Los Angeles: The Prologue

Dear Constant Reader,

I was in Los Angeles recently and there’s quite a bit of back story as to how I got there.

In the fall I applied to be part of a mentorship program with Egypt Blaque Knyle. Now, you may saying, “Mina, why do you need someone to mentor you? You’ve been doing burlesque for over a dozen years. You teach and you’ve even coached students through the creation of routines. Shouldn’t you be the one doing the mentoring?” While this is all true, I also want to improve my skills. This is why I take classes with other people whenever I can. It’s why I go to BurlyCon and The Expo almost every year and why I attended the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat and Stripper’s Holiday last year.

Egypt is a very different type of performer that I am. I wrote in my application essay that she is “almost the polar opposite of me – uninhibited where I am reserved, exuberant where I am stately”. I thought I could learn a lot from her. Dear Reader, just writing, let alone submitting, that application made me feel incredible vulnerable. And that’s not a side of myself I tend to show the world. Just writing the essay was a learning experience about myself.

In the end there were ten highly-motivated women with various levels of experience, scattered around the country, chosen to work with Egypt. We had to read books, research Legends, write essays, and create or polish a routine. I chose to create a new routine, about which I will write in depth. I’ll also share some of the essays I wrote. Our graduation was performing at Audrey Deluxe’s Burlesque Bingo in Long Beach, CA. Although it was not mandatory, everyone made it! I’ll tell you all about it later as well.

I’m not sure, timing-wise, it was the best choice for me to take this on. The mentorship began in later September. In October I was frantically trying to get Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming ready for the printer. In November I was sick for most of the month. I think I ended up having about six weeks to get my brand-new act from zero to show time. But I did it!

More to come…

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

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Published in: on 30 January 2019 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival 2018

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m sorry this has taken so long to write, but several crises interrupted my life after I returned from Manitoba, Canada to perform at the 3rd annual Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival. It was a great time.

First of all, I love to travel to perform. I especially love to go places I’ve never been before and Winnipeg was definitely on that list. I’m delighted to be able to say I’ve now performed in three Canadian provinces (and visited a fourth).

I realized this was going to be a bit of a whirlwind trip, just under 48 hours, so I decided I could do the whole thing with a carry-on. It was only one costume, albeit a very full gown and a fur wrap, and no props. And bonus, I didn’t have to pay to check a bag.

I arrived Friday morning after a disgustingly early flight and was really grateful that the hotel not only let me get into a room before check-in time, but they upgraded us to a suite to do so. My roommate for the weekend was the delightful Ruby Mechant, who also played tour guide a bit, as she had been to the festival before.

My performance slot was Friday night. It was early in the first act, so I didn’t have too much time to fret as I waited to go on. The venue is very nice — raked seating, real dressing rooms with lots of mirrors, huge stage, great lighting. It’s called Gas Station Arts Centre, so I assume it was once a gas station, but you couldn’t tell.

My performance (Mina in Furs) drew lots of cheers during and lots of praise afterwards. The audience was so great and I was so into performing, that I completely forgot the moment early in the routine when I scoop up my fur stole (I enter with it dragging behind me) until the moment that I was supposed to fling it off myself again. I was really kicking myself and I can’t bear to watch the video. However, I do love this action shot from Dano Tanaka.

After intermission I slipped into the theatre to see the second half. My favorite act of the night was Delilah’s Le Morte de Corbeau. It’s a simply stunning performance and circumstances have prevented me from seeing it from the audience until now.

I know it’s a cliche to say that Canadians are nice people, but everyone I met at the festival was SO nice and welcoming. We got these cute handmade swag bags with useful little items, like a notebook and glitter. Oh, and a performer badge! I love those. There’s something about having that round my neck and flashing it to the ushers or security that makes feel like a rock star.

Saturday afternoon were the workshops. I’m really grateful to Dixie Cups for rearranging things so that I could teach “Who’s Who in Classic Burlesque”. She went out of her way to get me on the schedule and to make sure I had a projector. Communicating about these arrangements was hampered by the fact that apparently my email no longer likes to talk to Gmail, so I doubly commend her patience with me when it seemed like I was ignoring her emails.

We had a great turn out and I was so thrilled that my slide show worked perfectly. I mention this because I agonized over it. I had upgraded my slideshow to include video clips of the performers, which worked great on my computer at home. However, I run the presentation off my tablet when traveling and no matter what I tried, I could not get the videos to play. Thanks to a suggestion from Scratch, I saved all my slides as images and dropped them and the videos into a photo album resident on the tablet. Not only did it work, but I was having data issues, so I wouldn’t have been able to reach anything cloud-based anyway. Oh, technology!

Saturday night I got to relax and just enjoy the show. Best of all, I got to catch up with Delilah, whose company I always enjoy. The show was, as usual for festivals, a mixed bag. There were acts I liked very much and some that were not to my taste at all. I’m always happy to see the different styles and get some inspiration. I was a little surprised that several of the performers, particularly the invited guests, did the same acts on Friday as on Saturday. It seems like an odd production choice when encouraging the audience to buy tickets for both nights. The audience did get their money’s worth, however. The shows were good and long with, as I said, many different styles of performance.

I reluctantly skipped the after-party, since Ruby and I had to get up pretty early the next day for our flights back to the States. And before I knew it, I was home.

I’m glad I went. Not only was it a lovely experience, I can’t think of any reason I might have otherwise ended up in Winnipeg. It’s great to experience new places. I’m hoping to continue traveling in the year to come. (Hint, hint — book me…)

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 27 November 2018 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!
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Burlesque is a great reason for travel and travel is a great reason for burlesque.

Out-of-town burlesque shows and festivals are a great way to visit places to which you might not otherwise have gone. And if you’re traveling for some other reason, see if you can get a gig while you’re in town. You’ll probably meet some new folks and certainly be exposed to a new audience.

Right now, I’m on my way to Winnipeg, a city I probably never would have visited otherwise, to teach and perform.

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 17 August 2018 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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This Guy Walks Into a Bra… 8/4/18

Dear Constant Reader,

This show was a little different from our usual fare. Instead of having Scratch between each act, we did some vintage burlesque comedy sketches. The show was very fast paced and a lot of fun.

Burlesque comedy is rather challenging. Much of the original material is problematic in various ways. First off, most of the lines were meant to be delivered by a Straightman and a Comic, although some sketches had even more male characters and some had a female role or two. We only have one guy, so the sketches had to be adapted for women to play some of the roles. Unlike the 1940’s, no one is going to think it unlikely for, say, a straightman cop to be played by a woman.

The real problem is that much of the material is incredibly offensive to a modern audience. It’s often horribly sexist, basically misogynistic, it’s racist, it’s violent (many sketches end with one character shooting the other), and sometimes the humor is so dated that a modern audience just doesn’t get it.

Scratch searched though tons of authentic burlesque and vaudeville comedy bits to find stuff we could edit and adapt. Sometimes the characters were made all female (as mentioned above). Sometimes the language needed updating (but not too up-to-date; we didn’t want to lose that vintage feel). Sometimes Scratch pulled bits from several different routines and strung them together into a single sketch. And occasionally he stole bits from later sources (like Airplane and Laugh-In).

Something else we did differently for this show — title cards! Back when we did Madame Burlesque, we had title cards for all the acts, which the stage kitten would place on a lovely easel. We wanted to revive that, but it starts getting expensive to create new cards for every act. Devastasia had a great idea — chalk boards. So Scratch took a bunch of thin board covered with chalkboard paint, cut them to size, and Devastasia went to town with her chalk markers. She made these beautiful cards for each performer. The cards add a nice vintage touch, but for this show they served a practical purpose. We didn’t have traditional MC introductions before each act because of the comedy sketches, so the cards gave the performers their due credit.

The show itself was quite lively and our audience, though small, was enthusiastic, despite the heat. I don’t know about them, but we were all wilting backstage. We got a lot of nice compliments, but none better than the woman who could only stay for 15 minutes but said she couldn’t miss the chance to see The Boston BeauTease. Perhaps we’ll return to Brattleboro, when it’s cooler.

Next up, I go to Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival to perform and teach and The BeauTease present The Bananaz Variety Hour at Deacon Giles Speakeasy Lab!

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 August 2018 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Upcoming

Dear Constant Reader,

July was a quiet month, but things heat up in August.

On Saturday The Boston BeauTease will be making a rare appearance in Brattleboro, VT with our new show, This Guy Walks Into a Bra…. We’ll be performing striptease, magic, and singing as usual, but we’ll also be adding in some old-fashioned burlesque comedy sketches. We’ve been describing it as “modern women and vintage comedy” and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it. You’ll see all your favorite BeauTeasers plus our apprentices stripping *and* talking.

Next I’m off to the Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival!

I’ll be performing Friday night and teaching “Who’s Who in Classic Burlesque” Saturday afternoon!

If you’re not going to be in Winnipeg on Saturday the 18th, why don’t you join the rest of the BeauTease for The Bananaz Variety Hour at the Deacon Giles Speakeasy Lab in Salem? There will be bananas, singing, dancing, comedy, magic, bananas, and more. (Due to my well-known hatred of bananas, I’ve been forced to flee the country.)

 

 

 

I hinted about something fabulous that I was given at our last show. This picture is just a tiny taste of the glorious ensemble. I may blog about it someday, but for now you can see pictures of the whole thing and read all about it at my Patreon page if you are a Patron, of course (and why aren’t you?).

B.A.B.E. will be back in session in September after our summer break! Devastasia will be teaching Introduction to Burlesque and I will be showing the intermediate students fabulous things to do with a boa. In October, I’ll be teaching a bewitching choreography that’s perfect for Halloween.

I’m sure there will be more to come!

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 31 July 2018 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Going to Canada

Dear Constant Reader,

As the title says, I’m going to Canada. Not permanently. I’ve been accepted to perform at the Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival on August 17-18.

Honestly, I applied on a whim without any expectations. I don’t have a very high festival acceptance rate and this year I scaled back my applications. But the application was free and I had just received video of my act (thanks to Scratch), so I said what the heck. I was stunned to get an acceptance letter that very night!

I’m very excited to be returning to Canada and particularly to a province I’ve not visited before (I previously performed in Montreal and Toronto). I’m also exciting to be presenting the act I worked on at Stripper’s Holiday. Hopefully I’ll also get to teach.

However, it’s not cheap to fly from Boston to Winnipeg. Well, that’s technically not true. It was perfectly affordable to fly TO Winnpieg; it’s the return flight that was spendier than I liked.

So, help a traveling showgirl out! Buy a book! Book me to perform or teach! Become a Patron! I’m going to come up with a Special Something for everyone who supports me on Patreon between now and August 17th. Stay tuned to learn what it is…

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 18 June 2018 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stripper’s Holiday: The Work

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing about my time at Stripper’s Holiday. It was such an inspiring and humbling experience and it’s been taking me a long time to find the right words. You can read about it here and here.

This is why we were all here: the work. For three days we spent four hours a day in the studio. We started two of the sessions with a killer warm up. I was grateful for my personal workout ethic so it didn’t actually kill me, because that was just the start of the session. We also worked on technique and choreography. On the last day we were treated to Michelle’s Pussy Confidence and Sensual Movement classes.

One of the things we talked about in the Pussy Confidence class was vulnerability and how vulnerability is strength. So, here’s some vulnerability. This stuff was really hard for me. I don’t pick up choreography quickly. I just don’t have a 5-6-7-8 brain and it’s hard for me to hear the beats of the music sometimes. I learn choreography by incessant drilling and really burning it into muscle memory. But like I kept telling myself, if this was easy, I wouldn’t need to be there. It was good for me to move *way* outside my comfort zone, but it certainly was frustrating. I wanted to work on refining details, but I needed to absorb the foundations first.

Here we all are after the first day:

Photo by One Chance Fancy.

Before I get to the centerpiece of the studio work, I want to mention a couple of related things we did at the house. One night after dinner we had “Idea Day” (I guess really “Idea Night”) where everyone went around the table and would share an idea they had for an act, usually just one element, like a song or a concept, and would get thoughts and feedback for a direction to go in. I was a complete blank and then I remembered my Hedy Jo Star peacock costume, which deserves to be back on stage. I’ve got some good ideas now; we shall see if they come to fruition. Also, if Scratch is willing to build some set pieces…

Also, before we went into the studio on the last day, Franky ran a meditation on beauty, which was also about imperfection. It was lovely and very pertinent to our work. We were supposed to consider a work of art and the first one that popped into my head was a Hellenistic statuette dancer, which I’ve loved for a long time. Kind of appropriate in many ways.

Back to the studio now…

Everyone brought an act on which they wanted to work. During the first two days we each presented our act and got feedback. On the last day we all presented again, showing how we incorporated the suggestions (a couple showed different acts instead). I was in the first group to present. I was nervous, but glad to get it over with early. I brought my newest act, which had just debuted in December (photo by George Ross of me performing it at The Expo). I thought it was pretty solid, but needed some oomph. After I showed it, Michelle made some very good suggestions, but I felt like I had to burn the whole thing down and start all over. The element I was using as a hook to hang the whole act on had to go.

When I got back to the house, I made an alteration to one of my costume pieces and played with it a little. After studio time the next day, I brought the whole act down into the home theatre room and ran it again and again, trying out Michelle’s suggestions and working on some stuff for the weaker parts. I realized I didn’t have to burn it down after all. A lot of the structure could stay as it was; it was the details that needed to change.

I filmed my last run, as best I could with my tablet, and sent it off to Scratch, because I was filled with self-doubt. He didn’t give me any feedback, just told me to be true to myself, since I was the one who was going to have to perform it. And reminded me that I was good at this and to have faith in myself. That bolstered my confidence a bit (and maybe made me cry a little). Still, I was up early the next morning, working on it again.

On the last day we all presented our acts again. I know this was more nerve-wracking for some than the first time, because there were a couple of camera people there for a project of Michelle’s (no, you’re not going to see the footage). Once I started performing I just tuned them out — I was nervous for all sorts of other reasons! Michelle had lots of praise and more suggestions. I felt a lot better, but knew it wasn’t there yet. Parts were stronger, but I still had holes to fill. I’m still working on it, in fact.

On our very last morning, Michelle gave everyone handwritten cards. It was a sweet touch and made the whole time even more special. This is a treasure I’ll return to when I need encouragement.

On the whole, this was an incredibly challenging time, but challenge is a good thing. I learned a lot on many levels. I got to see a dozen other performers with very different styles (which was an amazing experience) and see them also be vulnerable and put their work out there to be critiqued. Hearing the feedback they received also gave me new ideas and insights. I know that other people were nervous and insecure, which gave me comfort that I wasn’t alone.

I’ve admired Michelle for such a long time and working with her on such a personal level was intimidating to be sure, but also kind of liberating. She’s a very honest person, which I think encouraged honesty in others. The experience was very intense, with a lot crammed into 3-plus days, physically and emotionally. I’m still fumbling for words, but I promised myself I’d send this out today no matter what, so these words will have to do.

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 31 May 2018 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stripper’s Holiday: The House

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m writing about my time at Stripper’s Holiday in Los Angeles. It’s been taking me longer than I expected! You can read the first part here.

We all stayed in a big house in Studio City which was kind of incredible. It had an amazing view, a pool and hot tub, a pool table, and a home theatre. We were up in the hills and the landscaping was lovely. We even saw a deer one morning! My Patrons got to see a short video tour of some of the house.

However, it was decorated in a manner that was supposed to be lavish and stylish but was more like set dressing than a place people lived. All the surfaces were hard — tile, wood, brick, marble — I don’t think there was a single rug or carpet and none of the furniture was really comfortable (even the couches were so over-stuffed and piled with cushions that one couldn’t really lounge). Nor did the layout lend itself to socialization. Really, the only place we could all sit was around the dining table, as long as we also grabbed all the chairs from around the kitchen island. This is probably why most people spent their free time in and around the hot tub.

The View

My favorite spot

Artsy shot through the window

Visiting deer

Franky, Michelle’s husband, handled all the cooking and kitchen clean up. Despite numerous offers to help, we were all told to just relax and be taken care of. Michelle has very strict food requirements because of her auto-immune disorder, so we ate like she did — lots of protein and vegetables, no sugar, dairy, grains, or legumes. The food was terrific and plentiful. I was perfectly happy to eat that way the whole time (although I did have a bar of Russian dark chocolate in my bag, from which I rationed out a couple of squares each evening). I’m definitely going to try making the kale with kalamata olives and the chicken-apple-bacon burgers, not to mention experimenting with almond meal for pancakes.

I tend to wake up early and this trip was no exception. Michelle had asked that everyone try not to go on-line first thing in the morning, so instead of noodling around on my phone, I would get up and work out before anyone else was awake. I liked the quiet, but, as I mentioned, the house was full of hard surfaces. My options were the bricks around the pool or the tiles in the theatre. Ouch, floor exercises were right out.

Our schedule was very relaxed. People could sleep in and then have a leisurely breakfast. We were in the studio in the afternoon to work for four hours. Since ever minute was precious, we didn’t take any formal breaks. Thinking of everything, the kitchen at the house was well stocked with nuts, fruit, and protein bars and we would assemble snack bags before we left and munch during our down time. We returned to the house to have dinner and spend the evening, usually drinking in the hot tub.

One of the thing we talked about in the studio was vulnerability and there was a lot of it during these days. It’s hard, but here is some more vulnerability and honesty.

The social aspect of being with a dozen people was very hard for me. Despite my outgoing behavior with students and audience members, I’m really a very quiet person and rather shy when I’m not “on”. I’m okay with small groups of people, but I find it very difficult to join in the chaos of conversation with a big group. Partially I think this is because I have a little hearing loss in one ear, so sometimes it takes me a bit longer to parse what people are saying, especially when there’s a lot of background noise and when it’s dark so I can’t see people’s faces well. Add to this that I don’t often drink and I felt a bit on the outside in the evenings. I did get a lot of crocheting done because I feel more comfortable when I’m doing something creative with my hands and I can crochet on autopilot.

That’s not to say I kept completely to myself. Like I said, small groups are fine. One day after the studio I joined Lana MilknHoney, Elle Diablo, and Jacquelyn Hyde for In-And-Out Burgers and had a ridiculously fun time. We weren’t forbidden to have food that Michelle can’t eat (there was a constant nibbling on cheese in the evenings), but it felt kinda naughty to have a burger and fries. Someone might have gotten drunk on the sugar in her milkshake (spoiler: it wasn’t me).

We never had to be showgirls while we were in the house. Michelle specifically said don’t bring lashes or gowns and absolutely no glitter. I didn’t put on makeup or do my hair once and spent as much time as possible in my Catherine D’Lish caftan and bare feet. And that was a gift, to be around fellow burlesque performers with no pressure to glam it up.

Next up, the whole reason I was there, the work!

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 23 May 2018 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stripper’s Holiday, the first part

Dear Constant Reader,

I just got back from Stripper’s Holiday in Los Angeles. I have a lot to tell you. Also, a lot to think about. I think rather than my usual chronology, I’ll be writing this up by theme.

First, what is Stripper’s Holiday? It’s a burlesque master class run by Michelle L’amour. The participants stay with her for almost a week and work on honing their craft and refining an act. I’ve been trying to do this for years, but never managed to get in. It fills up FAST. That’s why I signed up for the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat, because I knew Stripper’s Holiday was unlikely to be in the cards for me.

However, after I’d committed to going to New Orleans, Michelle announced to her on-line students that after a year off she was ready to do Stripper’s Holiday again. I took the weekend (which happened to be the Expo) to wrestle with my schedule and finances. I came to the conclusion that this opportunity might never happen again and sent in my deposit.

It was a very dense experience, with a lot to process, so I’ll start with the easy stuff, what I did before and after the actual event.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon after a super-easy flight that even landed early and headed directly to the home of Kitten Natividad, Miss Nude Universe, star of Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, Burlesque Legend of the Year, and dear friend. It was so good to see her and to visit her historic home (the photo on the right). She gave me some very generous gifts (which you may see in the future). I had brought her a jar of my home-made sour cherry jam, but it was hardly equivalent. She also took me out for Mexican food and kindly drove me to the Stripper House. There I joined the others and Stripper’s Holiday officially began for me.

There will be a lot more to come about what went on during the Holiday, but that is for another day.

Jump to Sunday… After we checked out of the Stripper House, I went to The Magic Castle to meet Lili VonSchtupp. Her beloved, Funny Eddie, was performing for the brunch crowd and she saved me a seat. It was such a treat to see him on stage — he’s very talented and, as you might imagine, funny. There are a lot of kids at brunch time and Eddie was great with them, but it was just as entertaining for the adults. Despite not having a ticket, I managed to get a seat in the Palace of Mystery for the big show, which included Caramel Machine, a hilarious duo from Japan and Tempei, a magically talented juggler.

The best part was sitting in the bar with Lili and catching up on everything. I got to hear all about her hosting at Viva Las Vegas with Elvira and the inside scoop on the amazing balloon gown she wore. We talked about all different aspects of burlesque — performance, teaching, business. It’s a delight to be with her. She said some very lovely things to me that I treasure.

The Castle kicked us all out so that they could reset for the evening, but I had time to kill until my evening plans. The wonderful staff was good enough to hold my suitcase while I wandered around Hollywood, being a tourist. I had never been to the Chinese theatre to gawk at the handprints before.

Next I headed to see my friend Professor H. who I’d caught up with in New Orleans last month. We had an amazing dinner at République and I got to hear all about her latest projects (one of which is SO COOL, but I’ve to keep mum about it). I’m not sorry I left academia, but sometimes I miss being a scholar.

After she foisted some of the leftover cassoulet on me and we said farewell, I had a hideous ride to the airport and ended up RUNNING through LAX. I managed to board my red-eye maybe 5 minutes before they closed the doors and promptly passed out until we landed in Boston. When I left it was basically winter and now spring was in full flower.

Much more to come…

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 8 May 2018 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Traveling again

Dear Constant Reader,

A mere month after returning home from the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat I am in the air again, headed for Los Angeles and Michelle L’amour’s Stripper’s Holiday. I’m so excited for this experience. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

I’m expecting to be working very hard on improving my burlesque this week. We’ve been told no lashes, no glitter, yes workout clothes and swimsuits. My suitcase is so empty! It actually weighed in at only 35 pounds!

If I have free time, I’ll write about my adventures as they happen, but no promises. You remember how well that worked in New Orleans.

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 25 April 2018 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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