Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday! How about a tip?

Use hairnets to preserve your wigs’ styles.

After you go to all the effort to style your wig, put a hairnet over it to keep it looking good until you’re ready to wear it.

[You can find all my previous Tips on this page.]

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 September 2021 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Writing

Dear Constant Reader,

I have  a complicated relationship with writing. It’s my main form of communication, but I don’t think I’m a good writer. Writing is a slow and painstaking process for me and I’m never confident in the result. It can take me weeks to write one book review here. I agonize over word choice and sentence structure. And I’m always a little embarrassed to hit “Publish”.

So it surprises the hell out of me when people praise my writing. I received a number of compliments on my most recent post, specifically on the beautiful writing. I’m not used to that.

I think my adversarial relationship with writing began in 6th grade at an awful school with a terrible English teacher. I decided I hated writing and my skills deteriorated. Oh the irony — I was in a gifted program and remedial writing classes. I was so miserable there that my parents decided to send me to private school, which made a lot of things better, but writing was still a struggle

Through college and grad school and a certificate program, I brute forced my way though essays and papers and theses. Over the years I’ve been told my writing was stilted, too formal, awkward, not natural.

Through out the years, however, I’ve kept a paper journal and an electronic one (remember LiveJournal?) and a pen-and-paper correspondence with a dear friend (I probably owe you a letter!) and of course, this blog, which is over ten years old! (How did I miss that anniversary…?). I’ve found a sort of pleasure in writing, but it still doesn’t come easily. I still can’t believe I put out two books.

So, I’m not used to getting compliments on my writing. But I appreciate it so much. Thank you for your kind words.


P.S. Just for the record, it took me three days to put together this little missive.

Published in: on 15 September 2021 at 2:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cats are a Gift from the Universe

Dear Constant Reader,

(no Friday Tip this week. I think this will explain why)

I’ve always believed cats are a gift from the Universe. When you need a cat, one comes into your life. However, the Universe can also take cats away…

Nine years ago, Albert A. Cat wandered into our life. If you’ve been reading my missives that long you know how Scratch, not a cat person, found him on the street and they immediately knew they needed each other. He is a delight and the center of our little world. 

Three years ago Albert started having seizures, which terrified us. Fortunately, with medication, he is perfectly fine. However, we keep a close eye on his health and he sees a couple of specialist vets. 

Recently we discovered his thyroid levels were slightly elevated and we had a couple of options to treat it. There was really no question that we were going to go for radiation therapy.  It would cure him, instead of just treating the issue with diet or medication for the rest of his life. There were just two drawbacks — it’s very expensive and he would be in the hospital for two weeks without any visits allowed. In all his time with us, he’s never been away from both of us for more than four days.

But we did it. The staff at Angell Animal Medical Center are great. We got daily reports on his progress and photos. Scratch started a GoFundMe and so many people, including a bunch we didn’t even know, contributed to Albert’s medical bills. We were counting down the days until he could come home. (Albert is fine. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.)

But Albert is not the only cat in our lives. There are several feral cats in our neighborhood and two decided to make our yard home. They were inseparable and would constantly be headbutting one another in a most adorable fashion. We named the black and white one Tux and the big orange one Ginger Tom. Collectively we call them The Boys. Tux was wary, but Tom was sweet and trusting. Scratch built them a deluxe shelter (with heat in the winter) and fed them every day. He would call and they’d come running. It was one of my great joys to peek out the window and see what The Boys were doing — napping in the sun, grooming each other, hiding amid the plants in my garden. To be honest, Tom’s my favorite of the two.

Last Thursday I fed them in the evening as usual. Friday morning only Tux came. He just sat and looked and waited. Tom is the more adventurous of the two and would often be off doing “Tom things”, but I was worried. Tux didn’t usually act like that.

But it was Expo weekend and off we went to Salem.

We got back on Monday, excited to pick up Albert the next day. But still no Tom.

After asking our other cat-feeding neighbors, we found out that Tom was killed sometime in the middle of Thursday night, probably by a coyote. I like to think he was defending Tux.

Albert’s homecoming was filled with tears. And because of the radiation, we have to limit our contact with him for the next few days. Of course all we want to do is hold him close and never let go.

We share a back fence with The Rectory for our local Episcopalian church and The Boys frequented their yard as well. It was the Rector and his wife who found Tom. 

Yesterday, in the rain, we had a funeral. The Rector’s wife and the Sister who also lives there and Scratch dug a grave in their garden and we laid a cairn of stones over him. It’s a beautiful, peaceful spot and there’s a bush of rosemary right next to him. Sister gave me a bunch and it’s in a vase next to me as I write. Rosemary is for remembrance.

It’s hard to feel so helpless. I know there was nothing I could have done to save Tom’s life, but it hurts so much. I know feral cats have hard and short lives, but it’s not fair. We will continue to care for Tux and hopefully he’ll know our yard is a safe place. He sits and waits for Tom and it just breaks my heart. I hurt so much.

Scratch said it better than I can: “Tom was sweet, fearless, and dumb. And he trusted me and loved Tux with a fierceness that was a joy to see.” I will miss him more that I can say.

All I can do is love Albert and try to comfort Scratch, as he tries to comfort me.




Published in: on 10 September 2021 at 12:11 pm  Comments (2)  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m writing this in haste for The Expo begins today. Here’s your tip!

Buy from independent stores, artists, and craftspeople.

The big businesses will do just fine without your patronage, but these folks may not. The Expo has a fine selection of Vendors the weekend for your burlesque needs and desires. And there are many lovely small businesses here in Salem that deserve your support.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 3 September 2021 at 2:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: Buxom Beautease

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve got another vintage movie review for you!

Buxom Beautease ad cropped

Buxom Beautease, directed by Irving Klaw, 1956.

This is another from our vast archive of Something Weird DVDs. It’s a filmed burlesque show (not live), with stripping and comedy, but notable for a few reasons.

First, it’s directed by Irving Klaw, the man behind the fetish photos of Bettie Page. He previously directed Varietease and Teaserama, more famous films with higher production values and appearances by Bettie Page.

More importantly, it is, I believe, the only recording of Blaze Starr doing her signature flaming couch act. However, it seems to be an ordinary chaise with a jury-rigged smoke effect, rather than her actual stage couch with the flames. That you can see at the American Burlesque Collection‘s special exhibit Passion in Action.

The cast has some burlesque luminaries, but Dorian Dennis gets top billing over Blaze Starr, Lili St. Cyr, and Tempest Storm. Hold that thought, we’ll be back to Lili & Tempest later.

Despite the ad copy promising color, the film is in black and white. We’ll get back to that later as well.

This is a very long write-up; for my summary go here.

A charming miss come out before each act with a card listing the name of the performer(s), which cuts to a close-up of the title card. As the film goes on, she gets less dressed. She’s not used to introduce repeat performers.

The film starts with a comedy routine between Gene Doyle (straight man) and Joe Young (comic). It’s mostly a bunch of quick bits. They’re playing in front of curtains, but it doesn’t look like a theatre and it doesn’t sound like there’s an audience.

Blaze Starr heats things up with her flaming couch routine. It look like it was filmed in someone’s living room, maybe a basement set up to look like a living room. She does a slow striptease out of a lot of garments. It’s fun when she rather saucily snaps her garter at the camera. Once she’s down to her undies, she straddles the couch and takes a powder puff out of her evening bag. She awkwardly slaps the powder puff on her armpit, her décolletage, and thighs, then hesitates for a moment and naughtily taps it on her crotch. Finally, she writhes on the couch, and as the camera get close on her face, you get some idea of just how alluring she was on stage. The smoke effect goes off and we hear cheers from the “audience”. She is still fairly modestly attired in a strapless bra and high-waisted panties.

The burlesque continues with Barbara Pauline. She enters rear first and lets the camera linger on her behind sticking out of the curtains at the side of the “stage”. She’s performing on a slightly different living room set, with a sofa. She parades back and forth, stripping from gown and feathered hat to bra and fringed belt to opaque triangle bra and ruffled panties, but no further.

More comedy — a “painless dentist” bit with  the comedy duo and a couple of talking (and screaming) women.

Back to the striptease with Dorian Dennis and back to the living room set. In lieu of gloves she wears some interesting puffed sleeve gauntlets. She gives us a bit of a leg show on the couch. Unfortunately, the camera focuses more on her face during the later part of the act when she’s most undressed (although she still doesn’t go down to pasties).

As the next dancer is introduced, our title girl appears to be naked, hiding behind the card. Eve Adams is performing on a stage set, wearing a striking parti-colored gown which turns out to be a zippered top and open skirt over panels (also parti-colored). At a couple of points, she deliberately pulls up her strapless bra, which had begun to slip. She plays with her hair a lot, which is kind of messy by the end of the act, which made her seem very real. Near the end of the act, she’s clearly saying something, but I can’t make out what it is. I wonder if she’s asking how much longer she has to keep going…

Next up is Patti Paget. The card girl is still “naked” but when she places the card on the easel, you can clearly see her bra and panties although she’s trying to keep her body out of frame. Patti Paget is a fan dancer! Although there is some conceal and reveal, she mostly uses the fans to frame and highlight her body. There’s no pretense whatsoever that she’s nude behind them. There’s a longish bit where the camera just focuses on her legs, which seems something of a waste as she’s doing things with the fans that we can’t see. Eventually she puts the fans down for (I think) a little bump & grind, but now the camera is above her hips.

Gene and Joe return for a trip to Paris where they try out their French on Eve Adams.

A slightly more clad title girl introduces Evonne, who is just waking up. It turns out the ubiquitous couch in the living room set is a sleeper sofa. She slowly gets dressed, pulling on stocking and heels (just a touch of fetish styling here) and discarding her nightgown to give us a leg show on the bed. (She’s also the screaming woman from the dentist bit.) The quality of the film doesn’t seem as good as the rest.

The title girl introduces Rita Grable, then points to herself and beckons us to follow her to the stage. Her costume has lavish layers of tulle ruffles on the overskirt, bodice, and muff.

Blaze Starr takes the stage again in a showgirl costume with a feathered headdress and pearl-encrusted bra. She struts, grinds, and strips, but she’s best when she gets down on the floor, despite all the trouble her fringe skirt gives her. It is made of strands of something like tinsel and it keeps getting caught on the heel of her shoe. Although she frequently squeezes her famous breasts together, like all the previous acts, she doesn’t reveal them.

Trudy Wayne cavorts on and near the couch. The camera is always in very close and I don’t think there’s a single full-body shot in the entire act. The lighting is dim and the film quality is about the same as Evonne’s act.

Dorian Dennis, who had top billing, returns to the living room set. Elegantly dressed, with a fur stole, she opens a compact and powders her face before beginning her parade. As in her first act, she wears a tiny lace skirt which serves as her final remove.

Time for some more comedy! Gene and Joe do a bit with some unusual math and enlist Eve Adams for help.

Up until now the film has been black and white. Suddenly we cut to “Striptease Revealed Starring Tempest Storm”, which is in color! This was a short film Klaw made in 1950.  Presumably he tacked on to the end so he could claim Buxom Beautease had color and stars that the budget probably couldn’t afford. The production values are much higher than the previous hour.

First we see a card (held by a different girl) reading “Starring Lili St. Cyr”. Then a desert scene with Lili dancing in a tent with sheer walls. She exits the tent in a sequined harem girl sort of costume and dances to Orientalist music, looking anywhere but at the camera. She strips down to pasties and net pants, then climbs into her famous bath tub, where she swats at flying bubbles while she covers her breasts with one arm. Discretely screening herself with a towel, she headed back to the tent and from behind its walls, at last reveals all. Or as much as one can see through the sheer tent walls

At last Tempest Storm arrives in all her red-headed glory. The set is nothing to speak of, just some curtains hanging on a wall, but it is in color. Tempest performs one of her signature stripteases, slow and sultry. She ends in a net bra with decorations in lieu of pasties.

tl;dr. This is a very modest burlesque film, both in budget and in the performances. There are 12 burlesque acts from ten performers and 4 comedy sets. The comics aren’t particularly funny. The dancers all end in fairly covering undergarments and none in the black & white section go down to pasties.  If anything particularly risqué is happening, the camera cuts away to focus on another part of the dancer’s body. The dancers themselves occasionally look awkward or bored. The sets are minimal and either pretend to be a theatre stage or a living room.

It’s interesting for the historic value, and for immortalizing Blaze Starr’s signature act, but it’s just not that great a film. I suppose I should watch Varietease and Teaserama next, for contrast.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 August 2021 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again and this particular Friday Massachusetts is now requiring masks indoors again. You’ll need them when you attend The Great Burlesque Exposition next weekend! I though this tip was timely…

Wash your cloth masks after every wearing.

I like to handwash mine. Use cool or warm water (temperature doesn’t really matter) and some soap — this is the virus killer. I usually use Dawn because it also is great at removing lipstick stains. Take out any filters before submerging. Swish around and then thoroughly rinse until there’s no soap left. No need to soak. If your mask has wire shaping, definitely don’t let it hang out in the water longer than necessary. Let the masks air dry.

You can also machine wash, but if the masks have elastics, I recommend air drying. It’ll extend their life

If your masks are rhinestoned or have other embellishments, definitely hand wash! 

For a final touch, give them a quick press with the iron once they’re dry, to crisp up any pleats or folds. This is completely optional, of course.

Not only will washing with soap kill germs and viruses, you’ll have a fresh, clean piece of fabric touching your face, which is just more pleasant. And maybe save you from some irritation and break outs.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 27 August 2021 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Before every costume project, take your measurements, even if you’re sure of what they are, write them down, and refer to them throughout the project.

This tip brought to you by the woman fixing an almost-finished costume piece because she cut it a size too large.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 August 2021 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: Mama Rose’s Turn

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m winnowing down my to-be-reviewed pile! Here’s a book about a controversial figure in burlesque, who was responsible for launching one of the great careers.

Mama Rose’s Turn: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother by Carolyn Quinn, 2013

Rose Thompson Hovick, the mother of Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc, has been portrayed as an amusing eccentric (Gypsy Rose Lee), a brash, overbearing stage mother (Gypsy: A Musical Fable), an abusive narcissist (June Havoc), and even a remorseless murderer (Karen Abbott). Most sources agree that she was beautiful, petite, charming, manipulative, and needy. But who was she really? This book attempts to answer that

The story begins with Rose’s paternal great-grandparents arriving in the midwest from Germany. The generations before Rose was born were full of independent women. Her maternal grandmother ran businesses after her husband (and both her young sons) died. Rose’s mother had a talent for millinery and would frequently leave her daughters (her only son also died young) to head north and sell her fancy hats in the Yukon. This probably shaped Rose’s unconventional views of how to raise her children.

Rose married Jack Hovick when she was a pregnant teenager. That baby, Rose Louise, would grow up to be Gypsy Rose Lee. The painful delivery of a very large infant in a half-finished house in the middle of winter put Rose off the idea of more children. When she found herself pregnant again, she tried various ways to make herself miscarry, but her second daughter, Ellen June, was tenacious, although very small at birth. It was the unwanted daughter who proved to have incredible talent and Rose pushed for a performance career for the dancing prodigy, despite that June was barely a toddler. She filed for divorce and created a vaudeville act around her girls.

I’m not going to rehash the careers of Baby/Dainty June and Rose Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee. You can read Early Havoc and Gypsy for that, which is what the author of this book appears to have done. She also cites newspaper articles or  letters from the GRL Collection at the NY Public Library or emails from someone’s descendant, but mostly she relies on those books, especially for this part of Rose’s life

After Gypsy hit it big in burlesque, and later June on Broadway, they supported their mother (as well as her mother and sister in Seattle), but it was never enough for Rose — she wanted more money and more attention. When Gypsy set her mother up in a 10-room apartment, Rose opened a speakeasy where lesbians could safely socialize and buy overpriced bathtub gin and spaghetti. Later she moved to Gypsy’s country estate and turned it into a sort of resort. Scandal erupted when a young woman was killed with a rifle there. It’s still unclear if it was suicide or murder, although Quinn is firmly in the suicide camp. 

After that, the rift between mother and daughters grew larger, although they continued to support her financially, if not emotionally. Despite the money from her daughters, she was constantly coming up with business ventures — raising chickens, running a children’s summer camp, planning a restaurant with her sister, and more. For the rest of her life Rose tried to be a part of her daughters’ lives, often by threatening them, demanding more money, trying to disrupt their careers, and even suing them for lack of support. Gypsy would have periods of closeness with her mother and then Rose would do something that would alienate her again. 

Near the end of her life, suffering from cancer, she found a surrogate family with the local plumber.  He and his wife helped care for her and their daughter called her “Aunt Rose”. Despite being ill and frail, Rose took pleasure in being able to create a lovely Christmas celebration for the girl, like she did on the road with her vaudeville children.

In death, Rose took revenge on her daughters by leaving her entire estate to her sister, including the house Gypsy had paid for. Gypsy countered by publishing the memoir she never would have released while her mother was still alive. 

The author makes her biases clear from the prologue. She was captivated by the character of Rose in the musical Gypsy, as the ball-busting stage mother. She dislikes June Havoc and repeatedly dismisses June’s version of events. Despite using June’s two books as source material, she considers June an unreliable narrator and frequently calls her a liar. She calls a few other people liars as well, when their recollections don’t match up with her narrative.

Quinn glosses over Rose’s outrageous actions, like thefts, scams, threats, and sabotaging other performers’ acts, as “games” and “stunts”. Neither girl had a valid birth certificate or even knew exactly how old they were, but that was just part of Rose’s cleverness in marketing and evading child labour laws. There’s always an excuse for her behavior — she was emotionally distraught, hormonal, drinking too much, etc. — and that her daughters should have been more sympathetic and loving. After all, they had been the center of her life for years, why shouldn’t she be the same to them?

Keeping that bias in mind, it is still the only biography of Rose Thompson Hovick out there (that I know of). It looks not only at Rose, but her family, back a couple of generations, and how their lives may have shaped her view of the world. Rose was a complicated woman and more than just her brassy alter-ego, belting out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 August 2021 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday the 13th! We have a show tonight at our beloved venue, Deacon Giles Distillery — Bad Luck Burlesque! Last I heard we were almost sold out! Will I see you there?

Here’s your tip!

If you edit your music for an act, rename the song so you can easily find the version you need.

These days it is so easy to change your music to suit your act — shorten the song, drop in another piece of music, add a sound effect, slow down the tempo, change the key, etc. You want to make sure you are giving the correct version fo your song to whoever is handling your music. Adding a note to the name will insure that there’s no confusion.

Here are a few examples from our catalog: “Dark Eyes (slow)” or “Mint Julep extended version” or “Pantaloons with thunder” or “Feelin’ Good BeauTease edit”. These songs were edited specifically for the acts and then renamed to specify the change. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You could use “performance” or “final” to keep it simple.

It’s a terrible feeling to hear your music start and realize “that’s not the right version!”. A simple addition to the song title can give you peace of mind.  

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 13 August 2021 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday!

As you well know, I have a Patreon, because I tell you all the time. However, I also support a number of artists and creators there. The latest is the Slightly Sinister Academy of Crafts, which just went live today! I’ve been following Sinister Sarah’s stunning projects on Instagram and I’m really looking forward to her instructional videos. Join me in supporting her!

Here’s your tip!

Take joy in what you do and share it with others.

I had a really stressful, high-anxiety week. At rehearsal, I joined by Betty and Devastasia, who had their own, different sources of stress.

We started with a warm up, as we always do and decided to play our favorite pass-it-along game — Betty does a couple of repeats of a move, then I do a move. We do Betty’s move, then my move, then Devastasia contributes one. We do Betty’s, mine, Devastasia’s, etc., continuing around the circle for a couple of songs. When you only have three people you need to keep thinking! And as the songs on the playlist change, we adapt the moves to suit. It can be a very useful tool to teach vocabulary, especially to apprentices.

It was so much FUN! It was great to just move and even better to do it with friends who were also trying to deal with some stuff. We picked our favorite high-energy moves, not trying to impress or teach anyone, just wanting to have a good time with it. We were grinning and laughing all the way through.  And that mood continued through the rest of rehearsal.

I hope you find some joy in your day.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 August 2021 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment