The Underwear Academy 8/1

Dear Constant Reader,

This was our second on-line show and we tried a few experiments, some successful, some not.

The first was that the show was themed around a TV series. We’re all big fans of The Umbrella Academy and were so excited when the announcement for season 2 dropped. And thus The Underwear Academy was born.

One of the things we loved about the first season was the killer soundtrack. Everyone chose songs that spoke to them and created acts around them, not necessarily Umbrella Academy-themed. Just two of the acts used other music, but they were thematically related.

The second thing that was new and different was that we figured because we weren’t pretending to be on a stage, or even all in the same place, we’d have some fun with the videos and explore the options of editing. Scratch handled all the editing (and some of the filming), except for one act.

The last and hardest new thing was that some of this show was broadcast live. We used a program called StreamYard, which worked like a dream in a couple of tests, but, of course, was all kinds of problematic when it came to showtime. I think some of the issues have been figured out. I think…

And here’s how The Underwear Academy went…

One of the lessons we learned from our first on-line show was not to start on the dot of eight, like we would with a show with an in-person audience. So this show opened with a countdown timer and then another countdown, more in character. Scratch was hosting live between each act as well as running all the tech.

Opening Credits

Ava Fox: Good Morning Little School Girl (Johnny Lang)
This was the first number that didn’t use a song from the show. It had Ava in a schoolgirl outfit, completely with rhinestoned umbrella patch on her blazer and UA mask, performing in a ruined classroom (did I mention we got a green screen?).

Betty Blaize: Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (They Might Be Giants)
Our first live act! Betty performed direct from her living room!
One of her earliest stripteases was done to this song, but she’s upgraded the costume quite a bit since then. Her gorgeous outfit started its life as a wedding outfit she bought in Hyderabad, India and modified into a burlesque costume.

Devastasia: Stormy Weather (Emmy Raver-Lampman)
Despite the stormy weather, Devastasia has her usual sunny smile as she teases with a parasol (back lace, of course) amid her plants and skulls. I was really excited to see this one as Devastasia hasn’t been able to come to rehearsal and has been working with Scratch remotely. This video was edited by Dave D’anranjo.

Anita Stagename: Don’t Stop Me Now
Anita sang and accompanied herself on the keyboard in front of an appropriately apocalyptic background. I think this was the PMJ arrangement of the song.

Mina Murray: Never Tear Us Apart (Paloma Faith)
This was one of the acts that both used music from the show *and* was directly inspired by it. I loved the song, but had no idea what to do with it. Scratch, looking in my closet, suggested I dress as The Handler. I’m pleased to say it all came together after that. I did have to buy a wig, fingerless gloves, and red Pleasers, but everything else — dress, lingerie, all accessories — came from my wardrobe. I did have to modify the dress to put in pockets to hold my sunglasses and cigarette case (which I ended up stashing in my bra instead). Scratch provided the briefcase.

We shot this on three locations at The Manor so I could “time travel” between them. I may have a reputation for always looking cool and collected and I hope that came through because it was 95 degrees at 11 o’clock at night. We did minimal takes of each scene so nobody died. The last scene was a single take, so I hope it looked good!

Lady Marin Era and Penny Rain: Happy Together (Gerard Way (feat. Ray Toro))
Our apprentices in a duet! Betty Blaize created this adorable choreography with umbrellas for the two of them. Marin and Penny worked really hard on this and it’s certainly not easy performing a duet by yourself, as they did on film.

Scratch: Magic
I know it was a card trick, but at this point I was no longer watching the show.

Boobdini: Burlesque Deck commercial
Our good friend Lili VonSchtupp (aka Boobdini) has a great new project, The Burlesque Deck, available now! 26 gorgeous performers in 54 fabulous poses on playing cards! You should get one and play with yourself!

Ava Fox: Mad About You (Hooverphonic)
Ava, dressed simply in thigh-highs and a man’s shirt, shows up her sultry dance abilities and acrobatic floorwork skills. Beautiful and powerful.

There was a technical issue with this file so that it didn’t upload properly. Scratch figured ended up doing a screen share later in the show, but it was supposed to go here. I’m glad he managed to make it work because it would have been a terrible shame to leave it out.

Anita Stagename: Dancing in the Moonlight
This song showcases Anita’s beautiful voice so well. I wasn’t waiting the show at this point, so I don’t know if she had another great background.

Betty Blaize: Kill of the Night (Gin Wigmore)
I believe this song was everyone’s second choice song, but only Betty managed to pull it off. She drew upon her many years of training in both martial arts and dance to create this menacing choreography.

Mina Murray: Heroes (Pete Gabriel)
This was the other song that wasn’t actually used in the show*. It seems thematic though. As much as I love the Bowie original, the Gabriel version is so hauntingly anguished. I was so nervous, like I haven’t been in years, maybe decades, to perform this live. I think it came out okay though.

At about noon (with the show launching at 8pm), Scratch said “I think you should wear a mask”, by which he meant the current style, not a superhero mask. I dashed to my sewing room and made one, realized it wouldn’t show up well on video, and made another one. Then practiced the act while wearing it.

*It was used in Stranger Things though…

Ava Fox, Betty Blaize, Devastasia, Devora Darling, Evie Sphinx, Mina Murray, Scratch: I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany)
One of the great things about filming remotely is that some of our far-flung troupe members could participate! We were so happy to have Evie and D.D. performing with us again (Brigitte is out on maternity leave right now).

This act was probably the most inspired by the show, or really, the second season teaser. All of us created an act to “I Think We’re Alone Now” somewhere in our respective houses, which Scratch then intercut together. For the final section we had a unison choreography (again created by Betty) and all six of us appeared on the screen together, yet separate.

I filmed my scenes in the bathtub and it worked out that you only actually see my face once. Betty writhed on her kitchen island, Ava sauntered down creepiest hallway ever, while Devastasia was in the conservatory with a watering can. Evie was moving boxes into an empty room and D.D. looked a bit like the Creepy Doll in her rocking chair.

Closing credits with bloopers and bonus post-credit scene

This was a huge amount of work, but also a lot of fun along the way. I’m sorry that technology conspired to give our audience a less smooth broadcast than we expected. I think all the videos came out beautifully. We might present an encore performance, but that would require reshooting Scratch’s hosting bits and we’ve got some other projects on the immediate horizon that are going to take a lot of our time.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 5 August 2020 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! How did that happen?

This week’s tip comes from Mr. Scratch who has been shooting a lot of video for our upcoming show (tomorrow!) The Underwear Academy.

Good lighting can improve a bad camera, but even a good camera can’t fix bad lighting.

There’s another tip about lighting for video here.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 31 July 2020 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Gypsy and Me

Dear Constant Reader,

Not only do I have a pile of books to review, I also have a passel of books I reviewed elsewhere, but not here. Since I’m on a bit of a history kick (I’ll explain why in another missive), here’s Gypsy Rose Lee’s son’s memoir about growing up with America’s most famous stripper as a mother.

Gypsy and Me: At Home and on the Road With Gypsy Rose Lee by Erik Lee Preminger (1984). Also published as My G-String Mother.

Picking up years after Gypsy left off, Gypsy Rose Lee’s only child chronicles his conflicted and often combative relationship with his famous mother. The story begins when Erik was 12 and Gypsy has decided to give up “the act”, the striptease show she’s been doing for decades. Now she needs another source of income.

His depiction is not always so flattering. He shows a Gypsy that was stingy, self-absorbed, and domineering. She was terrified of poverty, despite her frequently lavish spending, and constantly searched for the next thing that would support her. The author paints a flawed portrait of himself as well, honestly relating incidents of his anger, disobedience and petty crime.

Despite all the clashes between them, he loved her deeply and she was a devoted mother. She would take Erik on tour with her because she hated to be separated from him. He would help her set up her act and was even her dresser. She was a terribly hard worker, throwing herself into projects, barely eating and rarely sleeping. He describes her with tea stains on her clothes and cigarette ashes powdering her reading glasses. She was witty and clever in private, as well as in her public image. And she adored animals, sometimes more than people. She was terribly proud of Erik and wanted everyone to know he was her son. She even toured Southeast Asia to entertain the soldiers after Erik joined the Army.

Despite a truly unusual and often difficult childhood, Mr. Preminger is not bitter about his mother, and strives for an honest accounting of a very contradictory woman.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 30 July 2020 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Here it is, Friday again. Time for a tip! But first a few announcements…

On Tuesday, B.A.B.E. will be presenting “Burlesque” Means “Comedy”, a brand-new workshop from Mr. Scratch. Some of the most famous American comics got their start on the burlesque stage. Burlesque has its roots in a long comic tradition — and a lot of modern comic traditions have their roots in burlesque. This class is a look at the evolution of burlesque from the commedia dell’arte of the 16th century to the modern day.  Through video, readings of actual burlesque comic scripts, and a discussion of the rise and fall of the comedian in the world of burlesque, students will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what burlesque was and can be.

Please fill out this survey about classes at B.A.B.E.! Help us bring you the class experience that you want!

The Boston BeauTease have a new show premiering in just a week! To celebrate the second season of The Umbrella Academy, we are presenting The Underwear Academy. This streaming show is like nothing we’ve ever done before, in so many ways! Join us Saturday, August 1 at 8pm. Get your tickets here!
Note: All tickets are exactly the same regardless of price. Once you purchase a ticket you will be emailed a link and password to access the show. You also get access to a post-show Zoom with the cast!

And now for your tip!

Make a pattern to cover your bra cups.

Sure, you can work free-hand to cover the cups, but making a pattern beforehand in scrap fabric reduces the chance of mistakes which will end in tears. It’s especially recommended if you’re working with expensive fabric or doing any kind of pattern matching or mirroring.

Also, if you use a particular style of bra a lot, you can save yourself a lot of work by having a pattern ready to go! When I cut out my tags, I tack them to the pattern, so I know the size and style.

If you want more information about converting a commercial bra, check out Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 24 July 2020 at 2:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Here it is, Friday again. Time for another tip…

When wearing a mask, use your stage voice. Project, speak a little slower, enunciate a little more.

Not only does the mask muffle your voice, your mouth is hidden. We “hear” more from facial movement than you might think.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 17 July 2020 at 2:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Kompot

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s sour cherry season at The Manor and I’ve got a new recipe for you! Technically it doesn’t have to be made with sour cherries, but I’ve got them… oh, do I have cherries…

Kompot is a refreshing fruit drink from Eastern Europe. The recipe is super simple, just three easy to remember ingredients: water, sugar, and fruit!

For every gallon of water, you need one pound fruit and a cup of sugar. Because our pitcher only holds two quarts, I used half quantities (mostly) — 2 quarts (8 cups) water, a half cup of sugar and 12 ounces pitted sour cherries (for a more intense cherry flavor).

You can use any combination of fruit you like. If the fruit is large, like plums or peaches, cut into bite-sized chunks. For cherries, stem and pit them.

Put everything into a big pot and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from the heat. Let the kompot cool in the pot.

Pour into a pitcher and chill overnight. You can serve it with or without the fruit.
Glass from Emporium 32
Enjoy!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 15 July 2020 at 2:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! A few notes before we get to your tip.

If you haven’t read my post on forgotten burlesque chorine Buddy Wade, please do. I’m quite pleased with the research that lead me to her story.

I’m teaching on-line workshops every week at B.A.B.E. Check out the schedule!

The Boston BeauTease have a new show next month! To celebrate the second season of The Umbrella Academy, we are presenting The Underwear Academy. This streaming show is like nothing we’ve ever done before, in so many ways! Join us Saturday, August 1 at 8pm. Get your tickets here!
Note: All tickets are exactly the same regardless of price. Once you purchase a ticket you will be emailed a link and password to access the show. You also get access to a post-show Zoom with the cast!

Now here’s your tip!

Check your angles.

When you’re performing on stage the audience members see you from differing angles, depending on their locations in the venue. A filmed performance is only going to be seen from one perspective, as thought there were a single seat, so you can control the audience’s gaze. You have a lot of power over what they see (and don’t see). Make sure your angles show you to your best advantage!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 10 July 2020 at 1:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Story of Buddy Wade

Dear Constant Reader,

As I was writing my Friday Tip about research, I was going to include an example of an uncorroborated statement and fell down one of those rabbit holes I mentioned.

On page 240 of Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show, Rachel Shteir writes of strippers with tragic ends. “Buddy Wade’s tap shoes caught fire, the sparks ignited her costume, and she burned to death one night at the Old Howard in Boston. Walter Winchell wrote a column about her commemorating her courage for not getting near the other performers.”

That’s it. No footnotes. Not even the date when this event occurred. I always thought it was a little weird — her tap shoes caught fire? Boston historian David Kruh was also puzzled and contacted Ms. Shteir to ask for her sources, but she was unable to provide any.

For years, that’s where it stood. While writing the Tip, I thought I should see if I could find any confirmation before dubbed the story fiction. I had my doubts about finding any evidence. Like everyone else, I’m stuck at home and can’t go to the library, so I had to try my luck with the Internet.

After striking out a lot, I hit on the key search word — “chorine”. From there I found an issue of The Billboard from December 26, 1936. In “Events of the Year” under the “Burlesque” section, dated January, it says “Buddy Wade, chorine, died from burns received on the stage of the Howard, Boston, a heroine in preventing spread of blaze.” Now I had confirmation of the kernel of the story, if not all the details, and better yet, a year!

Now I was able to find the Winchell column. Walter Winchell didn’t actually write about her. He published a letter from a Boston Post reporter who couldn’t get the story in his own paper. I found more information; Scratch found some too. I’m still hunting.

Here’s the story of Buddy Wade as I have pieced it together…

She was 23, a miner’s daughter from Shenandoah, Pennsylvania who started in burlesque in Philadelphia. Under the name Buddy Wade, she was performing in the chorus of the Merry Maidens burlesque show when it came to the Old Howard. Also on the bill for that show was Countess Vanya with her “Dance of the Bats”, Chang Lee in “Dance of the Chinese Lamps” and comics Harry “Hello Jake” Fields and Hap Hyatt.

On Friday afternoon January 10, 1936, the chorus was about to go on for a ballet number, after stripper Margot Lopez. A spark fell from an arc light onto Buddy’s tulle skirt and began to burn. Rather than panic and run past her fellow dancers in their tulle skirts, she pressed against the brick wall of the proscenium and headed backstage to a place without anything flammable. With burns over most of her body, she was taken to Haymarket Relief, an outpost of Boston City Hospital. Unfortunately, she succumbed to her injuries. Before she died, she spoke to Boston Post reporter Allen Lester and supposedly asked if she had spoiled the show.

The drawing is a self-portrait, published along with her story in the Detroit Free Press.

Lester sent her story to Winchell to make sure people knew of her courage. Presumably the management of the Old Howard had no interest in having their audience know how close they came to a theatre fire and perhaps kept the story from running in the local papers. Lester mentions the “Iroquois theatre catastrophe” of 1903, which in 600 people were killed in a Chicago theatre when an arc light sparked, igniting a muslin curtain. Buddy Wade’s sacrifice may have prevented just such a tragedy in Boston.

I’m still looking for more information, like confirmation of her birth name and the date she died. I’d also love to find a program from the Old Howard for that week. I’ll update you if I find anything new!

Sources
“Countess Vanya Featured in Old Howard Burlesque.” Boston Globe, January 7, 1936, page 14.
Massachusetts Death Index, Volume 6, Page 414.
“The Newest Burlesque Girl Gave Her Life for the Theatre’s Oldest Tradition.” Detroit Free Press, March 8, 1936, page 106.
Shteir, Rachel. Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show. Oxford University Press, 2004.
Winchell, Walter, “On Broadway.” Reading (PA) Times, January 15, 1936, page 8.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 8 July 2020 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fit & Flair Returns

Dear Constant Reader,

About a thousand years ago, I ran a little contest where my Constant Readers would vote on a pattern from my collection and I would make the dress. The winner was “Fifties’ Fit & Flair” by Folkwear, a now out-of-print pattern. You can read all about the process here.

However, I left you hanging with a dress that didn’t fit quite right. So what happened?

I tossed the dress in my “unfinished” pile and it languished there for years. Last week I unearthed it and decided it was a shame to abandon it. The skirt was perfectly good, very full and it had pockets. I ripped the bodice off and added a waist band. Voila, a circle skirt!

(Not the greatest picture of it but Albert was sprawled right where I wanted to stand)

I’m sorry I couldn’t make the bodice work, because I did such a perfect job of pattern matching the front. But I never loved the dolman sleeves, so in the end, it’s better.

Also, obligatory matching mask.

Maybe I’ll do another one of these “dress me” polls, but this time I’ll need to use a pattern from my collection AND fabric from my stash. I have too much fabulous fabric sitting around doing nothing.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 7 July 2020 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! If you are celebrating Independence Day this weekend, I hope you do it safely. Here’s your tip!

Research your research.

Jo Weldon recently talked about burlesque history and some of its problems, which inspired this,

When researching anything but let’s focus on burlesque history, don’t take anything at face value. Even primary sources, like newspaper articles and autobiographies are full of exaggerations and grandiose statements. Publications wanted to sell copies and performers wanted fame (or notoriety). A good story, particularly a salacious one, was preferable to reality. And some of these have been handed down as fact by publications about burlesque. It’s hard to blame them — I’ve heard stories directly from legends that change over time or don’t match up with documented facts. (If every

So what can you do? Rather than just citing a source, check its sources. The easiest way is to follow the footnote trail. If there are no footnotes or other citations, dig a little deeper. Check contemporary sources. Accurate dates are so important! You may find yourself going down an Internet rabbit hole or buried in a library research collection to discover the actual facts and probably some things you didn’t expect (I’ve spent many fascinating hours doing this!). If you still can’t corroborate, it doesn’t mean don’t use the information, but make sure you note that the source may not be reliable.

Just do due diligence before presenting burlesque myth as burlesque fact.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 3 July 2020 at 2:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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