Interview with Kelly DiNardo

If you haven't yet visited Kelly Di Nardo's Blog, you must. Any fan of burlesque and exotic dance is sure to be thrilled with her articles, links, and interviews.

We decided to interview each other some time ago, and I'm just now in town long enough to start editing all the interviews I've done in the past month. I'm pleased to start my return to blogging with this interview!

First, the adorable Kelly:

How did you get interested in burlesque?
I was working for Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan on their biography of Frank Sinatra. One of their research requests for me involved Lili St. Cyr. I became fascinated and started reading a lot about her and the other women of burlesque. I was surprised to learn how the men of burlesque were still well-known names -- Abbott and Costello, Jackie Gleason -- but that for the most part the general public didn't know much about the women of burlesque.

What does burlesque mean to you?
There's so much to it. It can be campy and kitschy. It's funny and saucy. It can be downright sexy. But it's always about the tease whether it's the comedians giving a verbal tease or the dancers with a visual one.

What was your first experience with live burlesque?
I believe my first live burlesque show was one of the Miss Exotic World competitions. Or it might just have been such a spectacle that it's the first one that really stands out in my mind. It was when MEW was still in Helendale and it was a blast. I've since been to Burlesque-A-Pades several times. I've seen Trixie Little and Evil Hate Monkey a few times. And I've been back to Miss Exotic World. Each show has been a lot of fun for very different reasons.

What is one of your favorite experiences so far?
I really have loved them all. The first time I went to MEW was such a treat because it was still new to me. I got to meet a lot of the performers I'd spoken to over e-mail or the phone. And I got to see the Lili St. Cyr memorabilia in the museum. This year's MEW had such a mix of performers playing to every element of burlesque -- from the hilarious to the classic -- that it really stands out.

Do you travel to attend shows?
I travel to watch different shows. I've been to MEW both in Helendale and Vegas. And I've seen shows in L.A., Vegas, NY, and of course, DC. And when I was doing working on my book I traveled to L.A., Vegas, NY and Montreal to do research and interviews. I've taken burlesque workshops because I wanted to get a feel for what it would be like even at the most basic level, but I've never performed.


Who inspires you most, and why?
Lili St. Cyr. She's the reason I know about burlesque and got involved with it. Writing the book has been an amazing experience and I've gotten to know a lot of really fun, interesting people.

What is your favorite aspect of burlesque as it is now?
I love that the performers are putting the tease back into the strip. Lili believed that the imagination was more powerful, more titillating than the actual reveal. Performances like Vivian Velvet's fan number at MEW was really wonderful for just that reason. At the same time I love the humor in a lot of the new burlesque. And I like that there's room for all of it.

Can you show me one of your favorite photos of Lili?
I have a couple of favorites in the book that I don't believe I can send yet. They're ones that haven't been seen or haven't been seen much. One of them is actually a contact sheet from a photo shoot of Bernard of Hollywood. Lili is dancing around a swan. Since they were nice enough to let us publish the whole contact sheet you really get a visual sense of her movement. I also have a picture of one of her mug shots. She looks unbelievably beautiful and glamorous especially considering what our celebrities today seem to look like when they get "mugged." And there are also some fun personal, private photos of her in the book from when she was child and then throughout her adult life.
There's also a photo, which sometimes pops up on Ebay, of Lili performing on a swing. Ronald Regan is in the crowd. It's not in the book, but I do love it. That one and another one of Lili with Eleanor Roosevelt are great.
So, all of that is not answering your question about my favorite photo in terms of one you could use ... I love this one:

She looks so beautiful and glamorous. There's something so private about her being on the bed, but she looks so untouchable. Definitely captures that look but don't touch aspect of burlesque. She's exuding sexuality and it's easy to see why Marilyn Monroe would have been inspired by her.

I also love this one:

Thanks to Kelly for the interview and for her blog! Until we can satiate some of our appetite for Lili through Kelly's book, I recommend reading the interview with her that comes with the "Best of Burlesque" DVD.


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