A Visit to Santa Fe

Dear Constant Reader,

After my performance in Albuquerque Friday night, I was off to Santa Fe the next day. Well, originally I was going to spend all Saturday in Albuquerque and take the train to Santa Fe on Sunday morning, but there was a burlesque show Saturday night and it seemed dumb to miss the opportunity. And then Dr. Jen offered to come get me and put me up, so it was a no-brainer.

The landscape is just breathtaking. That’s the word I just kept using because my vocabulary was inadequate. Mountains, mesas, exactly the colors you think of as “southwestern”. This photo does not do it justice.

We stopped at The Teahouse where I had a lovely cranberry almond scone. You know I take my scones very serious and this was pretty fabulous. Serving it with lemon curd was a nice touch.

The burlesque show, put on by Zircus Erotique was at The Palace, which I was told was once a brothel. It certainly has the right decor — red flocked wallpaper, decorative ceilings, and fancy chandeliers. The performance was at one end of the dining room — no stage, which is always a challenge. We were sitting in the bar, watching the show through open windows in the partition between rooms. Not terribly ideal sight lines, especially since the place was packed.

After doors opened, go-go dancers began circulating through the venue. Until the show started and then again at intermission, they slithered and shimmied through both rooms, getting up close with the patrons, but never being intrusive. This was a new approach to me, which worked well because of the lack of a stage and the aforementioned sight line issues.

The show itself was many of the same performers I had worked with the night before, but not necessarily the same acts. I really can’t give you a blow-by-blow this time because I don’t have a set list to jog my memory.

I was impressed with the Mosaic Dance Company, a trio of belly dancers with some really tight choreography.

I was eagerly awaiting Sophia Sunday’s second number because I assumed it would be the razor blades I had missed Friday night. However, it was something entirely different, but still weird and wonderful. She started on a chaise, fairly classic, but after stripping a bit, she set a bed of nails on it. She proceeded to demonstrate that she’s not called “The Pain Proof Pinup” for nothing. I loved the stocking removes. The act was kind like this.

Al Monds danced with a flowing white cape she used to great effect. Lola was trying to remember the dance pioneer she resembled. “Loie Fuller”, I called out.

Lola Van Ella once again impressed me with her stage presence and stripping, this time to one of Scratch’s favorite Doors songs. She works the audience so well. I learned a lot from watching her.

The stand out of the evening for me was Holly Rebelle. So far this weekend I had seen her be classic and be vaudevillian, but for her last act, she was just fierce AF with a passionate performance to “Sabotage”. She told me before the show she was nervous about it, but she dominated that room.

After the show Dr. Jen’s assistance, Gia, wanted to meet some of the performers and do some networking. I did feel sort of weird making the introductions when I’d only met some of these people the night before.

The next day Dr. Jen, Gia, and I went to Ten Thousand Waves. It’s a beautiful, tranquil Japanese bath house and spa. It’s one of those places that looks like it could have opened yesterday, because everything is so beautifully maintained, or always been there, since the architecture is so harmonious and fits perfectly in its setting. We got a private tub and it was just the thing for a weary traveler to stretch and soak. I will definitely be back.

I insisted we go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, since how could I be in New Mexico and not see some of her art. The first thing that surprised me was that you could take pictures of most of the art; only a few items were labeled as off limits. The other surprise was the painting to the right. I immediately recognized New York, just from those few shapes. Like most, I associate O’Keeffe with southwestern landscapes and yonic flowers. This painting changed my perspective on her style. It’s a toss up between this and a more expected calla lily as my favorite work.

On the way to Jen’s log cabin/lab in the mountains, we stopped at the town of Español for dinner at El Paragua for some local cuisine. I couldn’t decide, so I got an (enormous) combination plate (that I barely made a dent in). I got to try carne adovada (pork in a red chile sauce) and posole (hominy and pork stew) and sopapillas (heaven in a basket — pillowy fried dough with honey). I’m a big wimp when it comes to spice, so I was pleasantly surprised that the adovada wasn’t too hot for my palate. The red sauce on the enchilada was another story. Because I had to try green chile eventually, I tried a bite of Jen’s chile relleno and determined that while the heat wouldn’t kill me, I still don’t like green peppers in any form.

And then we continued the long, very scenic drive up into the mountains. I’m positive I’ve never been at an elevation that high before.

As this has gotten quite long, Dear Reader, and I have now left the city in the title, I shall sign off for now and perhaps take up my narrative again tomorrow.

Published in: on 29 March 2017 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Night of Classic Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

I’d been looking for an excuse to make a trip to the Southwest and when I saw my friend Holly Rebelle looking for out of town performers for her show in Albuquerque, I jumped at the chance. I met Holly at The Great Burlesque Expo something like 9 years ago, at which she and her troupe took home a Howard Award. I know she wasn’t expecting anyone from as far out of town as I am, but it turned out I wasn’t the only one who came from the East Coast!

Dr. Wilson of the Theatre of Miracles in Maine had relocated to Albuquerque and he and his lovely wife graciously offered me a place to stay. They’ve got a gorgeous guest suite and parrots! I couldn’t linger too long, because I was off early to tech for the show.

I had been nervous because Holly specifically requested “An Invitation”, which requires some set pieces that I couldn’t bring with me (I can barely transport Super Screen in my car, let alone by plane). She and David came through for me with the required screen and a backlight.

Launchpad, the venue, is the sort of place I’ve performed at before. It’s made for bands, with a high, carpeted stage, a tiny dressing room and a bar up front. The crew did a great job, bringing in pipe and drape to make the stage more burlesque friendly, and the performers took over the back half of the balcony, so as not to crowd the dressing room for when someone actually needed to dress. Also, a nice (and necessary touch) was a big cooler full of ice and bottled water for the performers. Albuquerque is incredibly dry and also at about 5000 feet above sea level. Both of which were a new experience for this New England gal and I was very careful not to get slammed by either, especially since I was also terribly short on sleep.

I did have time between tech and doors open to go down the block and relax over a light supper at Duel Brewing, which was lovely — four kinds of cheese and an array of sweet and sour accompaniments.

I was on near the end of the line-up, so I got to see much of the show, albeit from way in the back. Feisty Baudelaire let me have a corner of her merch table to vend my little book. It was a *long* show. Apparently the venue requires a three and a half hour show, but Holly and crew made sure it was entertaining.

Albuquerque poster

The show started with a stand-up comedy set (which I missed completely) and then we got into the burlesque. Hostess Lola Van Ella graced us all the way from St. Louis. She began by singing “Let Me Entertain You”, a promise of what was to come. I don’t think I can give you a blow by blow of the entire show, since I didn’t see all of it and it kind of ran together into a lovely, glittery blur, due to exhaustion and excitement. I’ll do the best I can.

  • Soiree Entertainment opened the show with a group dance with a tiny bit of stripping to “Feelin’ Good” (almost the same version The BeauTease use).
  • Lana Montresse did a classic strip with boa and gown.
  • Mena Domina had a gorgeous act with silk veil fans and a cape that transformed her into a delicate moth.
  • I was delighted when Annie O’Roar used a version of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” that I thought no one else knew for her bellydance-inspired striptease. Also, she had a magnificent fabric boa.
  • Holly Rebelle did a sensual strip moving from a mostly black ensemble to white underthings, including a magnificent rhinestoned corset. EDIT: See it here.
  • Godiva Bleu had a truly impressive headdress. From where I was sitting, I didn’t realize the significance of the green decorations on her costume until she lit up. And then she was as high as her headdress.
  • Rebel, all the way from North Carolina, just blew me away with his high-energy moves.
  • Vivian MirAnn was slinky to “Minnie the Moocher” and showered herself and the audience with coins.
  • Sophia Sunday showed off her sideshow roots with something very naughty with balloons.
  • Lola Van Ella sang again, but I can’t remember what.
  • There was a lengthy intermission, but it was filled with live music from Eddie Brewer & The Manic Episodes.

  • Holly Rebelle opened the second act by performing with the band. After snuggling up to the keyboard player and then stripping a bit, she moved to center stage and began tap dancing. And continued stripping. “true vaudeville” said Lola. EDIT: See it here.
  • At this point I went to the dressing room to get ready, so my descriptions are about to get even hazier.

  • Mayo Lua de Frenchie did something funky in a purple pants suit with a chair and rather impressive boots.
  • Mischa Mischief had a gorgeous lilac-themed costume, which I had seen hanging in the dressing room. I’m sorry I missed this one.
  • Miss Conduct was another one I missed. I know she had a fur stole…
  • Feisty Baudelaire was classic with a gown and gloves strip, but she had this rose-trimmed picture hat that made the whole costume special.
  • Joy Coy ushered in spring with an adorable bunny costume and spot-on musicality.
  • Rebel burned up the stage again, in a sparkling, fuzzy, pink suit.
  • Then it was my turn. I was so happy that the stage had steps up front so I could enter the way the act is designed, through the audience. The train on my robe looks so much better slithering up stairs.
  • I’m so sorry I missed Sophia Sunday‘s next act (I was getting dressed again). She did a spin on Scratch’s “Urban Legend” aka swallowing razor blades. While stripping.
  • Vivian MirAnn got up close and very personal with the audience in a stunning blue costume.
  • Lola Van Ella closed out the show with a dead sexy striptease to “St. James Infirmary”.
  • The show was so good, so strong, so many excellent performances. I’m so pleased to have been a part of it!

    Here’s everyone! All photos by KayLynn Aragon Photography

    After the curtain call, my hosts took my weary ass home. At that point, not counting the fitful naps I got on the planes, I’d been up for 22 hours.

    Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the show and especially those of you who stayed for the whole thing! Big thanks to Holly for inviting me out and being so wonderful. And deep gratitude to Mr. Rebelle, the Kitten Squad, and all the tech crew — you made my act look great. Finally, to my fellow performers — it was great meeting all of you and seeing you strut your stuff. Thanks for being so welcoming to a traveling showgirl!

    Published in: on 27 March 2017 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

    When doing leg work, keep your legs strong and your toes pointed.

    When your legs are supposed to be straight, keep them straight. If they’re bent, bend them at an attractive angle. What you don’t want are mushy knees. You don’t have to get your legs up very high or open very wide, if flexibility is an issue. As long as you’re making a nice line, your legs will look lovely.

    Legs

    Photo by Cassandra Mia at The Great Burlesque Expo of 2011

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

    Published in: on 24 March 2017 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I’m so tired. My trip to New Mexico was wonderful, but the travel home wasn’t. I’ll tell you all about everything once I’ve gotten some rest. However, that won’t be soon. Tonight I’ll be performing at “Kiss Me, I’m Not Irish“, a variety show featuring performers from all over the globe.

    But it’s Friday (I’d almost lost track of what day it is) and time for your tip.

    When traveling, pack at least one more outfit than you think you’ll need.

    Most times you’ll take it home unworn, but one day you’ll be really glad to have the extra clothes.

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

    Published in: on 17 March 2017 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! As you read this, I’m winging my way to The Land of Enchantment (that would be New Mexico) for a few days of performing, sightseeing, and catching up with friends. but I wouldn’t neglect your tip.

    Bring your music to a gig in multiple formats.

    Now, a good producer should have had you submit your music ahead of time and everything will be all set when you arrive for the show, but stuff happens*…

    Bring your music on a flash drive, so it can be imported again, if necessary. Also, bring your music on your phone. You’re going to want to listen to it on your headphones backstage anyway. In a pinch, your device can be used for playback.

    And of course, if you come so prepared, none of your careful created backups will be needed. Such is the way of things.

    *At our New Year’s Eve show, Betty’s song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, started only playing one channel. As half the lyrics were inaudible, this made for a problematic performance. Fortunately, it was re-imported and played the next night without mishap.

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

    Published in: on 10 March 2017 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Westward Ho!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    This Friday I’m off on my first trip to the Southwest. I am beyond excited to be performing in Holly Rebelle’s A Night of Classic Burlesque in New Mexico! It’s a great line-up and I get to perform one of my favorite acts. I’m looking forward to meeting all my fellow performers.

    I’m equally excited to be seeing so many friends while I’m there. Even an otherwise tedious layover in Phoenix has become an opportunity to see a dear friend. This is one of the women who made me the costumer I am today and it’s been longer than I care to admit since we were in the same place.

    The next couple of days will be spent fretting over packing. What clothing will I bring to deal with daily 30 degree temperature fluctuations? Should I pack my fans securely in my huge suitcase and worry about luggage going astray or try to jam them in a carry-on and worry about getting them through security? How few pairs of shoes can I get away with?

    Expect to see pictures via Instagram of my adventures.

    M2

    Published in: on 7 March 2017 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! I just got back from a lovely little vacation to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico only to have the temperature in Boston plummet. Brrrr… In just one week, I’ll be performing at A Night of Classic Burlesque in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Maybe it will be spring when I get back.

    And here’s your tip!

    Take risks!

    If you only do what’s safe on stage and in your life, you won’t really process as an artist. Try something new, something daring. It might not work, but you’ll definitely learn something along the way. In the best case, you’ve challenged yourself and improved, perhaps in an unexpected way.

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

    Published in: on 3 March 2017 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

    If you have an injury, take the time you need to let it heal.

    As dancers and physical performers we are, unfortunately, prone to injury. While there may seem something heroic about ignoring the pain and going on stage anyway, you’re not doing yourself any favors. It’s frustrating to be sidelined, but you don’t want to make your injury worse by going back to your normal activities before it has healed properly.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t continue to work on your art; you just need to be creative about it. Practice facial expressions, embellish costumes, do a modified version of an act where you can baby the injured body part*, &c.

    *After spraining her ankle, Betty created a number she could do while sitting down.
    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    Published in: on 24 February 2017 at 11:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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    In the Kitchen: Gold & Silver Cake (1934)

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I’ve been dying to try Gold and Silver Cake from one of my vintage recipe pamphlets, so I decided to make it as my birthday cake. The pamphlet in question, The Latest Cake Secrets, was pushing Swansdown cake flour and Baker’s coconut. I confess, I used Softasilk flour (more about the coconut below).

    The cake itself is pretty simple, just a basic white cake. The flour does get sifted *four* times, once before measuring and then 3 times with salt and baking powder. This is added to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Flavor with some almond and orange extracts. Then fold in some stiffly beaten egg whites. Use a really big bowl. This recipe makes a lot of batter and you want room to gently incorporate the egg whites.

    Now, it gets interesting. Take 1/3 of the batter and pour it into a cake pan. Then add beaten egg yolks to the remaining batter and divide it between 2 more pans. Thus you should (in theory) have a white layer and 2 yellow layers. Hence gold and silver.

    This was the first time I baked a layer cake and used cake bands, which were totally successful. A cake band is a strip of cloth that is soaked in cold water and wrapped around the outside of the cake pan. It keeps the outside from cooking faster than the middle which is what makes the cake rise up in the center. While my layers weren’t perfectly flat, they were close enough that I didn’t feel the need to level them.

    The color difference wasn’t as great as I might have hoped. Perhaps more egg yolks are needed.

    The cake is then stacked gold-silver-gold with orange filling between the layers. The filling is made with sugar, water, orange juice, lemon juice, whole eggs, and cake flour cooked in a double boiler. Once it thickened, it’s finished with butter and orange zest. I didn’t love how it turned out. The flour lumped a lot and gave the filling a sort of floury flavor. I’d feared this might be the case, but I was determined to stick to the recipe as writ. Obviously the pamphlet was trying to put cake flour in as much as they could, but I’d use cornstarch next time. Also, the cake called for a double recipe of filling, which was way too much.

    Then the cake gets frosted with a classic seven minute frosting. Cook (again in a double boiler) sugar, orange and lemon juices, and egg whites, beating constantly, for at least 7 minutes or until it’s thick and spreadable. Add some orange zest once it comes off the heat.

    Sprinkle the top of the cake with a mixture of shredded coconut and orange zest. You want to do this right after the cake is frosted and the frosting is still gooey. The frosting dries to a crispy sugar shell and the topping would just slide off if you tried to add it at that point. The topping recipe called for Baker’s Southern Style Coconut, which they don’t make any more. It came in a can and was billed as being moist, like fresh coconut. I figured basic flaked coconut from the baking aisle was probably about the same thing. Packaging technology has moved on…

    It was pretty successful for a first attempt. At least my guests liked it. I’m not giving you the recipe like I usually do, since I’m not satisfied with it and want to make some changes before I release it into the wild.

    This was the cake:

    M2

    Published in: on 21 February 2017 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Here it is, Friday again. Time for your tip.

    A variety of decorative elements, not just rhinestones, will add depth and texture to your costumes.

    Try a mix of beading, ribbon work, appliqués, fabric painting, &c. to add interest to any costume piece.

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

    Published in: on 17 February 2017 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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