Review: Gypsy and Me

Dear Constant Reader,

Not only do I have a pile of books to review, I also have a passel of books I reviewed elsewhere, but not here. Since I’m on a bit of a history kick (I’ll explain why in another missive), here’s Gypsy Rose Lee’s son’s memoir about growing up with America’s most famous stripper as a mother.

Gypsy and Me: At Home and on the Road With Gypsy Rose Lee by Erik Lee Preminger (1984). Also published as My G-String Mother.

Picking up years after Gypsy left off, Gypsy Rose Lee’s only child chronicles his conflicted and often combative relationship with his famous mother. The story begins when Erik was 12 and Gypsy has decided to give up “the act”, the striptease show she’s been doing for decades. Now she needs another source of income.

His depiction is not always so flattering. He shows a Gypsy that was stingy, self-absorbed, and domineering. She was terrified of poverty, despite her frequently lavish spending, and constantly searched for the next thing that would support her. The author paints a flawed portrait of himself as well, honestly relating incidents of his anger, disobedience and petty crime.

Despite all the clashes between them, he loved her deeply and she was a devoted mother. She would take Erik on tour with her because she hated to be separated from him. He would help her set up her act and was even her dresser. She was a terribly hard worker, throwing herself into projects, barely eating and rarely sleeping. He describes her with tea stains on her clothes and cigarette ashes powdering her reading glasses. She was witty and clever in private, as well as in her public image. And she adored animals, sometimes more than people. She was terribly proud of Erik and wanted everyone to know he was her son. She even toured Southeast Asia to entertain the soldiers after Erik joined the Army.

Despite a truly unusual and often difficult childhood, Mr. Preminger is not bitter about his mother, and strives for an honest accounting of a very contradictory woman.

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 30 July 2020 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Legends of Burlesque, Then and Now

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m catching up on my book reviews! The Burlesque Hall of Fame is usually a chance to meet our Legends in person. However, it’s happening virtually this year. While trying to decide if I should submit something for the on-line showcase (answer — probably not), I was flipping through this book.

Legends of Burlesque, Then and Now presented by Gina Bon Bon and Julie Mist, 2018

This is a collection of photographs of burlesque legends, from their glory days onstage and also from the present day. It’s a large format hardcover book, but with matte paper pages, which make the photos seem slightly muted. Each Legend is featured on at least two, sometimes more, pages of photographs, with a Quick Facts side bar with, generally, their legal names, career span, acts, and prominent bookings or awards. Some have additional brief information and anecdotes. Toni Elling talks about dealing with racism and Kitten Natividad about surviving cancer. Many reveal what they have been doing since they left the stage.

Also included are a couple of people (and a place) who don’t actually qualify as legends, but have been important to honoring the legends and keeping their legacy alive. The place, of course, is the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

The book opens with profiles of some prominent performers (and a couple of lesser known ones) who had passed away, like Ann Corio and Dixie Evans. Sadly, since the book was prepared, a few of the Living Legends are no longer with us. Our legends are a dwindling resource and should be cherished.

This is by no means a comprehensive volume, either in subject or scope. There are just over 3 dozen performers covered, which doesn’t include everyone considered a legend. The information about them is just a tantalizing taste of their stories. There are other books and documentaries that cover more, but this work was created by legends about their fellow legends which gives it an interesting perspective and a bias quite different from works created by those outside the industry.

I had a fantasy of going to BHoF and overcoming my shyness to meet as many of the Legends as I could, but alas, not this year. While we’re unable to gather in person this year, perhaps reach out to your favorite legend and just say thank you for creating the path we follow.

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 30 June 2020 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Booklover’s Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

You might recall that I have been recording video story readings for my Patrons and audio versions for everyone. But here’s a video for everyone*!

I am delighted to share an excerpt from the kinky erotic novella Passing His Test that I recorded for Booklover’s Burlesque.

It was written by Teresa Noelle Roberts and I’m thrilled she gave me permission to share her work.

If you liked this bit of the story, buy the book and read the rest!

And there are many, many more stories for you at Booklover’s Burlesque — they release two a night!

* Well, maybe not everyone. It involves consensual BDSM, sex, and explicit language. Maybe avoid listening if you’re at work or around kids. And if you’re my mom.

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 19 May 2020 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Review: In the Kitchen: Dollface Kitchen

Dear Constant Reader,

New book review for you!

Dollface Kitchen by Cherry Dollface (2020)

This is the second book from pinup model and vintage enthusiast, Cherry Dollface. (I’ve had her first book since it came out and never reviewed it — must be better about that…) As you probably guessed from the title, it’s a cookbook. You know how much I love cooking, especially vintage recipes! She was supposed to have a book release party at Viva, but instead it got moved to FB and IG Live. It was fun to watch her sign my book on-line, but I miss author events…

It’s probably not the best timing to try to review a cookbook during lockdown, since mostly I have to look at the recipes and sigh. The book is organized into six categories, of the sort you would expect like main dishes and desserts. Each of those has three “Healthy-ish” recipes, three “Not-so-healthy”, and two vintage recipes — one “weird” and one “wonderful”. The vintage recipes are the sort found on boxes and cans and I’m unclear if she’s actually cooked any of them. All recipes are marked if they are vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and/or gluten-free.

As you might expect of a pin-up model, the boook is full of photographs. Cherry is shown posing with food, in the kitchen, or just making faces (usually at a weird vintage recipes). There are also tempting photos of all the dishes (except some of the vintage ones). Everything looks bright and fun. I’m looking forward to trying several of these, like the carnitas tacos, baked oatmeal, and caramel apple bread pudding. I can’t wait to cook for friends again!

All of Cherry’s recipes have notes from her about how to change things up or her personal preferences (she doesn’t like onions) in the header of the recipe. She also tells you if the recipe can be changed up to fit diet requirements, like swapping out chicken broth for veggie to make a soup vegetarian. I really like the little cartoon bubbles with another helpful tip. You know I’m all about the helpful tips… It’s a very friendly book, occasionally even silly, like the recipe that starts, “Preheat oven to 450. Just kidding, this is fruit salad.” She writes as though she’s chatting with you, which is nice in this kind of lonely time.

I couldn’t review the book without making something. The “wonderful” vintage dessert Fudge Batter Pudding had the note “If you try any of my vintage recipes…try this bad boy!” So I did. You make a simple chocolate sauce that goes in the bottom of a baking pan, then you spoon a chocolate batter on top and bake. The result is a sort of brownie with a fudgy sauce underneath it. The cake part is on the dry side (it has no eggs and only a smidge of butter and milk), so it needs the sauce. When we had it cold the next day, a little cream poured over was a nice addition. It was easy to make and can be whipped up from pantry staples, so I’ll call it a win.

The book is only available from Working Class Publishing, but I think you can still get a signed copy. It may take longer to get to you, but where else do you have to go…?

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 14 May 2020 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Story Time for Walpurgisnacht

Dear Constant Reader,

Tonight is Walpurgisnacht, when witches go abroad and all sorts of devilish mischief happens. In honor of this sinister date, I did a reading of “Dracula’s Guest”, an excised chapter from Dracula.

Here’s a little teaser…

To see the whole thing, become a Patron!

However, there’s an audio recording for everyone right here:
Dracula’s Guest

You can enjoy other my readings here.

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 30 April 2020 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Video Review: Booty Lab

Dear Constant Reader,

Here’s another instructional video from my collection.

Booty Lab by Michelle L’amour (2013).

The Queen of the Booty is undoubtedly Michelle L’amour, so who better to take you through all different ways to use your backside. And today is her birthday!

The video starts with a warm up, which is going to be needed if you follow along. The rest of the video is breakdowns of burlesque moves focused on the hips, thighs and bum.

She starts with bumps and shimmy variations that are standard burlesque fare, but they are clearly explained and demonstrated by Michelle. It’s no surprise that she includes isolations, one of her signature moves which you cans see to great effect in her famous “Butthoven” video.

She moves down to the floor for some moves that quiver and shake your legs. These are then translated to standing moves, including the infamous ass clap. Take it from me, it’s much easier to do them on the floor…

Finally, she teaches the move everyone wanted to learn, the booty bounce. Later on there’s a bonus section of Michelle doing the bounce while in a handstand with her feet up on the wall.

After a review of all the moves, there’s a twenty-minute workout, focusing on the booty, of course, but with some abs and arm work as well. This is followed by a much needed stretch. I do this section (plus the warm up) when I need a hit of toning and don’t have much time.

Michelle is an excellent, polished teacher, and her explanations are easy to follow. She demonstrates the moves facing in different directions as necessary for a clear view. They’re also pretty clear for those who have no interest in learning these moves and just want to watch Michelle jiggle.

I’ve had this video since it came out and was fortunate enough to take Booty Lab with Michelle at BurlyCon before it existed. I go back from time to time to polish my moves. I always believe in going back to basics no matter how experienced you are. And maybe someday I’ll actually perfect the clap!

The DVD is no longer available, but you if you rent or buy Michelle’s extensive series of instructional videos, you also get Booty Lab.

Happy birthday, Michelle!

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 15 April 2020 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Film Review: The Night They Raided Minsky’s

Dear Constant Reader,

The other day one of my students asked for recommendations for movies about burlesque and I remembered this one…

The Night They Raided Minsky’s, directed by William Friedkin, MGM, 1968.

Based on the book of the same name, this movie, set in 1925, tells the tale of Rachel Schpitendavel (Britt Ekland), an Amish girl who dreams of dancing on stage in New York. She arrives at the National Winter Garden, a burlesque house, run by Billy Minsky (Elliot Gould).

Minsky is beleaguered by Vance Fowler (Denholm Elliott) a zealous anti-vice crusader who wants to raid the theater. Straightman Raymond Paine (Jason Robards) and top Banana Chick Williams (Norman Wisdom) realize they can solve this problem by informing Fowler that Mademoiselle Fifi will be performing her dance that drove a million Frenchmen wild at the midnight show. Of course, the performer will actually be modest Rachel, doing her Biblical interpretive dance. The raid will be a bust and Fowler humiliated.

Meanwhile Minsky is courting gangster Trim Houlihan (Forrest Tucker) in hopes that he’ll invest in the theatre, but Houlihan thinks that investment gives him exclusive rights to Mlle. Fifi… But not if Raymond Paine seduces her first… And Rachel’s father is storming into the city from Pennsylvania. His daughter had better on the last train home or he will disown her.

Suffice it to say, almost every man in this movie wants Rachel for something.

It’s not spoiling anything (since they announce it at the start of the movie) to say that Rachel gets on stage, discovers the power she has over an audience, and invents the striptease.

The movie betrays its 1960s creation with the saturation of the colors and Britt Ekland’s bouffant hair. However, it does slip in some actual footage from the 20s, and the Lower East Side is dressed up pretty accurately. There’s a nice bit where they transition from the vintage footage to black and white film of a street scene and then take it to color.

The best reason to watch this movie is the burlesque show. Throughout the movie you see the show in progress. A chorus line of 10 terrific girls (but only 9 costumes) prance and shimmy on the stage in skimpy costumes. One of them looks like she’d rather be anywhere else and another just can’t dance. There are classic comedy sketches like “Meet me Round the Corner” and “Crazy House”, some of them including talking women. The candy butcher does his spiel, pitching bonbons along with the promises of gold watches and racy pictures of Mlle. Fifi.

In 1968 there were plenty of people who still remembered burlesque and some of those people were in the movie. The Master of Ceremonies is played by burlesque tit singer Dexter Maitland. Bert Lahr, playing a retired straightman, got his start as a burlesque comic, before his fame as The Cowardly Lion. When he died before filming was complete, burlesque comic Joey Faye stood in for him. Morton Minsky, the youngest Minsky brother, was the technical advisor.

It’s a fun film with a great cast, but the highlights are the scenes onstage and backstage.

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 14 April 2020 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Isolation Entertainment: Story Time

Dear Constant Reader,

I know so many of you are at home for the foreseeable future — me too. I hope to lighten the time with a little entertainment.

I recorded a video of me reading The Masque of the Red Death (in a vintage red satin peignoir) for my Patrons. Some of you might find that amusing; others wildly inappropriate. If you’re in the former category, here’s a little teaser…

You’ll have to join my Patreon to see the rest.

However, there’s an audio recording for everyone right here:
The Masque of the Red Death

You can also enjoy my reading of The Tell-Tale Heart from Halloween.

I’m looking for some more light-hearted (public domain) material for my next reading. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to hear (or any other ways I can entertain and amuse you).

Stay well,

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 19 March 2020 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: The Dinner of Horror

Dear Constant Reader,

You might recall that I had been cooking from The Necronomnomnom and having a great deal of fun with it. A copy mysteriously appeared on the doorstep of my friend, Dr. Becky, and she, perhaps unwisely, suggested we get together in the kitchen and see what we could conjure up…

It was a great plan! I am please to announce that no one died and any Elder Gods summoned were promptly dispatched (to the table).

We began with Grape Old Wons — meat & cheese-stuffed wontons. The end result was supposed to look like eyes, but we couldn’t quite shape the wonton wrappers to look like lids. I should have gotten round ones instead of square. This recipe also showed the issues with translating the arcane recipes. I had interpreted “mixture from the ranch hidden in the valley” as ranch dressing mix and bought the powdered stuff. Dr. Becky, who has the bookstore edition with the recipes translated, discovered they meant bottled ranch dressing, so we added a little more milk and mayo to make up for it.

Next was Pallid Bisque — seafood bisque. It’s hard to go wrong with crab, cream, and sherry. We tried molding little masks out of rice (in tribute to The King in Yellow) to garnish it, but we were only partially successful. If I did it again, I would use smaller shrimp (or larger bowls — although these have charming skulls on them) and dollop the sour cream onto the soup first, then arrange the rice masks and shrimp triskelions on top of it.

Our main course, and crowning glory, was The Fate of The Elder Things — a most unusual eggplant parm. The hardest part was hollowing out the eggplant without rupturing the skin, but with saving the flesh for cooking. Next time I might try a melon baller. Then we breaded (with fresh, home-made breadcrumbs, by the way) and fried the eggplant tidbits, made a cheese sauce, and warmed up some marinara. The cheese sauce was poured into the hollowed out eggplant, where it oozed out of slits cut in the sides. The whole thing was topped with a slice of starfruit, procured by Dr. Becky’s husband when my market had none.

This was accompanied by Dining Trapazohedron — a wedge salad. The very best part of this salad was the candied bacon. It took a bit of work — first you cook it almost crisp, then chop it up and fry it until it’s crunchy, then add brown sugar and cook until it’s glazed — but any good ritual should be a challenge. The blue cheese dressing wasn’t bad either…

For dessert we served The Mounds of Tindalos — molten chocolate lava cake made in a slow cooker. We poured cake batter into the slow cooker, then chocolate pudding, then topped it all with a bag of chocolate chips and ignored it for the next three hours. I wasn’t sure what we were going to get but it smelled good. The result was so delicious — hot and gooey and intensely chocolate. We served it with a sprinkling of shredded coconut on each serving.

I would (and probably will) make any of these dishes again. There’s also more than two dozen terrifying recipes awaiting my attention. You never know what I might bring to life next time…

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 21 January 2020 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Review: In the Kitchen: The Necronomnomnom

Dear Constant Reader,

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen some photos lately of dishes with rather odd names and a sinister tome in the background. What is up with that? I’ve been cooking from…

The Necronomnomnom
It’s a cookbook, but a truly special one. It’s full of rituals and rites, illustrated with arcane sketches and notes, which must be interpreted to achieve tasty results. As you might have guessed from the title, it’s a Lovecraft-themed cookbook. There are fifty recipes, including cocktails, appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, and even recipes for children (that is, for children to eat, not how to cook them). As the names evoke eldritch horrors, so do the presentations, with odd colors, additional tentacles, or inscribed runes (all edible, of course).

The recipes have terribly wonderful Lovecraft pun names, like The Sandwich Horror or The Custard from Out of Space. But in order to cook them, you have to puzzle through the ingredient lists and instructions, which are written in archaic and mystical fashion — even poetry. The degree of obscurity varies from recipe to recipe, from relatively straightforward in terms of ingredient names and measurements to rather baffling at first glance.

Here, for example are the ingredients for Deep Fried Deep One, the first dish I cooked.

What is the Herb of Mysterious Purpose? The Bay of Elders? It helps to be an experienced cook, because once you figure out what the dish is, things start to fall in place. I was often chuckling at the cleverness of the authors or feeling smug that I puzzled things out.

And the instructions for The Oats of Dagon.

I’ll admit, this was a challenging one! I’m not even sure how many times I read and misinterpreted the instructions before I finally got it.

The illustrations are very detailed and in perfect keeping with the theme. Be sure to read all the scribbled little notes — there’s a story running through the book. Here’s a little taste of the artwork:

I managed to get my hands on a first, or Grimoire, edition, which is only the mystic rituals. There’s really nothing to break the illusion that this is a mysterious spell book and the cover is pretty horrifying. There was also a super-special edition with a three-dimensional flayed skin* cover, for that extra touch of realism.

Don’t worry if the thought of figuring out the ingredients and instructions fills you with fear. The “Bookstore Edition“, which comes out in just a few days, has all the rituals and illustrations, but also practical additions like a table of contents, index, and… all the recipes in clear language in an appendix in the back. I’ve had a lot of fun figuring out the recipes, but I know that’s not for everyone.

I’ve been really happy with most of the results! I’ve also had fun bringing out The Manor’s spookiest china and arranging the tentacles just right for a good photo. Here’s some New England Damned Chowder:

For more delicious photos of my endeavors so far and some commentary on the recipes, I’ve created a photo gallery just for my Patrons.

Highly recommended for creative cooks, lovers of puzzles, and weird fiction fans.

*Or maybe cast latex…

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 25 September 2019 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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