to be able to work with Paula and I was so thrilled when I first saw her design. It's a real honor to be associated with her work!

You can look inside the book here and see her fabulous work.

The Burlesque Handbook
Tamara's copy.

Learn more about the Book Industry Guild.

I've been a lucky lucky lucky lady to be working with Paula, Rakesh Satyal, and the other amazing folks at HarperCollins!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ms Tickle

Photo by me, 2002, at Sutie 16.

I've been performing with Ms. Tickle for over 10 years, and her quote in my handbook is one of my favorites:

"A burlesque number is a short theatrical piece that uses the human body and the processes of "the reveal" to communicate an idea or concept. Burlesque is recognition, kinship, livelihood, self-inquiry, struggle, and a million laughs."

"Wings of Desire"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I am having a very hard time coming up with a stage name! Are there any tips in your book? Do you have any suggestions on how to come up with a good stage name? Thanks!

There are lots of tips in my book for coming up with a stage name. One of them is that if you're planning to perform, you want to make sure that your name is not to similar to a name in use by an exisitng performer so that people don't get you confused. Doing research of this kind is very important.

In class, I usually tell people to start out by just playing with names and having fun with the process before they settle on anything. I always love to have my students play a name game in which they use the name of a flower and the name of a cheese. It loosens them up and gets them thinking about the rhythm of an appealing name. I even posted a burlesque name generator several years ago to get them going.


But you can choose any kind of name that feels right to you.
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Ask me anything about Burlesque!