Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Tomorrow I’m off to Topeka — extremely early in the morning — but this week’s tip isn’t about travel. It’s about your hands.

Extend your gestures beyond your fingertips.

You want your hands be dramatic and your gestures to be clearly seen, even in the back of the house. Make your motions full of energy (which is not necessarily the same as energetic). I like to imagine I’m shooting power rays out of the ends of my fingers.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These 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 21 June 2019 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I hope you’re going to join me tomorrow at Burlesque Beach Blast at Deacon Giles. Ticket prices go up at midnight, so grab yours now!

I was humbled to see that close to 200 people read last week’s tip. I hope you like this one too!

Rehearse your curtain call.

It’s the last thing the audience sees of your show, so you want it to be strong and clean. Here are somethings that will help create a professional-looking curtain call.

  • Know what order you’re entering. This could be the same order as performance or reverse or alphabetical. In the BeauTease we start with stage kittens as a group, then apprentices (also as a group), special guests, and then the troupe in order of seniority. What ever order you chose, make sure everyone knows it.
  • Know where to stand. After you’ve taken your bow and fade back, you should take a position on stage. It doesn’t matter if it’s a line or more creative placement as no one has to jockey for a place and each side of the stage is balanced.
  • Know if you’re staying in character or not. This doesn’t always apply in burlesque because often the “character” you play is your burlesque persona and you should stay in that character for as long as the audience can see you.
  • If you’re taking a group bow, be in unison. The easiest way to do this is have the person in the center lead the bow. It helps if you’re all holding hands and the leader will do something everyone can see, like nod. Then all together, hands go up, take your bow, count to two, then stand again, lowering your hands.
  • Acknowledge the tech staff. It’s always classy to extend a hand (all cast members should do this at the same time) to the back of the house.
  • Know how to exit. You should know where to exit (stage right, stage left, through the audience, &c.) and in what order you should leave. Someone should be designated to lead the cast off the stage and everyone can follow like baby ducks.
  • Know when to exit. Leave just after the applause has peaked, but before it starts to taper off. Lingering on stage is awkward.
  • After you’ve left the stage, you can come out into the audience or theatre lobby to meet your Adoring Fans.

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    These 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 14 June 2019 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Review: Inside The Combat Zone

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I love burlesque history — all the glitz and glamour of days gone by. But I also think it’s important to know about the less savory portions of our art, like carnivals. I’m particularly interested in Boston’s Combat Zone, where burlesque went after Scollay Square was demolished. I was very excited to learn about this new book and even more so when Scratch invited the author to speak at The Expo.

    Schorow, Stephanie. Inside The Combat Zone: The Stripped Down Story of Boston’s Most Notorious Neighborhood, 2017.

    The Combat Zone, officially designated the “Adult Entertainment District” (AED), was the area around lower Washington Street, bordering Chinatown. It was the city’s attempt to contain the adult businesses that had already moved into the area. City officials hoped for an exciting and naughty destination, with porno theatres, dirty book shops, and burlesque houses, carefully controlled. What they ended up with was a sleazy area of XXX shows, strip clubs, prostitution, pickpockets, and drugs.

    After the destruction of Scollay Square (and the burlesque theaters for which it had been famed) so the new Government Center could be built on the rubble, the seamier entertainments began congregating around Washington Street. Knowing that an outright ban would just cause the businesses to move elsewhere (and that might be someplace with higher property values…), the straight-laced and puritanical Boston decided to make one legally-zoned area for adult businesses.

    Schorow’s book deals a lot with the political, social, and zoning issues of The Combat Zone, but of course, she also writes about burlesque. None of the theaters originally in Scolllay Square, like the Old Howard or The Casino, moved to Washington Street, but there were plenty of new locations to see striptease. The infamous Pilgrim Theatre wanted to bring back classic burlesque and booked such well-known practitioners as Tempest Storm and Blaze Starr, but it was Fanne Foxe that made history there, with her relationship with Congressman Wilbur Mills and his unexpected appearance on stage with her.

    I was delighted to learn the story of Miss Bicentennial and even more so to meet her at a book event. Julie Jordan made the Boston Herald when she stripped at City Hall Plaza in 1976. “Right on the grave of old Scollay Square”, she peeled off her star-spangled Hedy Jo Star costume.

    Schorow’s book takes you through the history of the Combat Zone, from its well-intentioned beginnings through the quick slide to a dangerous area of mobsters and murder to its dwindling when adult businesses were shut down in favor of restaurants, condos, and other more “reputable” businesses. The last remnants of the Combat Zone are two strip clubs on LaGrange St. Most Bostonians don’t miss the chaos and the crime, but it was part of our past and all burlesque performers in the area should know of it.

    Special bonus: the cover art is based on a photo of Satan’s Angel who was interviewed for the book, along with a few other women who worked in the clubs of the Zone.

    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 June 2019 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Many of those in the burlesque world are off at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. I hope you’re having fun, drinking lots of water, and maybe even getting a little sleep.

    I’m so excited to share with you a tip from the brilliant Betty Blaize. It’s so simple and so clever.

    When you’ve got a tear-away cup bra, it’s important to make sure you attach the cups on the correct sides. There’s a subtle, but important, difference between the left cup and the right, but they look so similar. Betty, ever the engineer, came up with this simple solution.

    On one side of the bra, sew the male halves of the snaps on the cup and female halves on the frame. For the other side do the opposite.


    Here’s the bra she just made for Devastasia. I know it’s hard to see the details, so there’s a close up below.

    You can see the female snap on the cup and the male snap on the frame. It’s exactly the reverse on the other side. It’s impossible to snap a cup onto the wrong side!

    This works for detachable panel skirts too! Sew the snaps one way for the front panel and the other way for the back.

    M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

    These 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 June 2019 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Best Laid Plans…

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I had big plans this week. I’m finishing up another book review. I wanted to tell you all about our most recent show (with photos!). I’m working on a couple of larger projects (that I’m not ready to talk about yet).

    That all came to a screeching halt Sunday night when one of my teeth decided it hated me. So, I’ve been spending this week first in agony and then recovering from a root canal (woot c’naw, for all you West Wing fans). It has been absolutely no fun.

    I’ll take this bit of downtime to ask you, Dear Reader, what sort of things do you want to see here? More looks behind the scenes, costuming tutorials, recipes, essays on burlesque history, videos, pictures of Albert A. Cat?

    Thank you as always for continuing to read my little missives. And now I must return to my fainting couch.

    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 6 June 2019 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Tonight I’ll be at our Burlesque Beach Party. Hope to see you there! And here’s your tip…


    Even if you can’t kick high or straddle wide, if your form is good, you look great.

    Look at Devastasia’s straight legs and her nicely pointed toes. That’s what you want to strive for! Keep your back nice and straight too. It’s easy to bend forward and not even be aware, especially you’re trying for a higher kick.

    (Photo by Andrea Ramirez-Maciolek.)

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    These 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 May 2019 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Before I get to your tip, some exciting news! On June 22 I’ll be headed to Topeka, Kansas to perform at the historic Jayhawk Theatre, site of Dainty June’s last vaudeville performance with her sister, the future Gypsy Rose Lee. I’m thrilled to be performing at this fundraiser for the theatre. You know how I feel about history! I’m also teaching the next day.

    Now, it’s neither easy nor inexpensive to get from Boston to Kansas City (the closest airport to Topeka). If you want to help me defray the costs of this worthwhile performance, please become a Patron, buy a book, take a class, or just leave a donation. Thank you!

    And now for your tip…

    Dance shoes are not necessarily sized the same as street shoes.

    And of course the sizing isn’t constant across manufacturers. Trying to buy on-line can be an occasion for tears. I recommend going to a dance store and trying on shoes to find the size and style that works for you, then you can buy them on-line if you want. I keep a list of my preferred shoe styles and the size that fits me best. That list also speeds things up at the shoe store (I don’t enjoy shopping and try to be as efficient as I can).

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    These 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 May 2019 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    In the Kitchen: White Bean Dip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    As the weather gets warmer, I’m thinking about picnics and backyard parties and this dish is perfect! It’s easy, so delicious, and even vegan and gluten-free. I also love it because I almost always have all the ingredients in my pantry, so it’s easy to whip up on a moment’s notice.

    You need…

    A can of cannellini beans, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, garlic, fresh thyme, olive oil, and salt & pepper.

    Drain and rinse the beans. Smash the garlic with the side of a knife.

    Toss the garlic into the food processor with the lemon juice and vinegar and roughly chop.

    Add the beans, thyme, salt and pepper and begin to process into a thick paste.

    While the processor is going, drizzle in the olive oil. Add a little water, if necessary, to bring it to your preferred dip consistency.

    Let it rest at least 15 minutes before serving, or even better, overnight (in the fridge).

    Serve with chips (I like pita) or crudites.

    I made some the other day because I have SO MANY baby carrots in the fridge (I think there are like six pounds — most of which I was gifted with. Got any good carrot recipes?), and they go awfully well with this dip. Also, I was celebrating that I had thyme in my herb garden again (my previous plant died over the winter). You could use dried thyme, but it’s not as good.

    I’ve also made this recipe with garlic scapes and it’s so good. If you’re lucky enough to acquire some, chop the scapes coarsely and use in place of garlic cloves.


    Here’s the recipe!

    White Bean Dip
    1 15-oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    2 cloves garlic, smashed (or 1/3 cup chopped garlic scapes)
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    A few grinds of black pepper
    1 Tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1-3 Tablespoons water, as needed

    Toss the garlic into the food processor with the lemon juice and vinegar and roughly chop.

    Add the beans, thyme, salt and pepper and begin to process into a thick paste.

    While the processor is going, drizzle in the olive oil. If the dip is too thick, add water to the right consistency.

    Let the dip rest at least 15 minutes before serving, or even better, overnight.

    Serve with chips or crudites.

    Published in: on 22 May 2019 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Review: More Havoc

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Today we return to the life of June Havoc, Gypsy Rose Lee’s younger (and most say more talented) sister with her second memoir.

    More Havoc by June Havoc (1980)

    More Havoc begins where Early Havoc leaves off. June, barely in her teens, has fled her overbearing mother and the grind of constant work. She longs to be a legitimate actress, but has to sustain herself as a marathon dancer. She looks back at her childhood in vaudeville for a few chapters, but the rest is a straight-forward narrative, without the shift between past and present of her first book.

    June, a pro on the marathon dance circuit, leaves the grueling competitions when a promoter falls in love with her and has his syndicate hire her as his driver while he looks for new venues. Really, it’s a cross-country camping vacation, but she’s getting paid for it. She also reconnects with her husband, Bobby. She doesn’t want to be tied to any man, especially one who doesn’t want her to follow her dream, and decides to leave them both and have her own family.

    Pregnant, she begins working hard as a entertainer, saving for her daughter (she’s sure it will be a girl). Ultimately she has to go back to New York and live with her mother, who is running a social club for lesbians out of the spacious apartment Gypsy bought her. At first June is told to hide in her room during the parties, but is soon pressed into service dispensing bathtub booze and plates of cheap spaghetti to her mother’s clientele. This arrangement lasts until the sisters discover that their mother was charging them both for June’s rent and Gypsy’s boyfriend gives June some cash (which Mother tries to filch) to get her own place.

    June is ecstatic to start a new life with her daughter, April, but she has no real support and no job. Her mother offers to adopt April and “do for her what I tried to do for you”, but June is never going to be that desperate. After struggling to get by, a lucky break lands June a job as a mannequin, modeling gowns for a fashion house. With every scrap of free time she makes the rounds of booking agents. She finally lands a performance job which leads to another and another.

    She marries (and divorces) a Harvard man who fancies himself a writer. She abandons “Jeannie Reed”, her name from when she was hoofing with her husband, which she also used during the marathons. She panics as she’s writing “June Hovick” on a contract, since her sister was forced by prudish Hollywood to perform as Louise Hovick and her movies failed. Instead, it comes out “Havoc”. She doesn’t like it, but it sticks.

    Then comes Pal Joey. June is cast in the new musical as Gladys Bumps, a small comedic role that keeps getting bigger and bigger as the director discovers her talents. At last! A Broadway show! And then Hollywood comes calling… Soon June is shuttling across the country between Hollywood and Broadway. June and Gypsy become closer. For a few years, the sisters live together in Gypsy’s huge house in New York City.

    The book ends with June’s show-stopping performance on opening night of Mexican Hayride in try-outs in Boston. Her sister, in disguise, is in the audience, having stayed up all night to help June with her costume.

    It’s impossible to tell the story of the Hovick sisters without acknowledging the dominating presence of their mother. Gypsy’s memoir portrays her mother as a needy woman, beautiful and fragile, humorously eccentric, in a fantasy world of her own devising. Gypsy deliberately makes her “Mother stories” amusing, even after her mother’s death. In this book June depicts a greedy, delusional, sociopathic woman who emotionally and occasionally physically abused her daughters. Both June and Gypsy try to break free of their mother, but only June succeeds. Despite leaving her mother’s control, June is still shadowed by her presence. This memoir is even bookended by scenes of her mother’s deathbed. All June wanted from her mother was love and approval, but once she becomes independent she might as well be a stranger. Mother did not create June Havoc, so she can’t live in reflected glory. To her, June is a failure. Gypsy is the one she clings to and the one she curses as she dies.

    This memoir is certainly more positive and uplifting than the first. However, I liked it less. It wasn’t the story; it was the writing. Early Havoc felt more genuine and the writing of this one feels a little forced. Burlesque-wise, there’s more about Gypsy in this volume, as the sisters spend more time together, but not too much about her performances.

    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 20 May 2019 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Once again it’s Friday and time for a tip!

    Ballroom shoes need special care.

    Ballroom dance shoes are wonderful. Their flexible suede soles give the dancer a lot of control, but they’re also more delicate than a hard leather-soled shoe. To make them last as long as possible, there are a couple of simple steps you can take.

    First, only wear them while you’re performing or rehearsing, as you should with any dance shoe.

    Brush the soles with a soft-bristled shoe brush after each wearing. This will remove any dirt and condition the suede, which gets compacted when you dance on it.

    Use heel protectors. The heels of your shoes take a lot of pressure and wear out fast. These clear plastic caps that fit over the heel of your shoe. My new ballroom shoes (above) included the heel protectors in a cute little bag, but you can buy them separately too. Mine are plain plastic, but I’ve hear you can get ones with a suede bottom. They’re a little tight to get on, but you won’t have to take them off unless they need to be replaced.

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    These 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 May 2019 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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