Not Unexpected

Dear Constant Reader,

The notifications for performing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend* (aka BHoF) went out yesterday. I applied this year because Legs Malone, a performer I like and respect a lot, saw my act at the New York Burlesque Festival and challenged me to submit it.

I was not accepted.

I’m in excellent company. A lot of performers who I think are amazing also didn’t make it in this year.

Am I disappointed? Well, a little. Rejections always suck. However, I knew it was a long shot — there were something like 500 applications this year. And I knew it would be a challenge to get that act to Las Vegas — I can’t exactly put Super Screen in my suitcase.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll try again next year. Or maybe I won’t. There are always possibilities.

M2*It used to be known as the Miss Exotic World pageant and is basically the World Series of Burlesque. Some of the finest performers in burlesque have taken home the crown. On the other hand, some of the finest performers in burlesque have never performed there.

Published in: on 30 March 2015 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Test your hairstyle in rehearsal.

Repeatedly pushing your hair out of your eyes is not a good thing. It makes you look nervous, sloppy, and unprepared. Deliberately moving your hair away from your face, like after a head roll or hair tease, is sexy. Either way, make sure you hair stays or goes where you want it to by rehearsing your act with your hair done the way you plan to have it on stage. And wigs count as hairstyles.

M2

Published in: on 27 March 2015 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Mystery Box Challenge Comes to an End

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m going to take a little break from my Expo reporting. Last night was our last rehearsal for working on The Mystery Box Challenge. We all ended with complete routines, although not necessarily stage-worthy ones. Some I think will be seen on stage as-is and some may be raided for some good bits to be used in other acts.

What did I think of the experience? It was hard. The hardest part for me was probably that the songs were chosen randomly and didn’t always suit the assigned mood. I had “All of Me”, a wistful, romantic song and the mood “dirty/sexy/raunchy” — not my usual attitude of stage. I tried to be dirtier, but I fell down there. Some of the other ladies were much more successful in integrating the song and the mood.

I liked all the contents of my box, so I kept it, even though I didn’t like the song. I think Stella had the opposite situation where she hated the box contents, but loved the song.

It was good to have the opportunity to stretch in a few directions. I made a semi-circular panel skirt, which has been on my to do list for a long time. Okay, it’s way too long in the front — math is hard! — but at least I did it. Also, I discovered which assel technique works for me.

Scratch liked what I did with the ruffled trim. He thought it would be attached to a skirt, but instead I treated it like a boa. That gave him an idea for use in a future number. There were similar jumping off points in some of the other acts.

Scratch is considering using a modified version of the mystery box in a future class at B.A.B.E. There are certain aspects that would have to be changed for the less experienced performer and for someone who didn’t have access to the vast troupe holdings of costumes and props. Then he’s planning on writing up the results of this experiment and that class as a paper for presentation at BurlyCon.

Despite my frustrations with my act, I’m glad we did it. It was a nice breather after the craziness of the last several months and let us get creative without the pressure of a show.

M2

Published in: on 26 March 2015 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Expo 2015: The Bordello

Dear Constant Reader,

On Friday night, after The Rhinestone Revue, we moved next door into The Bordello for some more performances in a cabaret atmosphere with a dessert bar. The chef really outdid himself on those desserts, in particular the pumpkin pie and the lemon bars, but everything was great.

I think I can recall everyone’s acts, at least a little, since I spent a fair bit of time socializing and didn’t always catch everyone. The show was hosted by Ruby Besler, teaching us all a few naughty lessons and saying “beaver” as often as she could.

  • Chakra Tease teased us with a little “yogalesque”. Her balance and flexibility was impressive. Makes one want to get out the old yoga mat.
  • Prima Vera sang a favorite song of Scratch’s, “You Can Always Count on Me”.
  • Raven Gemini did a stunning number with wings of Isis.
  • Mona del Rio burned up the stage singing & stripping to “Proud Mary”.
  • Clara Coquette also burned up the stage with her fire-themed costume and veil-fans.
  • Doctor Vu as the X-Man Rogue, going strong even after her music cut out. The hotel sound system screwed a number of performers that night.
  • Vivi Noir got dirty in her bathtub. Yes, she brought her own bathtub all the way from NJ to Boston.
  • Maggie McMuffin got it on in her Porn Theatre to actual ’70’s porn soundtrack music.
  • It’s always a treat to see Vivian Vice, especially on stage. And of course she used a fan, her signature prop.
  • Joy Va Voi came next with a trip to a tropical isle and a fabulous headdress. Her song was incredibly naughty… if you already had a dirty mind.
  • FiFi Switchblade had a divided white/red costume to show her angelic/devilish nature as she danced to a song from a Dr. Who episode (really!).
  • Delilah Spring closed it out with her Tiki Fan Dance. I was particularly pleased to see her graceful teasing as I’m the one who taught her to fan dance.
  • Photos by Chuck Jones

    Clara Coquette

    Doctor Vu

    Delilah Spring

    I tend to change into a slinky black dress for the occasion. This was this year’s pick:

    Don’t forget you can help The Expo with its first-ever fundraiser!

    M2

    Published in: on 25 March 2015 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Expo 2015: The Rhinestone Revue

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I know I’ve taken forever — more than a month — to give you my Expo report, but I wanted to make sure it was lavishly illustrated and the photos have just begun trickling in. So, let us begin with the first event on the first evening.

    The Great Burlesque Exposition kicks off Friday night every year with the Rhinestone Revue, a gathering of special guests and Howard Award winners from years past and the current title holders.

    (All photos by John Bilotti for The Great Burlesque Exposition, expect the photo of Blaze by Chuck Jones)

    We were very fortunately this year to have the show hosted by The Buxom Foul-Mouthed Godmother of LA Burlesque, producer of Monday Night Tease, Lili VonSchtupp, bringing us a little #vagic all the way from Hollywood. Lili was also at the very first Expo which was held the same weekend in February and also had extreme weather. And yet she came back!

    Femme Brulee, Most Beautiful 2013: Appeared as a giant bath puff, wrapped in the largest pastel tulle boa I have ever seen. A costume malfunction did not deter her from finishing strong.
     

    Scarlett Letter, Most Classic 2007, Best Solo 2010: Slithered about the stage in a serpent gown. Audiences familiar with Scarlett’s performances can’t wait for the moment when she pulls her hair pins and four feet of red hair come tumbling down. She then rushed off to prepare to stage-manage The Bordello next door.

    Scandal from Bohemia, Most Humorous 2010: She usually calls this act Minnesota Strip but in honor of our epic snowfall, she renamed it Massachusetts Strip. She came out all bundled up and proceeded to get less dressed and hotter to an appropriate Jimi Hendrix song.

    Lucy Buttons, Most Classic 2009: She did a Jazz Age turn as Lucy The Mooch. I was kind of distracted at this point because I knew we were going on soon and I couldn’t give the stage my full attention. Too bad for me, Lucy’s a great performer, so I know I missed out.
     
     
     

    JZ Bich, Most Humorous 2009: I missed this one completely because we were getting ready to head backstage. I could hear that it was to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but that’s all I can tell you…

    Taradise, Burlesque Idol NYC 2014: She welcomed us to Taradise on her private island. I was pretty impressed with her light-up fans and dancing en pointe, but the highlight (no pun intended) of the act what when she rubbed up against her palm tree suggestively and it suddenly lit up! I later learned the palm tree is named Peter. Of course.

    The Boston Babydolls: We had just done a fairy tale-themed show, Bumps Upon a Grind and this was the finale. The Three Blind Mice (Devora, Evie, and Stella) are just minding their own business when a clever cat (Betty) and her not-very-bright friend (me) see lunch… Choreography credit goes to Stella Diamond for this one.

    Angie Pontani, Miss Exotic World 2008: A graceful statue, Angie yearns to leave her pedestal and dance. Magically she’s is transformed into a living woman. She dances with abandon until, reluctantly, she must return to her frozen state. Angie’s a mesmerizing performer and I think there were some tears in the audience when she sorrowfully became a statue again.

    INTERMISSION

    Kitten Natividad: Our Legendary Guest this year was Russ Meyer Girl, Kitten Natividad. She was just a delight, on-stage and off. One of her songs was “Poetry in Motion” and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. She’s so graceful and full of charisma, yet earthy too — you can’t keep your eyes off her. We have so much to learn from our Legends.

    Bella Blue: I’ve heard a lot about Bella Blue, but this was my first opportunity to see her perform. She commanded that stage from the moment the lights come up. The passion of her movements matched that of the song (“El Tango de Roxane” from Moulin Rouge) and her glove peel was particularly epic.

    Blaze, Most Classic: A stunning vision in red, Blaze’s lavish costume was accessorized with “The Precious”: a vintage fox fur with three tails, embellished with rhinestones and dyed the same vivid color as Blaze’s hair. And it came into her hands that way; she didn’t change a thing. Some partnerships were just meant to be.
     
     
     
     

    Scarlet Starlet, Best Hybrid: She calls herself “Miss Majorette of Burlesque” and began with very traditional baton twirling (the skill that brought her the trophy last year). Very quickly the mood & music changed to something a lot funkier. yet, the baton twirling remained excellent.

    Whisper De Corvo, Most Beautiful: Whisper presented the beautiful act Forget Me Not which she used to propose to her partner. Her big reveal moment came when she swept her draperies aside to show her burgeoning baby bump.

    Red Velvet, Most Humorous: She romped around stage as an orange cat and really nailed those feline mannerisms. What cat could resist all those feathers! Especially her boa tail.

    Nina La Voix, Best Solo: Nina may have had a classic costume with gown & boa, but her style is much more high-energy. Of course, she showed us all #whatdatbootydo with an impressive range of butt tricks.

    You can see more pictures and read Jimmy Berg’s account of the event in Burlesque Beat.

    Don’t forget you can help The Expo!

    M2

    Published in: on 24 March 2015 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Here’s your tip.

    Cut false eyelashes to fit your eyelid.

    Lashes are one-size-fits-all, but, of course, that all lids are not the same size or shape. Don’t be afraid to give the lashes a little snip to make them flattering and comfortable.

    M2

    Published in: on 20 March 2015 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Mystery Box Challenge Progress

    Dear Constant Reader,

    The Mystery Box Challenge continues. Everyone has complete routines and complete costume concepts, if not completed costumes. I think Evie might have been wearing one actual component of her costume last night. And my mission to make a panel skirt this weekend completely failed. I have makings for the hip belt, but no panel fabric.

    I’m finding — and I think everyone is — that it’s impossible to give equal weight to all the requirements. In my case, if I try to highlight my prop, my costume item, *and* my specialty move, I’m losing the mood.

    Personally, I’m kind of frustrated. I feel like there is a key something I’m missing that will make everything hang together, but I have no idea what it is. Adding to it is the fact that I am an inexperienced asseler. I know, I know, it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was within my comfort zone. But some acts are turning out to be real winners and I feel like I’m flailing.

    Because I know you pay more attention if there are pictures, here are a couple from rehearsal last night. I’m bad about taking photos — I forget I have the camera and just watch the act. So, I missed Devora and Stella, Betty is still in California, and I obviously couldn’t shoot myself.


    One of Evie’s requirements is stockings and her mood is “playful/funny” So far, she’s spot on.


    Brigitte has to wear pants and use a cane.

    More updates as we progress!

    M2

    Published in: on 16 March 2015 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday everyone! Today’s tip comes from Samuel Beckett (the playwright, not the time traveler).

    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    M2

    Published in: on 13 March 2015 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Mystery Box Challenge: Week 1

    Dear Constant Reader,

    At rehearsal last night everyone worked on their mystery box challenge and eventually showed what they have so far. I *wish* I’d remembered to take some pictures. I know you all pay more attention to these missives when there are pictures.

    Often when developing a new routine, especially after only one week, the dancers show maybe a minute. Last night everyone went through the entire song. There might have been some faking through the weak spots, but for the most part there’s a start to finish act there. I think because we want to play with all the components we’ve been assigned.

    Some costumes have been pulled from the closet and are completely done. Others are still in progress, so there’s some stunt or phantom clothing items in play. I’m using a substitute panel skirt and imaginary assels. I think Evie’s entire costume was in absentia and at least one of her props.

    Betty is even playing along from L.A. She emailed us a progress report and some photos of her costume in process.

    Personally, I’m on my third costume concept and I think this is the keeper. My initial idea was to take the ruffled trim and apply it to the hem of this skirt:

    Then I thought about using it as some kind of top that I could unwind. But decided instead I’d use it to replace the scarf in this costume:

    I’d wear this with gloves to cover my required gauntlets and be all elegant and what audiences expect from me until I stripped down to panels & bra and could get dirty.

    It look glorious, of course, but even with a 4 minute song I didn’t feel like I had enough time to really give the ruffles, the chair, and the panels their due. I didn’t want to give any of them short shrift. I feel that every component needs to be used well and not just perfunctorily to fulfill the rules of the challenge.

    So I ditched the glove peel. I was still feeling rushed. After a couple of runs last night, I completely ditched the outer layer. It was the right move. I have so much more time to tease with the ruffle, the panels and play with the chair. I still need to get it dirtier and actually try out the assels.

    The plan before Sunday’s rehearsal is to make my new panel skirt or at least have it ready enough to use. And figure out the whole assel thing. I’ve never used them before!

    Wish me luck!

    M2

    Published in: on 12 March 2015 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Review: My Journey

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Here’s another review from the archives.

    My Journey: Burlesque: The Way It Was by Doris Kotzan (2005).

    This is the memoir of burlesque dancer Dolores Rozelle, also known as Bambi Brooks, Bambi Jones, and Joi Naymith. These days she’s know as Bambi Sr., to distinguish her from her daughter, Bambi Jr. Her story well documents the declining days of burlesque in the 1950’s & 60’s, as the shows moved from theatres to nightclubs and the performers went from stars to glorified B-girls. I was particularly interested because she was from Massachusetts. Unfortunately, her run at the Crawford House with Sally Keith was over before it began, since she wouldn’t mix (hustle drinks from the customers). She did work the Casino Theatre and saw Winnie Garret flash the audience.

    She met a lot of luminaries of the burlesque world, like Blaze Starr, Carrie Finnell, Zorita, Hedy Jo Star, and Candy Barr, but there are mostly just snippets about each one. During the height of Joe Namath’s fame, she hit upon the gimmick of a football act, billing herself as “Joi Naymith”. At one point, she was booked with that act in Suriname, a Dutch colony in South America and it was an utter dud. Her audiences knew nothing about American football. A lesson for us all when drawing from pop culture for our inspiration…

    As with all the other autobiographies of burlesque performers that I’ve read [at the time I originally wrote this], it is in desperate need of an editor (probably more than most). Ms. Kotzan does not have a great writing style. Her tone is very casual and more than a little rambling. In fact, it feels more like a transcript of an oral history than a memoir. It’s mostly a random collection of stories and thoughts with little logical order. Each chapter title is a town where she performed, and it might be sort of vaguely chronological (with lots of divergences), but it’s hard to tell and there is no organization other than that. My biggest gripe is the truly atrocious punctuation: randomly sprinkled commas, erratic capitalization, and an egregious and often incorrect use of quotations marks. It made me want to whip out my red pen.

    There are some gems that make it worth plowing through. When performing at a club in a dry area of Kansas, she got paid more than she expected, she was told she got a commission on steaks. Normally the dancers had to hustle drinks, not meat! The same club held church services Sunday morning. One of her bookings, in Western Massachusetts, required that her costume be weighed at the end of her act. In Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada), the audience showed their appreciation by flinging silver dollars at her.

    Although the author is not a polished writer, she was a burlesque performer and her memories and stories are valuable to our understanding of our history.

    M2

    Published in: on 11 March 2015 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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