Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Naked Truth--From Judith Lynne Hanna

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As a burlesque performer with a substantial history as a strip joint stripper, I'm frequently asked what the difference is between burlesque and strip joint stripping, and my favorite difference to cite is that nobody ever asks strip joints strippers what the difference is between burlesque and stripping.

Burlesque performers do need to differentiate their style for professional purposes, in order to help the venues and produers who book them choose the right kind of performance for their intentions. Some also prefer not to be conflated with the sex-industry-immediacy of strip joints, while others actually also work as strippers and want to differentiate for professional reasons alone. Many burlesque performers are perfectly comfortable being called strippers and don't care if their moral turpitude is aligned with strip joints.

Of course, it rarely occurs to anyone to consider whether or not strip joint strippers would want to be conflated with burlesque. There is sometimes a touch of condescending magnaminity, or a sense that some burlesque performers are almost disturbingly eager to show that they're capable of appreciating strippers, if the strippers are doing some really cool moves that they can imagine have street cred. Many strip joint strippers are pretty aware that they're bad-ass and that their booty-clap, pole trick, or slow burn is worthy of approbation, and don't care if people think they've ever taken a ballet, theater, or circus class. If they are particularly aware of burlesque, they tend to enjoy it but would rather not spend $1000 on a costume to make $100 a night.

For the most part, however, burlesque performers are a rowdy bunch who aren't at all worried about being perceived as strippers, seeing as how they take off their clothes in public and all.

When I was a busy anti-censorship activist, I spent a lot of time studying ways that the First Amendment applied to adult entertainment, and one of my favorite fellow activists was Judith Lynne Hanna. Even when I didn't see things exactly the same way, I appreciated her thoroughness and perspective. Following is the table of contents for her 2012 book Naked Truth. Almost all of these things are discussed in an informal way by strip joint strippers, amongst themselves, and with clientele and management, but Dr. Hanna has a gift for presenting her research and observations in a way that strikes a note of reason from the bar room to the class room to the court room. It's amazing to me how many aspects there are to the topic of exotic dancing, and I've never grown tired of thinking about it.

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Naked Truth

Strip Clubs, Democracy

and a Christian Right

by Judith Lynne Hanna

Across America, strip clubs have come under attack by a politically aggressive segment of the Christian Right. Using plausible-sounding but factually untrue arguments about the harmful effects of strip clubs on their communities, the Christian Right has stoked public outrage and incited local and state governments to impose onerous restrictions on the clubs with the intent of dismantling the exotic dance industry. But an even larger agenda is at work, according to Judith Lynne Hanna. In Naked Truth, she builds a convincing case that the attack on exotic dance is part of the activist Christian Right’s “grand design” to supplant constitutional democracy in America with a Bible-based theocracy.

Hanna takes readers onstage, backstage, and into the community and courts to reveal the conflicts, charges, and realities that are playing out at the intersection of erotic fantasy, religion, politics, and law. She explains why exotic dance is a legitimate form of artistic communication and debunks the many myths and untruths that the Christian Right uses to fight strip clubs. Hanna also demonstrates that while the fight happens at the local level, it is part of a national campaign to regulate sexuality and punish those who do not adhere to Scripture-based moral values. Ultimately, she argues, the naked truth is that the separation of church and state is under siege and our civil liberties—free speech, women’s rights, and free enterprise—are at stake.

A leading dance scholar and critic who has served as an expert court witness in more than one hundred exotic dance cases nationwide, JUDITH LYNNE HANNA is Affiliate Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland. She has written hundreds of articles and numerous books, including To Dance Is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication; The Performer—Audience Connection; Dance, Sex and Gender; Dancing for Health: Conquering and Preventing Stress; and Partnering Dance and Education.


Prelude: Sparks Fly: Church-State Conflict 1

An Awakening

From Strip Club to Religion

Aftershock of Secularism and Sexual Revolution

More Surprises

Why Christian Right Activists Attack Exotic Dance

Full Disclosure


Chapter 1: Scripture and Hostility to Exotic Dance

Reasons for Christian Right Opposition


Soldiers of the Cross

Money and Influence

Challengers in Christian Right

The Body and Dance

The Uncovered Body and Lust

Patriarchy Challenged

The Nature of Men



The First Amendment Umbrella

Chapter 2: Fighting Exotic Dance: Call to War 32

The Attack

General Political Strategy

Adverse Secondary Effects Campaign

Allegations Challenged

Criteria for Evidence

Disregard of Evidence

Indecent, Lewd, and Obscene

Government Regulation under a Mythical Pretext

Other Government Actions

Psychological and Physical Attack

An Illustrative Case: Phil Burress and the Citizens for Community Values

Chapter 3: Target of Attack: Striptease 101 or Seduction by the Devil 71

Who’s Onstage

Getting There

Serious “Speech”

Exotic Dance Dialect

Components of Exotic Dance


Private Dance

The Art of It

Pecking Order and Social Class

Artistic Value

Dance “Class”

Adult Play for Pay

“Satan’s” Ploys

Turning On

Reading for the Connection


Moving It

Close Up and Touching

Music and Setting

Socially Redeeming Values

Chapter 4: Nudity Touch, and Sex: Marginal or Mainstream 127

“Sinful Nudity” Is American

Simulated Nudity


Dancer-Patron Touch

Simulated Sex

Chapter 5: “Rottweilers” Lock Their Jaws: Bench Trials 140

Arrests in a Family Business

Why Raid Showcase Theater?

Club Fights and Wins First Round

Round Two: The 2003 Attack

Public Hearing on Proposed Exotic Dance Regulations

Regulations (CB-86-2003) Passed

Legal Challenge

The Battle Continues: Round Three

Commissioned Report

Raids on Club Exstasy

Harassment of Showcase Theater

More Laws

“New” Regulations (CB-61-2006)

Another Lawsuit against Prince George’s County


Chapter 6: Shooting Nude Crotches: Jury Trials 165

Class Act in Cannon Falls

Destiny’s Case

Paris’s Case

Sugar Daddy’s in Benton County

Amy’s Case

Community Positive Feedback on Exotic Dance

About the Economy

Secondary Effects

Trampling Rights

Misplaced Morality

Respect for Women

Artistic Value

Community Negative Feedback on Exotic Dance

Serious Artistic Merit

Brandy’s Case

Community Talk-Back


Chapter 7: Exotic Dancers and Labor: Need to be Saved? 184

Kinds of Clubs

Good Bosses

Bad Patrons and Bosses

Pluses and Minuses

Financial Disputes

Truth Be Told

Chapter 8: Christian Right Claims Club Crime: Where Are the Bodies? 210

Murder: Boyfriends, Husbands, Police, Mafia, and Others

Different Violence

Dancer Aggression

Attacks on Property




Violations of Laws Specifically Regulating Clubs

Questionable Police Tactics

Stigmatization of Exotic Dance


So, Where Are the Bodies? Evidence?

Chapter 9: Stripping Your First Amendment and More 241

The Defense of Exotic Dance

Duel in the Desert and Moral Scold

Reactive and Proactive Club Resources

Indirect Support

The Constitution

The Courts Speak and Misspeak

Evidence of Adverse Secondary Effects

Economic Impact

Time, Place, and Manner Considerations

Zoning and Alternative Locations

Governmental Interest


Alcoholic Beverage Control




Artistic Choice

Dogma v. Pluralism

Perils of Disregarding the Naked Truth

Appendices 261

1 Exotic Dance 262

2 Comparison 263

3 Exotic Dance Criteria for Serious Artistic Merit

4 Nudity in Exotic Dance 264

5 Messages of Physical Distance 265

6 Expressive Contact in Exotic Dance 266

7 Contact in Social Dance: Lap Dance Heritage 267

8 Exotic Dance Patrons 268

9 Judith Lynne Hanna's Exotic Dance Expert Witness Court Testimony 270

10 Jurisdictions that Attack Exotic Dance 273

11 Key Christian Right Political Activists and Revenue in the News, 1995–2010 270

12 Arsenal of a Segment of the Politically Active Christian Right 282

13 Reality and Myth: What Neighbors Say about Exotic Dance Clubs 283

14 Protection under the Constitution of the United States of America 287

References 297

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jean Idelle at The Burlesque Hall of Fame

The Burlesque Hall of Fame staffers and friends have always worked hard to find women who performed burlesque in the 1940s-1960s and 70s and bring them back together. Some of the most moving things I've ever experienced have been seeing legends find their tribe again for the first time in decades. The following story bears witness to the incredible experience these women often have, and gives you an idea of what it's like to hear their stories an get to know them, and to see them perform with all the knowing charm they had half a century ago.

"LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- She crushed the color barrier, crashed the party and did it all dancing. Now at the age of 82, Jean Idelle is burning up the stage for the first time in decades. News 3's Reed Cowan has more on the life of Jean Idelle who went from obscurity to headlining in Las Vegas."

Burlesque dancer, 82, takes the stage one more time

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How To Rock Red Glitter Lips--from Veronica Varlow!

"The #1 question I get asked by women after I do my shows is…”Where did you get your glitter lipstick?”

"Ah, yes. It’s a magical concoction of sorts. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. I mistakenly bought tons of “glitter lipstick” in the past that never did the trick. I learned the secret formula backstage from my burlesque sisters at The Slipper Room."

Get Veronica's secrets here!

And in case you haven't seen it, here is a a clip of me "teaching" how to makeup glitter lips to our boylesque friend Hard Cory at my book release party show hosted by Storybook Burlesque:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Striptease Expertise

Jo Boobs Weldon Peeling at the Toronto Burlesque Festival
Above: Me stripping out of a red stocking at the Toronto Burlesque Festival.

I am incredibly passionate about striptease and the opportunties it provides and the demands it puts upon a performer. I believe that it is a sensational and radical way to think about communicating to viewers that can inform the stripteaser's self-presentation onstage and off. I think the combination of mischief and glamour with the earthiness of sensuality is a step forward in the evolution of self-realization and the acceptance of shamelessly individualized (as opposed to state-regulated) sexuality. I could (and at some point will) got on for hundreds of pages about this. I'm so serious about this kind of fun!

One of my favorite classes to teach is Striptease Expertise. Below is the content of the handout I share in the class, a set of tips that serve as reminders for the theories and techniques we explore as a group. It is not the full content of the class, just bullet points of key concepts.

Striptease Expertise

Striptease is about making the everyday act of removing clothing into a theatrical event. There has always been nudity onstage, but not until burlesque striptease was there a performing art specifically centered on clothing removal. The women who originally captured the public's imagination by stripping onstage were not necessarily trained dancers or actors, but were often improvising, basing the success of their movements and performance decisions not on an aesthetic or on what looked good in the mirror in a dance studio, but solely on audience response.

Stripteasers who use choreography often rely more on the Choreography of Events than dance choreography. Dropping a glove, for instance, is not a dance move, but an experienced stripteaser knows that if that glove hits the floor on the beat (or the drummer hits the beat for the drop, if live music is employed), the audience gets a bigger thrill. It is worth choreographing so that the glove hits the floor at the optimal point in the music, every time at the same time the performer does the number. So while there may be improvisation between Events, there are choreographed events.

The goal of many contemporary burlesque performances is to engage the audience with a combination of glamour and mischief, and sometimes story-telling or commentary, usually with some reference to the movements of professional stripteasers from the mid-twentieth century. Striptease is the most unique element of these performances. An inventive and knowing garment removal keeps them from texting during your performance. Understanding what makes a striptease compelling is an essential component of making your performance memorable.

Concepts for your Striptease Toolbox:

1. Make imaginary eye contact

2. Identify the sweet spots (laws are based on this)

3. Show them what you're showing them

4. Remember that there is only one camera

5. Let the viewer drink you in

6. Evoke the sense of touch

7. Let the viewer follow your hands

8. Think of yourself as moving toward a 3-d camera

9. Employ a referring glance

10. Your costume is your choreography

11. Make the most of your fasteners

12. Let them see the reveal

Above all, entertain yourself and have fun. A performer who is having fun gives the audience confidence in his/her performance, and there is nothing more irresistible than someone who is enjoying herself!

Copyright Jo Weldon

You can find a more detailed version of this in the print edition of the absolutely stunning magazine produced by 21st Century Burlesque, full of never-before-seen articles and photographs! Check out this stunning labor of love and get a copy for yourelf or your nearest and dearest burlesque aficiando. The quality and beauty of it is breathtaking!

21st Century Burlesque Print Edition

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stage Kitten Etiquette in Pin Curl Magazine

In my almost-monthly column for Pin Curl Magazine, I get to discuss ways and manners in the business of burlesque. I've written about stage kittens before, but every time I do it I find new ways to appreciate them! Following are some excerpts from the newest issue of Pincurl.

“Stage kittens have become iconic elements of many burlesque shows. These are the fabulous creatures you see getting so much time are often also part of the glue that holds the show together. A burlesque show bonus, a stage kitten is the person who picks up the costume pieces and props after a burlesque number. They may also set up props, assist the emcee, gogo dance, sell merchandise between sets, and a whole lot more. A stage kitten can make a show run more smoothly, helping the performers make seamless transitions from number to number.” – Murray Hill

Top Tips for Stage Kittens:

1) Ask the producer (or whoever contacted you to book you for the gig) exactly what they need from you. Since stage kittens can help in so many ways, it’s important to know if there is also a stage manager, if you’ll be expected to collect music, etc. Find out if the gig pays–some producers prefer to hire kittens as unpaid interns, some prefer experienced kittens who already know how to make the job go as smoothly as possible. Even if they are not paying you, treat it as a professional gig. If you don’t want to do the gig for free, don’t do it–that’s much better than doing it and then going around complaining that they don’t pay.

2) Ask them what they’d like you to wear, and don’t let them get away with saying “Whatever you like.” Theatre stage managers usually wear black jeans and t-shirts, but stage kittens are more likely to be seen in fringed gogo outfits–and you may end up go-go-ing in them! Make sure your costume suits the aesthetic of the show, and make sure your shoes are cute but comfortable enough to allow you to run from dressing room to DJ at top speed, should the need arise. Wear makeup and do your hair as if you were going to perform a routine, because you’ll be onstage a lot.

3) Get there before everyone and be ready to go onstage. You should not be doing your makeup when the performers are doing theirs–you should be stage ready and getting their info at that point.

4) Do your best to avoid gossip about the other performers and don’t get involved in talking smack about the venue or producer. If you must talk smack, save that for another place and time.

5) Bring a clipboard and a couple of pens, preferably sharpies, and get everyone’s name (including the staff’s names–and be sure to give those to the emcee as well). Find out from each performer what they need to go onstage, if they have any setup, and WRITE IT DOWN. Find out how many copies of the set list the emcee needs, and write
them up as promptly as possible.

Read the entire article