Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Warm up before you stretch.

Stretching is not the same thing as warming up, although I’ve heard people use the terms as though they were synonymous. You want your muscles and joints to be nice and warm before you start stretching, to avoid injury. The warm up doesn’t have to be a major production, just 5-10 minutes of movement through all your body parts to get them warm and loose before you start stretching. Personally, I love the warm up on Kristina Nekyia’s Get Bent! and do it all the time.

You want to do things in this order to get the maximum benefit: warm up, stretch, work out/rehearse/perform/&c., stretch more and cool down. And if you’re working out: do cardio first and then strength training.

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

Published in: on 9 December 2016 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: Queen of Hearts

Dear Constant Reader,

The Queen of Hearts – The Life and Times of a Golden Age Burlesque Star by Sandy McQueen (2014).

Sandy McQueen was a burlesque performer in the 1960’s & ’70’s, what she calls the “Golden Age”, predominantly on the West Coast. She got her start in the Bay Area as a teenager. She tried to get a job as a cocktail waitress, since the trays were lighter and the tips were better than the drive-in where she had been working, but a club owner through she’d be better on stage.

In the very early ’60’s, she played both Alaska and Hawaii, and loved them both. Her first engagement in Alaska was Kodiak Island, which had just suffered a massive earthquake and tsunami. In fact, the town was under martial law and she couldn’t work for two weeks. Later, she went to Fairbanks which involved more than three solid days of driving though the wilds of Canada.

In Hawaii, she was asked to go on to Japan and the prospects sounded great — a 20-piece band and 3 shows a night. Then she was told by someone in the know that the musicians didn’t speak English and the shows were at 3 different theatres, each a 200 mile train ride apart. The Shinkansen high-speed rail did exist by then, but still. This reminds me of a story I was told by a Legend that she was offered work in Japan, which would also involve shows at several clubs over the course of a night (*sixteen* she said), but she would be transported on the back of a motor bike. Needless to say, Sandy turned down the offer.

I was particularly delighted that she ended her career in Boston’s Combat Zone. She worked at The 2 O’Clock Club on Washington St. from 1975 until it closed, when she moved to the Mouse Trapp [sic] and then The Piccadilly Club. Her descriptions of working in the Zone were worth the price of the book for me. You can see a little of what it was like in “…A Kind of Life.”: Conversations in the Combat Zone. I think some of the performers Ms. McQueen mentions are portrayed in the book.

Most of the section on Boston are sketches of the performers and club employees. She differentiates between “dancers” and “walkers”. Walkers did just that — walk up and down the stage and strip — and they were rarely features. Unlike some clubs, at The 2, performers didn’t have to mix if they didn’t want to. There were mixers who didn’t always perform, just hustled drinks. There a mention of “Heidi Jo” (Hedy Jo Star), who made wardrobe for most of the performers. Sandy writes that she still has a set of body jewelry, including a metal bra and g-string, made by Hedy Jo’s husband.

In 1979, Sandy McQueen retired from burlesque and moved to New Hampshire.

The most refreshing thing about this memoir is that Sandy looks back without rancor or bitterness. Occasionally, she regrets the way a relationship ended or that something was stolen from her, but for the most part, she doesn’t complain about what might have been or should have been. She treats the years as a grand adventure and her enthusiasm makes the memoir so fun to read.

M2

Published in: on 7 December 2016 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday everyone! Here’s a tip I learned from Elsa/Ernie von Schmaltz at BurlyCon this year:

Use a tennis ball to massage your feet.

After a long night of high heel wearing, soothe your tootsies by rolling a tennis ball under your foot. You may prefer a harder or softer ball or one of a different size. Play around until you discover the best ball for you. And it’s easy to stash in your bag, so you can get immediate relief after the show.

To really make your feet (and most of your body) feel better, take Elsa/Ernie’s class on how to give yourself a great massage with a tennis ball.

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

Published in: on 2 December 2016 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Review: Behind the Burly Q

Dear Constant Reader,

How about a book review? While at BurlyCon, I had my copy of this book signed by the author. It deserved to come out of the to-be-reviewed pile and back to its place of honor in the library.

Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America by Leslie Zemeckis (2013).

When Leslie Zemeckis interviewed former burlesque performers and their family members for her documentary “Behind the Burly Q”, there were too many stories to fit into her film (disclosure: I haven’t watched the documentary yet). Thus the book was born. And we’re so grateful it was. This history deserves to be preserved before we lose it for good.

The book is a series of essay on individual topics, not a strict chronological history of burlesque. Some chapters focus on one performer (“Texas Justice”) or on a type of performer (“The Tit Singer”) or some other aspect of burlesque (“The High Cost of Stripping”). The chapter “Interlude Before Evening” is a good prelude to Goddess of Love Incarnate: The Life of Stripteuse Lili St. Cyr.

It’s a nice bite-sized way to get some burlesque history, reading a chapter hear and there. The book is thick with quotes from those Leslie interviewed. It’s peppered with photos from the author’s collection, many of which came directly from the performers themselves.

Ms. Zemeckis has a clear affection and great respect for the art form and for those involved in it, which shines through strongly throughout the book. Highly recommended.

Now I need to see the documentary…

M2

Published in: on 30 November 2016 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! This is a time of year when we are encouraged to be generous and think of others, so here’s your tip:

Put your money where your mouth is.

If you don’t like the state of the world or the direction you think things are going, don’t just fret or complain — do something. Donate to a cause you believe in. If money is tight, donate time by volunteering (after all, as they say, time is money). Or donate your skills. A friend of mine will be running a charity auction and is soliciting nifty items from people to auction off.

If you want to make a difference, there’s something you can give to help. It doesn’t have to be a lot; even something small can have an impact.

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

Published in: on 25 November 2016 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2016: Sunday

Dear Constant Reader,

My last day at BurlyCon began with making sure I was packed and ready to check out before I went to classes.

Achieving Closure (me): This is a relatively new class and I was delighted at how well it went. I’m particularly pleased with what I kept calling my “grown-up busy book”, cloth pages with examples of the various closures sewn on, so students could try them out. Educational and entertaining!

Icons of the Tease: From A(nn corio) to Z(orita ) (Leslie Zemeckis): A delightful look at a number of burlesque performers, illustrated with personal anecdotes, photographs, and film footage.

Book Signing (me): My first author event! I’m delighted at how many people showed up. I brought a lot of books with me and went home with almost none. Since I was there for two hours, people drifted in and out. Some stayed to chat, which was lovely, but there was enough quiet time that I could have some lunch lest I snarl at any of my adoring fans. The picture is me briefly curled up in front of the library’s little fireplace. I could have stayed there all day.

Get on the Good Foot: A Post-Stiletto Recovery Class (Elsa/Ernie von Schmaltz): This was a great class and it was the perfect thing to wrap up the weekend. I thought it was going to be about just foot massage, but since everything is connected, we did self-massage all the way from our toes, up our backs to our foreheads. So delightful. So relaxing. I will definitely be practicing this in the future.

I skipped out on the closing ceremony and caught the light rail into Seattle proper. As a method of getting from the airport to downtown, it certainly has Boston beat. I met my friend A. near the Pike Place Market and we had a lovely dinner. We’ve known each other a frighteningly long time and even though we only get together every couple of years, the conversation is always great.

Eventually I had to head back, pick up my bag at the hotel, and go to the airport for my red eye flight home. I was exhausted, but of course, I just couldn’t sleep on the plane. Usually I can sleep anywhere, but planes are just impossible. After an eternity of fitfully dozing to podcasts, the sun rose and we landed at Logan. I blearily made my way back to the Manor, there to collapse for a couple of hours with Albert.

M2

Published in: on 23 November 2016 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2016: Saturday

Dear Constant Reader,

Saturday, mercifully, the first classes weren’t until 9. Of course, I was awake at 4:30am because of East Coast Time…

The Classic Chorus Girl (Sister Kate Dance Company): We learned some chorus girl dance steps and then dove into a short choreography based on the Shim Sham. Eventually we broke into groups of five or six and did the whole thing with an adorable entrance and fun ending. I can’t wait to share this one with the BeauTease.

Caring for Your Costumes (me): I’ve been teaching this class for a long time, but it stays popular. I refine it a bit every time I teach and sometimes (and this class was no exception) I learn a thing or two as well.

Book Signing (Leslie Zemeckis): I brought my copy of Behind the Burly-Q to be signed. I had two other hardcover books (Striptease and It’s All That Glitters) weighing down my suitcase, so I couldn’t also bring Goddess of Love Incarnate. Another time, I’m sure.

Exotic Dance Moves 101 (Peekaboo Pointe): A primer of exotic dance moves, some of which were familiar from burlesque, just done with different angles and intentions. My favorite part of the class was that we started with a Pilates warm up. Because of the intense schedule for Wrathskellar Tales I couldn’t get to the gym or barre class for about six weeks. The exertion was very welcome and I was pleased to discover I hadn’t lost all my core strength in the interim.

Props & Gimmicks (Gina Bon Bon): Gina demonstrated some of her signature moves with a boa and on a prop and then invited audience members to “show me what you learned”. Classes with Legends always remind me where we came from and are inspirational.

I had a very nice dinner in the hotel restaurant withe Maggie McMuffin, with conversation that ranged from frivolous to emotional. It was just what I needed, as I had been a bit too solitary this weekend.

Then I put on lounging attire and went to Tales Around the Glampfire for some storytelling. I think it went better than last year. Alotta Bouté was a fine hostess. That she sat on the stage with the storyteller made it feel less like *performance* and a bit more intimate. Also, it didn’t seem like they were sticking to a 5-minute limit for stories and the event itself hwas scheduled to run longer, so storytellers were less rushed and flustered. As expected, some stories were kind of rambling, some were excellent, and some were perfectly enjoyable. Indigo’s story about Wild Cherry was an appropriate, if melancholy, finale. Reminds me that I should remind Scratch to write up his Joan Arline story.

 And so to bed.

M2

Published in: on 23 November 2016 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2016: Friday

Dear Constant Reader,

My second day at BurlyCon I woke early because I really, really wanted to take an 8:30am class.

Giving Good Face: Facial Expressions the Scientific Way (Tiger Tangerine): This was a splendid class. I’m terrible about facial expressions (I often look like I’m scowling) and am desperate to improve them. She used the work of Paul Ekman (the basis of the TV show “Lie to Me”) and the universality of facial expressions (like anger, joy, and disgust) to help us understand *what* our face it doing when we are expressing emotion. I found it a compatible with Delsarte theory. It was a 90 minute class, but it was clear she could have gone on for a while longer and I would have liked to. Now to practice, practice, practice.

Getting Tight: A Guide to Corsetry (me): My first class of the weekend. I was a little nervous about this one, not because of the material, which I know backward and forwards, but technology. I know it’s unusual in this day and age, but I don’t own a laptop or a tablet, so I was going to be running my presentation off an iPhone. A friend got me a converter for my phone and BurlyCon had the right cable to connect it to the projector, so it all went well.

Just around the time I was talking about the transition from corsets to other forms of support garments in the 1920’s, Don Spiro came in to take pictures of the class and tossed me a copy of the latest issue of Zelda. Excellent timing, as it just happens to have an article on making 1920s-style garters by yours truly!

Panty Magic (Sherry Bomb): I’ve been making panties for years but I hoped I might learn something new. Mostly I learned that I’ve been doing everything right. I really appreciated that she explained things for sewing machines, rather than for sergers.

Elegant and Dirty: Burlesque Movement Through the Decades (Vivienne VaVoom): Vivienne shared movements and gestures as well as historical context that she’s gleaned from films as well as interviewing our Legends. It was part lecture, part movement class.

After classes ended, I hiked almost back to the previous BurlyCon hotel to have dinner at L & L Hawaiian Barbecue, which Scratch and I discovered last year. I don’t know how authentic their food is, never having been to Hawaii (yet!), but you certainly can’t get a plate lunch in my neck of the woods. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, plate lunch is an entree, usually Asian-influenced, like the pork katsu I ordered, served with rice and macaroni salad.

The evenings activity was the class photo (which I missed as usual) and the dance. The theme this year was “Camp” and I had no idea what to wear. Pearl suggested “pin-up hiker” and that’s how I went: shorts, bandanna-print top, actual bandanna on my hair, and leopard heels. I must say that the combination of those shorts and those heels made my legs look spectacular.

I was heading to dance when I saw Maggie McMuffin and Jacqueline Boxx heading to hospitality, where the cheap drinks were, and tagged along. Maggie, the newly-elected co-Mayor of Seattle Burlesque, wanted to do short video interviews with performers from other parts of the country and I volunteered (well, I was volunteered by Scratch, from afar). We shot it in the hallway on her phone while I babbled awkwardly and people dashed between us. Fun!

I did check out the dance and the camp activities, but was too tired to make a late night of it.

M2

Published in: on 22 November 2016 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2016: Thursday

Dear Constant Reader,

Thursday morning, not too early for once, I boarded a plane for the long, boring flight to Seattle and a long weekend of classes and glitter. My flight arrived early, the hotel had my room ready (it’s good to be a Hilton Honors member), and registration was a breeze. I could have actually made it to one of the classes in the second time slot, but I decided to relax instead. Naps and snacks are good things.

I did make it to one class: How I Came to Write Striptease (Rachel Schteir)
Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show was one of the first books I read on the history of burlesque, partially because it was one of the only ones in existence at the time. It certainly influenced my perceptions of burlesque and I was glad to have the opportunity to tell the author that. It was interesting to hear about the research process behind the book, which was extensive and lengthy.

I took myself out for a quiet dinner at one of the local fine dining establishments (that would be Denny’s) and then prepared for the evening’s entertainments, the Vintage Meet & Greet.

This year there was a Pool Party theme. I was wearing my vintage-style one-piece bathing suit, but I covered it with my Catherine D’Lish caftan. I think the only person who ever saw the suit was Jacqueline Boxx, when I pulled open my caftan to show that my leopard suit complimented hers.

Although I started the evening in my awesome leopard heels, I soon realized that the caftan was long enough that I could just wear my comfy flats and no one could tell. I got a lot of compliments on that caftan and a few on my necklace, which was my first foray into making jewelry. I didn’t last very long and soon took myself to bed.

More to report on my Friday, a much fuller day.

M2

Published in: on 21 November 2016 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Whilst at BurlyCon, I picked up some trinkets for the ladies at home, these fun luggage tags from Di’ Lovely.

After I passed them out, I made an off-hand comment that Pearl requested be the next Friday Tip, so here is is:

Put your business card in your luggage tag.

That way, if your bag goes astray, there’s contact info attached to it, but not your personal information.

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

Published in: on 18 November 2016 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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