Above: Photo of Jo Weldon by Dallas Pinup.
When I first started working in strip joints in 1980, there were still what we now call “Legends of Burlesque” working in the clubs, usually as costumers or house mothers. And they HATED us. They had worked in the 40s-70s and they’d had minks and limousines and choreographers and champagne and feather boas and had all been engaged to Frank Sinatra. We were whores in spandex who were destroying the art form with our full nudity and jukeboxes and lack of artistry. I certainly wasn’t inclined to think of them as mentors. Realistically, they didn’t have much to offer in terms of helping me make more money–their era, which in some cases was only ten years past, had a different format. If I had done what they did I wouldn’t have gotten the results they got. Also, I didn’t care to be trained to end up stuck in a strip club I detested. I did, however, adore them for their stories. And their incredible hair and nails. And I really wanted to get paid to prance around in a beaded gown and play with ostrich fans and boas, although it took me another 12 years to figure out how to make that happen.
Remembering how they alienated us, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on how the established performers of 2013 might relate to the new blood. Even if you disagree, I hope it gives you food for thought.
1) Remember that things are supposed to change. If burlesque looked the same as it did fifteen years ago, that would be weird. And if you were doing the exact same thing you were doing fifteen years ago you’d be bored out of your skull.
2) Give them a reason to care what you think. If you think that they’re destroying the art form, why should they care? Are they having fun making new friends and earning money doing what they love and delighting audiences with their aesthetic? Are you considering paying to get into their shows? WHY should they care what you think?
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