Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Last week we had a pastie-making workshop for our apprentices and it put me in the mind of this tip:

When encrusting your pasties with rhinestones, use a metallic base fabric for extra sparkle.

I made this pastie with gold lamé under all those gold rhinestones. It’s barely noticeable between the stones, but you get more *GOLD* impact than if it were a non-metallic background.

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.

Published in: on 19 April 2019 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s a very sad day in the burlesque world. Last night, we lost one of our Legends, Satan’s Angel, The Devil’s Own Mistress, Queen of the Fire Tassels. She was a force of nature and an inspiration to many performers.

I was fortunate enough to meet her a couple of times, most notably at The Great Burlesque Expo in 2008, where she impressed everyone by twirling her fire tassels. “Tatas Flambé”, she called them. Now, she’d been told the venue didn’t allow fire, but that was Angel — she did exactly what she wanted, damn the consequences. Her energy on stage belied her age and years of hard living. I still have not seen anyone work a duster like she did.

Despite her intimidating stage presence, she was quite approachable. She spoke her mind, bluntly and completely unfiltered, and if you were smart, you listened.

Today I want to share some wise words from Mr. Scratch, from when we first learned that Angel was ill:

If you are in the world of burlesque, figure out the legend who is closest to you (I don’t mean geographically; the one who speaks to you as a performer) and reach out to them. Listen to them; learn from them.

We did not invent Burlesque. We inherited it. We cannot keep its flame alive if we do not know what that flame is.

Our Legends are a precious link to our history, and a dwindling resource. Cherish them.

Yours in sorrow,
M2

Published in: on 12 April 2019 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Los Angeles: Burlesque Bingo 1/20/19

Dear Constant Reader,

I know this is the missive you’ve been waiting for — all about the House of Knyle graduation show at Burlesque Bingo!

I was extremely grateful for this opportunity, not only to share a stage with all the women I’d gotten to know through Egypt’s program, but I can’t imagine otherwise performing in one of Audrey DeLuxe’s shows.

The venue was Harvell’s in Long Beach. Lili VonSchtupp had given me some advance info like that the dressing room was good but narrow and that the stage was carpeted and a couple steps up, which allayed a little of my nervousness. The space has a great speakeasy vibe and I can see why there’s a lot of burlesque there.

I was the first to arrive. Scratch volunteered to do whatever was needed and that turned out to be running the follow spot. All the other ladies were staying with and therefore traveling with Egypt. I kind of regretted missing out of the bonding time (and more, as it turned out), but I’m not sorry I chose to spend time with Kitten Natividad. Our Legends are so important. When everyone else arrived they briefed me on the plan for the curtain call and after, whihc they had worked on the night before at Egypt’s. That did have me a little nervous because improvisation dance is not my strength.

Burlesque Bingo works thusly: On the floor perpendicular to the stage is a bingo board, like a very low runway. At the back of the stage is a number board (see photo).
When the performer discards a costume piece, she tosses it onto the board on the floor. One of the Lucky Charms (Audrey’s adorable assistants; also see photo) turns on the light for the corresponding number on the big board and everyone marks their bingo cards accordingly. After the act is over, if no one has bingo, the Lucky Charms begin to disrobe and toss out their garments until bingo is achieved. The bingo winner then comes onto stage to claim their goodie bag of prizes. If more than one person has bingo, everyone gets a chance to roll a giant pink fuzzy die to see who claims the prize. It’s a lot of fun. It was also clear some audience members are all abut the bingo, while others are just there for the burlesque.

I wish I could do a blow by blow of the other acts, but I was more than nervous and rather in my own head most of the night, so I don’t recall a lot of the show. The line up, however, was:
Bebe Bardot
Lilac SaintClair
Dulce D’Jour
CoCo Rose
Crocodile Lightning
Nadia Lotte
Briq House
Mayo Lua de Frenchie
Mina Murray
Twirlisha Devine
Egypt Blaque Knyle

After we each did our acts, Egypt joined us on stage and presented each student with a certificate of completion.

After Egypt’s performance, we each came out in reverse order, still in our pasties, and improvised on stage for a few measures. Eventually we moved into our assigned places, arrayed around the runway, while Egypt performed again. By the end we were all over her. We wouldn’t let her leave the stage until we had presented her with our gift, a large engraved diamond.

I was very touched when Bebe Bardot, who had to race off to the airport immediately after the show, took a few moments to say some kind things about my books. I feel a kinship with this lovely lady — she’s also a scholar of burlesque history, a writer, and a classic sort of gal — so it meant a lot.

All right, I won’t make you wait any longer. Here’s my act:

What did I think? It’s still a little rough. I’m not happy with my facial expressions and I can see all the tension in my shoulders. Those shoes were giving me such trouble, especially with the turns and lunges, and you can see where I so gracefully stumble off the edge of the bingo stage near the end. However, I’m really happy with parts of it and I can see there’s some power there. I’ve since performed it three other times and it just keeps getting better as I’m more comfortable with it and I’m not stressing about trying to impress a mentor (and I got new shoes)

This act, probably more than any other one, had a lot of feedback from a lot of people. Egypt suggested the lunges after the turns (as well as other things). It was Ava’s idea that I start with the back panel draped in front. Originally I dropped to my knees for the floorwork, but Betty said “Can you drop into a plank? You do planks all the time.” Scratch came up with the belt remove. He also edited my music so there was a strong ending instead of a fade-out.

I’m so grateful to Egypt for giving me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, to perform in this great show, and to work with these amazing women.

Performance photo by Jason Kamimura Photography
Video by Cliesha

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 9 April 2019 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip:

Consider using music from independent artists.

It can be a nice change of pace to use music from lesser-known artists, particularly local ones. You’re exposing your audience or students to something new and it’s a song probably few other burlesquers are performing to. It’s usually easier to get permission to use the song, and if you need to pay for rights, you’ll know the artists are getting more of the money than if you deal with ASCAP. Also, you may have an opportunity to cross-promote.

A few years ago we had a lot of fun performing with local musician Samantha Farrell. She sang foor one of our existing routines and Stella created an act to one her original songs. It was a great creative exchange.

For B.A.B.E.’s recent Chair Dance 201 class, I created the students’ choreography to "Voodoo You" by burlesque performer Melody Sweets. Enjoy this snippet!

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.

Published in: on 5 April 2019 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I’m off to Atlanta this weekend to perform in Coco Rosé’s show Evolution. I’m so excited! And now for your tip:

Leave a little looseness in your choreography for taking off costume elements.

Sometimes garments can come off on a precise beat and sometimes…. they need a little coaxing. I’m looking at you, stockings! Build in just a little extra time, so you don’t have to rush on those problematic items.

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.

Published in: on 29 March 2019 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Los Angeles: Tuesday 1/22/19

Dear Constant Reader,

Our last day! You can read about the previous three here, here, and here.

Again Scratch cooked breakfast for the three of us — a delicious vegetable sauté with a lot of spinach — and again, we ate outdoors in the sunshine. I could really get used to that.

Scratch and I set out for one of our favorite places in Los Angeles, the garment district, and met up with the lovely and talented Sheila Starr Siani. I am so happy the we managed to see so many friends on this short trip. I am also pleased at our restraint. We each had proprieties — I needed gloves for B.A.B.E., Sheila wanted rhinestones, and Scratch was hunting for a name necklace for Ava, our newest troupe member — and we all found what we wanted and didn’t even buy too much else. Although I was sorely tempted. I am so jealous of the local performers and the resources for costumes they have available.

After a bite with Sheila, we returned to Kitten’s house to pack for the trip home. I was sorry to be leaving the warmth of the weather and our friends, but I was also missing Mr. Albert pretty badly. Kitten’s kittens are adorable, but more interested in racing around and chasing one another than snuggling and purring.

As a farewell and thank you, we took Kitten out to The Musso and Frank Grill, an old Hollywood classic. We love the timeless, dingy charm and it turned out to be one of Kitten’s favorites too. She used to go there all the time with Russ Meyer. The food is old-school, since the menu hasn’t changed in decades: steaks, lobster thermidor, chicken a la king, &c. I’m told the martinis are excellent and I can personally vouch for the sand dabs (it’s a Pacific flat fish, like sole). But you’re really going there for the history and the feeling of being in another era. I was excited to realize we were there during the centennial year.

After a Caesar salad, I had the fettuccine Alfredo. The story is that Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks had the original dish in Rome and cajoled, begged, and bribed Alfredo into sharing the recipe, which they brought to Musso and Frank. It really was sublime. I usually never order it because most place serve it with a gloppy cream sauce. I’m very picky about my pastas! (just ask me about how carbonara should be made). This was silky, cheesy, and rich without being cloying. I barely made a dent in the huge plate, so Kitten took the rest home. I’m glad all that deliciousness didn’t go to waste.

Then it was time to say our goodbyes and head to LAX for the red-eye back to Boston. Our flight was on-time, but we heard the morning flight, which I had considered taking, had been delayed for six hours. I’m glad Scratch convinced me to take the evening flight — more time in L.A. and no waiting to go home.

I always book an aisle and a window seat for us, hoping that no one wanted the middle seat. If someone did, I end up taking the hit and offering them the window. As the plane filled up, we kept an anxious eye on the empty seat between us. Could it be… a travel miracle? The only vacant seat on the plane was between us! I happily lay down and went to sleep until we arrived in Boston.

And that, dear Reader, is the end of my trip to Los Angeles, but not the end of my story. I still need to tell you all about Burlesque Bingo, the whole reason I was there!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 28 March 2019 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Los Angeles: Monday 1/21/19

Dear Constant Reader,

Here’s my third day in L.A.. You can read about Saturday and Sunday as well. You didn’t miss the part about the show — that comes last.

As would become our pattern for the trip, Scratch took over Kitten’s kitchen to make breakfast. Since I had Cuban food leftover from the day before, he made eggs for himself and Kitten. In case you haven’t been reading for very long, I hate eggs. In general I don’t like a lot of traditional breakfast foods. Diners that advertise breakfast all day are not a draw for me. I’d much rather have dinner food for breakfast than breakfast food for dinner. I know, I’m weird.

Then we set out to the Los Angeles Zoo to meet up with one of Scratch’s long-time friends. I didn’t even know Los Angeles had a zoo! I mean, I knew about San Diego — everyone has heard of that zoo. I’m so glad we went. It was a terrific zoo and so big! Sometimes I’m surprise at how much wilderness there is in a city like L.A.

Our native guide took us through the best parts of the zoo. We saw animals I didn’t even know existed. I was rather taken with this antediluvian-looking critter, a tomistoma (it’s between the rope and the wire, blending in with its surroundings)
There were lots more wonderful animals, including our household favorite, gorillas. I regret I didn’t ride the carousel, but I was pretty tired at the time. There had been a LOT of walking.

Despite the slight chill, it was a lovely sunny day. Which reminds me, the weather was terrible in Boston while we were gone. There was a snowstorm predicted for Saturday night, which was supposed to be bad. Betty Blaize bunked down at The Manor to make sure the weather wouldn’t prevent her from giving Albert his medicine in the morning. She’s a big damn hero.

Later in the evening we met up with my dear friend Professor A. You know those people with whom you just fall right into conversation, even though it’s been ages since you saw each other? She’s one of those. We were having such a good time catching up over a late dinner, that we didn’t want to stop, even though the restaurant was closing up around us. We retired to her charming apartment for tea and sweets she had hand-carried back from her vacation in Lebanon. Eventually it got very late and we reluctantly took our leave. I hope we’re in the same city again soon! I got lucky last year and not only got to visit her after Stripper’s Holiday, but we were also both in New Orleans the previous month.

Kitten had worried that the guest room was going to be cold and mentioned that she wanted to get a space heater. As long as Scratch and I were out, we picked one up for her. It was the least we could do for our generous and lovely hostess. And it made the room very cozy.

One more day!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 28 March 2019 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! This week’s tip is a follow up to last week’s:

Making your own bath products is easy and fun.

Here’s my recipe for a simple bath fizz. This makes about a quarter of a cup and it doubles well.

Base
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. Epsom salts
2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. citric acid

Then you can customize it with dried herbs and flowers, essential oils, and even color! This is my favorite blend:
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops purple food coloring (optional)
1 1/2 tsp. dried lavender

Lavender is very relaxing. Experiment with invigorating citrus or romantic rose. Try mint and/or eucalyptus for when you have a cold.

Moisture will cause premature fizzing, so keep all equipment dry and store bath fizz in a tightly-sealed container.

Place the salts in a bowl, add the essential oil and food coloring and mix well. Add the baking soda and citric acid, then crumble in the herbs.

To use, add a scoop to a warm bath and enjoy the fizz!

And if you don’t want the flowers floating in the water, just use last week’s tip!

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.

P.S. That is my bath tub and my vampire mini-rubber ducky. Someday I’ll make an excuse to show you the glorious mosaic that’s just out of frame.

Published in: on 22 March 2019 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Los Angeles: Sunday 1/20/19

Dear Constant Reader,

Here is my second day in Los Angeles. You can read about the first one here.

As I mentioned previously, we were staying with Kitten Natividad and her guest room is a treasure trove. The walls are covered with posters and photographs from her career. She has tons of her movies — on VHS, DVD, and even film. Scratch thought she was just teasing us, since there was no way to watch them. There’s even a doll wearing a replica of one of her signature burlesque costumes. And other wondrous memorabilia, like this memento of Liz Renay. I saw her only once, but she sure left an impression.

I started my day by running my number. I reminded myself that the ceiling in the guest room was low, especially with the heels I was wearing. The music started, I forgot everything else, and WHAM! slammed my hand right into the ceiling. Chipped a couple of nails. I’m such a graceful showgirl.

After figurative licking my paws as though I meant to do that, I joined Scratch and Kitten for breakfast. Scratch took over the kitchen (as he would every morning) and made simple bowls of fresh berries and cream, which we enjoyed in the sunshine of the courtyard, watching Kitten’s kittens play. As Albert was a dignified adult cat when we found him, I forgot kittens don’t really bother with gravity. Here they are trying to scale the pergola. One would get part of the way up and the other would jump up and knock him down. Endless entertainment!

I suggested a stroll through Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which was nearby. But first we went to Larchmont Village to wander their farmer’s market. One of the things I love most about Los Angeles is the amazing produce. I just want to take it all home, but settled for sampling some oranges. Fabulous!

We drove over to Hollywood Forever, but didn’t pick up a map and thus had no idea where we were going. We decided to park over by the lake and that turned out to be the right choice. Right away I saw the very monument I’d been hoping to find! Scratch and I paid our respects to Johnny Ramone. Growing up in NYC, Scratch was fortunate to see the Ramones perform many times. As I had a more sheltered upbringing, this was as close as I ever got to the punk icons.

Wandering about the lake we found graves of many notable industry people — movie stars, directors, and starlets — but one touched me more than the others. This simple marker is a memorial to one of the greatest costume designers of Golden Age Hollywood and a personal inspiration.

On the way out we saw some of the feral cats that have made the cemetery their home. I was taken with this charmer, sunning itself on a headstone. There were a fair number of animals on the grounds — turtles and ducks on the lake, few peacocks wandering around.

Then we went back to the house so I could head over to the Fit & Bendy Studio. I was so excited when Scratch mentioned that Michelle L’amour was teaching a workshop while we were going to be in L.A. It’s called Sex Drive, and that sounded like just the thing I needed right before the big show, so I signed up right away. I quickly checked my email just before I ran out the door (so nice to be mostly unconnected all day) and saw the class was canceled. Michelle was injured and could barely walk. Obviously I was terribly disappointed, but also concerned for her. Injuries are no joke when you make your living being physical.

So instead of working on my sex drive, I joined Scratch and Kitten for a late lunch at a local Cuban restaurant.

I think I may have taken a nap, but soon it was time to head for Long Beach and Burlesque Bingo! I know you all want to heard about the show, but I’m going to make you wait. I’m going to devote an entire missive to the show, but it’s going to come last. Consider it a tease.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 20 March 2019 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

A simple stocking can make your bath easier to clean up.

A lovely bath is a great way to relax, especially after a show or a rehearsal. It’s even better with a bath bomb, bath salts, or similar additions. Some of them contain herbs, flower petals, and other delights, which can cling to your skin and the bottom of the tub.

Just put your favorite bath bomb or the like into the toe of an old stocking and tie it up. You can loop it over the faucet or let it roam around the tub. The salts will still fizz and dissolve and spread their goodness throughout the water, but the solid stuff will stay put. You’ll get all the benefits of any botanicals without having the bits floating around.

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.

Published in: on 15 March 2019 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,