Review: The Costumes of Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to review this glorious book. Scratch brought me back a freshly-released copy from the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in 2019, so it’s recently celebrated its third birthday.

The Costumes of Burlesque 1866-2018 by Coleen Scott, 2019.

Coleen Scott (aka Rosey La Rouge) is a costume designer with a passion for burlesque. Her first book, The Pastie Project*, focused on that specialty adornment unique to burlesque. This tome shows everything.

It’s a chronological look at burlesque costumes from the 19th century until the present day, with each chapter spanning a couple of decades. Every chapter is illustrated with images of burlesque performers in costume and color photographs of extant costumes. The absolute best part is that Scott shows you all the layers when possible. It’s one of the challenges of displaying burlesque costumes (as I well know from mounting exhibits at the American Burlesque Collection), seeing only one part in isolation does not give you a full appreciation for the design of these costumes.

There are not a lot of extant early burlesque costumes, so she fills out the first chapter with images of performers and existing costumes for similar performances — ballet, cancan, circus, bellydance, Loie Fuller. As the chapters progress, more and more extant costumes are included (many from the collection of Nez Kendal) and we get to see details, sometimes even the insides. Still, photos of performers, posters, and other ephemera probably outweigh costumes. She touches briefly on a variety of costume styles, like half-and half acts and drag.

The very last chapter — Modern Burlesque Costume Design — features layer by layer photos. Dirty Martini, Cheeky Lane, Gin Minsky, and Darlinda Just Darlinda wear their costumes and strip for the camera, showing every piece as they go from full ensemble to pasties. They’re each on a plain white background which highlights the costumes in a way that’s impossible on stage. There are also close looks at individual components. It’s probably the best view of each costume possible, short of having the  owner show it off in person.

[Please note that while most of Gin Minsky’s quick-change costume was made by Garo Sparo, her Screen Siren G-string was created by Manuge et Toi Designs and the blue gown was rhinestoned by Canova Studio, who were not credited. I’ll assume that was an oversight.]

It’s a lovely book to just flip through and look at the gorgeous photographs, but the text is enlightening too. There are interviews with Legends, current performers, and costume designers. There are notes at the end of each chapter and a bibliography in the back. Throughout the book words in red can be found in a helpful glossary of terms for those unfamiliar with burlesque and its specialized language.

It’s impossible for one book to be completely comprehensive on any topic, and there are, of course, omissions, but Scott covers a lot of ground and has created a beautiful work. It’s not inexpensive, even in softcover, but worth it.

M2

*Which I don’t own…

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 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 July 2022 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: The Burlesque Posing Guide

Dear Constant Reader,

I met Stephanie May of La Photographie Boudoir at Michelle L’amour’s Stripper’s Holiday a few years ago. Since then I was fortunate to have a virtual photoshoot with her. As a photographer, she wants you to look good, so she created this resource to help.

Poing Guide coverThe Burlesque Posing Guide by Stephanie May Saujion of La Photographie, 2022.

The posing guide is available in print, as a PDF, and as an app. I only have the print edition, so I can’t speak to the other versions. It’s a full-color glossy magazine with  45 images of burlesque performers in various poses. They’re grouped by category, like standing, kneeling, crawling, &c.

Each page is dominated by a large color photo of a model with notes pointing out all the little factors that  make their pose great, like “toes pointed”, “hip popped”, “tiny smile”, &c. There’s also a small version of the photo without any of the text so you can see the pose without any distractions. Posing Guide page

Since all 45 photos were shot by the same photographer, there is a certain continuity in the photos, but they are far from identical. Some are coy, some are bold. There are varying levels of undress, but no nudity.

There isn’t a “how to use this guide” or even an introduction; it just dives right into the poses. Every page credits the models and lists their Instagram handle. The last three pages include a biography of the photographer and  thumbnails of all the photos with the models’ names.

If you’re planning a sexy photoshoot, this guide can give you some inspiration for your own poses. Major burlesque fans might want it just for the photos, but it’s really set up to be a resource for models.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 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 23 March 2022 at 10:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Honey & Spice

Dear Constant Reader,

Before The Burlesque Handbook was published, Jo Weldon filmed some instructional DVDs (I think this was one of the first). She’s an excellent instructor with a wealth of knowledge and here’s yet another way to learn from her.

Honey & Spice: Sensual & Fierce Burlesque,  Jo Weldon, 2009.

Nominally this one-hour DVD teaches two burlesque routines, but there’s additional information, which can be applied to other acts.

As the title indicates, Jo teaches Honey, slow and sensual with a boa, and Spice with lively bumping & grinding. Each routine has an introduction that covers the specific fundamentals: sensual flow and bumps n’ grinds. She demonstrates each dance first, in an appropriate costume. Each dance is made up of five segments of four moves. The names of the moves are shown on the screen and each segment is numbered so it’s easy to follow along. Then there’s a step by step breakdown of each section. Each routine involves striptease with gloves and a bra (although Jo is very coy in the video, you don’t have to be). The music is from The Shim-Sham Revue so it will be very familiar to any B.A.B.E. students.

Before actually diving into the routines, Jo talks a bit about the costume she’s wearing and good dance posture, then runs a short warm up. Afterwards, she demonstrates how to remove stockings and a corset, how to twirl tassels, and how to wear pasties. None of these garments actively figure into the routines, but they’re a good bonus and might inspire you to create your own routines.

Definitely recommended for beginning burlesquers. The more advanced performer can benefit too! It’s always good to go back to basics and you’ll probably learn some new tidbit.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 13 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 18 November 2021 at 12:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Dollface Vintage

Dear Constant Reader,

A while ago I reviewed Cherry Dollface’s second book, but the first one has still been sitting on my shelf, unreviewed. So here we go, out of order!

Dollface Vintage: An Everyday Gal’s Guide to a Vintage Lifestyle! by Cherry Dollface, 2017.

This is an overview of ways to live a vintage lifestyle, according to Cherry Dollface plus tips from some experts. She shares her thoughts on hair, makeup, style, decor, and entertaining, demonstrated with photos.  Most individual topics within those categories are restricted to a page or two, so don’t expect exhaustive information on every possibility. Every topic has a section of tips, including some “dos and don’ts” and my favorite, ways to save money.

My favorite part was the mix and match photos of retro wardrobe basics and then the tips for dressing for hot and cold weather events while keeping your vintage chic.  However, the makeup how-to was a little disappointing as the photos were taken from too far away to really see the details of how she made up her eyes. The entertaining section has a few recipes for appropriate cocktails and menus ideas, but for actual dishes you’ll need to check out Dollface Kitchen.

It’s a light look at how to incorporate vintage into your lifestyle, as little or as much as you like, in your personal style, without breaking the bank. The emphasis is not historical accuracy, but a retro flair. There’s an over-all focus on practicality, which I appreciate.

The print edition is currently unavailable, but you can get a digital version, which has links to some of Cherry’s videos and some bonus features. I can’t tell you what they are as I only have the physical book…
M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 13 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 16 November 2021 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: The Burlesque Handbook

Dear Constant Reader,

 I cannot believe I haven’t reviewed this book until now…

The Burlesque Handbook by Jo Weldon, 2010.

The Burlesque Handbook was published over ten years ago, but it has never been out of print. It was the first practical guide to being a burlesque performer and remains the best. As Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, Jo has been teaching burlesque to all levels from beginners to professionals. Her classes and related material over the years became the foundations of this book. I still have her 12-page pink “Burlesque for Beginners” handout from 2005, which grew up to become this wonderful resource.

The book is packed with useful information from classic moves to music to backstage etiquette to creating a character. There are even templates and illustrated directions for making pasties. There’s an entire chapter on fan dancing! I found the worksheets in the appendix to be incredibly valuable. Even someone who has been doing this for a while can find it useful to stop and question their own creative process.

Besides drawing on her personal experiences, Jo quotes from the “Council of Ecdysiasts” — veteran performers — for varying perspectives on a topic. She also draws upon the wisdom of Burlesque Legends, sharing their words and their stories. It’s great to have advice from a range of performers both present and past.

Jo is also a photographer, so it’s no surprise that the book is peppered with photos (black and white, occasionally with red accents). Some are of Jo and some were taken by her over her many years on the scene. The burlesque moves she describes are illustrated by clarifying step by step photos. Other performers are featured along with appropriate topics. There are even a couple of photos taken at The Expo.

The book is focused on burlesque performance — how to get ready for the stage and look great once you’re there. You’ll have to look elsewhere for information and advice on bookings, producing, hosting or promotion. I don’t have a problem with that. Trying to cover absolutely everything would made for a less focused book. Besides, Jo covers some of those topics in articles and essays elsewhere. 

To give you an idea of just how useful it is, I have a copy on our library bookshelf (thanks, Scratch! I know it’s really your book) and one on my Kindle, so I’ll always have it on hand for reference. I’ve been recommending The Burlesque Handbook to every burlesque performer for more than a decade and I’ll continue to do so.

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 14 October 2021 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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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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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Review: In Intimate Detail

Dear Constant Reader,

Another book review! I need to work my way through this pile with more alacrity as I would really like more space on my desk.

My love of lingerie began as a teen. I hated wearing pantyhose. As a short girl with long legs, I could never find a pair that fit me properly. If the waistband was in the right place, my toes were always poking through the fabric. The other option was to have the crotch at mid-thigh. I begged my mother to let me wear stockings. Despite rolling her eyes at my quaint request, she gifted me with my very first garter belt and I’ve never looked back! So, I was delighted to page through this book by the founder of The Lingerie Addict.

In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear and Love Lingerie by Cora Harrington (2018)

This book covers all the main categories of underthings: bras, undies, shapewear, hosiery, and loungewear. The first several chapters introduce you to the lingerie by type. Have you ever wondered the difference between a balconette and a demi-bra? How about what exactly is a tanga? Each chapter has helpful hints (my favorites!) in the margins and lovely watercolor illustrations. Each one also starts with a brief history of the subject — you know how much I love history!

Each chapter has lots of information to help you make the best choices for the lingerie that’s right for you. Practicality for a situation as well as beauty is a key factor. The chapter on bras has extensive information on breast shape and how to choose a well-fitting bra. The shapewear chapter touches only briefly on corsetry, but that’s fine. Corsets are such a complex garment, they could be, and should be, a book unto themselves. 

Then there’s a chapter about shopping for lingerie. She gives advice for shopping in person and on-line, but also specialty items, like vintage lingerie and how to buy gifts for others. The main take-away in all categories is if you don’t absolutely love the item or the experience, walk away. Shopping for lingerie should be as enjoyable as wearing it.

The last chapter is on one of my favorite topics — care and storage. There’s how to wash your lingerie and how to keep it so it stays beautiful and wearable for a long time as well as how to organize you lingerie wardrobe. She also broaches the important topic of getting rid of lingerie that’s no longer in good condition or doesn’t suit you any more. If it’s beautiful, but you don’t wear it, it’s not doing you any good.

It’s an all-around good compendium, touching on many topics. There are is a lot of ground covered, so by necessity each section is brief. If you need a direct burlesque tie-in, the foreword is by Dita Von Teese.

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 22 July 2021 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Grizzly Pulp #1

Dear Constant Reader,

Pulp novels and burlesque shows have a lot in common — they were inexpensive, guilty pleasures, rather racy, a little silly, a lot over the top, entertaining in an expected way.

Grizzly Pulp is bringing back the pulp novels staring confidential investigator Tokey Wedge! Who? That’s what I asked too. The good folks at Grizzly Pulp sent me a copy of their first offering (and some cool barware) to check out and I thought I’d share my review with you. Do not expect high art.

239819.nympho-promobook-2Nympho Lodge (Grizzly Pulp #1) by Jack Lynn, originally published 1959.

Janice Bradley is afraid. Her husband is about to divorce her, but she won’t give up The Wagon Wheel, a resort they own jointly. Now she’s received a threatening note hinting at arson. She fears her husband might kill her to get control of the property, so she hires Tokey to be her bodyguard. The contested resort is full of gorgeous women with hot bodies and soon it’s also full of cold bodies… the dead kind. Everyone is a suspect, including Tokey. In the tradition of pulp novels, do not expect a happy ending.

Tokey is short and scrawny, but a tough fighter and a good shot.  Almost all the women are tall, busty, lusty and desperate for Tokey. He spends the entire book fending off their advances, except when he doesn’t. The plot is full of twists and turns, but if you know the pulp formula, you’ll probably figure out the murderer.

This book is ridiculous. It’s a parody of the hard-boiled detective novel. Do note that on the cover it’s not a “Case” or an “Adventure”; it’s a “Swinger”. That should tell you all you need to know. It’s full of lurid violence and sex described in overblown prose. Wild similes abound, as do sentence fragments and the occasional 50 cent word. The prologue has nothing to do with the main plot. The writing is absolutely of its era (late 1950s) in terms of language and attitudes. 

That’s not to say it’s not fun. It’s a quick read with constant action. I love the fact that Grizzly Pulp has printed it on, well, pulp paper. They’ve also been kind enough to wrap the book in a plain black dust jacket, marked only “Grizzly Pulp #1”. That saves some embarrassment, if you’re perusing Nympho Lodge in public — maybe on the beach or poolside. It would be a fine vacation read. Just be warned that you can whip through it in no time, like a bag of potato chips.

The original plan was to sell the first six books in the series at dive bars (how fun!), but the pandemic screwed that up. You can read a sample from Nympho Lodge and buy the book at Grizzly Pulp’s store. If you know an indie bookstore that would like to carry these, drop Grizzly Pulp a line! Nympho Lodge is currently the only book available, but the next ones should be coming out soon. Keep your eyes peeled for Mad for Kicks — “Tokey takes on a GANG of thrill-mad BEATNKS on a shocking binge of MURDER AND PERVERSITY!”

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this. 

 

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Published in: on 16 June 2021 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Forbidden City, USA

Dear Constant Reader,

I know I haven’t been so communicative this month. I’ll try to make it up to you next month, but for now, here’s a quick review.

Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970 by Arthur Dong, 2014.

This book is on the same topic as Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs, but it’s also a companion to a documentary, released in 1989. The pages are packed with photos, menus, press clippings, some with wording that may have been cute then, but is cringe-worthy now. The real meat is the interviews with the singers, specialty dancers, and showgirls.

I was most interested in the interview with Noel Toy, the Chinese Sally Rand, who features in my new class, Fan Dance Uncovered (join me on Saturday!). As a nude dancer and later as a stripteaser, she’s the only performer interviewed who did who we would consider burlesque acts. Ivy Tam, a founding member of the Grant Avenue Follies, does mention Coby Yee and scoffs at anyone dismissing her as “just a stripper”. A couple of the others are clear to point out that nobody showed everything, not like American burlesque.

The performers (and one club owner and a choreographer) tell their stories in their own words, which is so precious since so many are no longer with us. They talk about hard work and fun, but also adversity from the more traditional member of their community and war-time prejudices — some of the “Chinese” performers were actually Japanese.

I’ll be looking up the documentary. Reading first-person histories is great, but actually hearing and seeing them is even better.

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Published in: on 27 May 2021 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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