Los Angeles: Saturday 1/19/19

Dear Constant Reader,

At last, here it is, my trip to LA to perform with The House of Knyle!

We had a stupid early flight and Betty Blaize went above and beyond the call of friendship by driving us to the airport at 4 in the morning. I have never seen the line for security as long as it was that morning — and I had flown out of the same terminal just a week before. I don’t think it was the government shutdown (yes, this was then), because things were moving along, just SO MANY PEOPLE. It was making me rather anxious. I’m not nervous about flying, but about about missing my flight. I never really relax until I’m through security and at my gate.

Once arrived in sunny (but coolish) California, we headed to my favorite breakfast place, Du-Par’s. I just love their pancakes. As Scratch took the obligatory we’ve-arrived photo, I realized that we always sit at the same table. I am nothing if not a creature of habit. Sitting outside in January was treat, especially knowing a major snowstorm was heading for Boston.

After strolling the Farmers Market and picking up a goodie or two, we were looking for something else to do. I turned to Atlas Obscura and we decided The Museum of Jurassic Technology sounded interesting.

“Interesting” is an understatement. Behind a rather plain facade in Culver City is a wonder. No photos are allowed, so you’ll have to make do with my poor words. The space is mostly very dim, which immediately puts you in a liminal space, surrounded by curious and obscure objects. It’s not so much the items on exhibit are the works of art, but the exhibits themselves are the art. The topics are eclectic, like Ricky Jay’s decaying dice, the history of Russian space dogs, and micro-mosaics. The exhibit design is exquisite and takes advantage of various technologies to enhance the experience. I don’t want to go into details because it might spoil things. Just go. It’s weird and clever and very creative.

By then we were completely overwhelmed and tried to find our way to the tea room, only to discover there was even more museum! It’s much bigger on the inside. Weary from wonder, we stepped into the Russian-style tea room for a restorative glass of tea and cookies. We took our treats out to the wee courtyard garden — almost like a miniature of the Gardener’s — and relaxed while gazing at the doves. As a Classicist and a Deathling both, I was tickled that they had a columbarium, in both senses of the word.

At last we headed for our accommodations. The lovely and generous Kitten Natividad put us up in her charming guest suite overlooking a secluded courtyard, right in Hollywood. I’m so spoiled now — I don’t think I could stay in a hotel. It had been a long day, so I laid down for a nap. We had been thinking about going to a burlesque show that night, but when evening fell, I could not get out of bed and just went back to sleep. I’m so exciting on a Saturday night.

I had mixed feelings about my travel plans. It was a delight to stay with Kitten and spend time with a Legend and Scratch is my favorite traveling companion. However, all my House of Knyle sisters were staying with Egypt. I knew my choices meant I was going to miss out on all that bonding time. On the other hand, given that I was unconscious the entire evening, it might have been for the best that I wasn’t there. : )

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 13 March 2019 at 2:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Spring forward, fall back, and take care of your internal clock too.

If you live somewhere that changes the clocks twice a year, you’re going to lose an hour this weekend, the equivalent of traveling one time zone. It’s perfectly normal to feel slightly jet lagged and it might take a couple of days to adjust. Be aware of it and be kind to yourself.

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 8 March 2019 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My Travel Map

Dear Constant Reader,

I love to travel and I especially love to perform when I travel. I’ve been fortunate to see some great parts of North America, some of which I probably wouldn’t have gone to without the performance opportunity.

When I got back from Winnipeg last year, I finally implemented an idea I’d had for a long time — a map for recording my travels and the places I’ve performed.

I wanted one of those scratch-off maps, where you reveal the state you’ve visited. That proved to be more of a challenge that I expected. I wanted one with all of North America, but I could only find either just the US or the entire world and many weren’t detailed enough. I wanted to see cities, not just the shape of the state filled in with pretty colors. I finally found one that satisfied most of my criteria (although it only has the lower part of Canada). And it amuses me that it’s labeled “Scratch USA”.

I’ve revealed all the states and provinces I’ve visited (only being in an airport doesn’t count). These are the colored states; everything in gold is still untrod by my foot. I’ve been to 22 states (and 4 provinces). There’s a whole lot of the country I’ve never seen!

Then, for extra fun, I glued ss12 AB rhinestones over the places I’ve performed burlesque in. Most of the cities were marked on the map, but some required a little consultation with other maps, like Sellinsgrove, PA. Most of the venues in eastern MA all fall under the “Boston” rhinestone, because they’re so close together on the map. I’ve performed in 14 states (and 3 provinces). Here’s the most densely concentrated area of rhinestones:

I really want to add rhinestones to Florida, Illinois, and Washington. Maybe this will be the year!

Here’s my most recent addition — Long Beach, CA, Home of Burlesque Bingo! I promise I will tell you all about it soon.

I’m looking forward to scratching off more states this year. First up is Georgia! I’m so delighted to be performing in Atlanta at
Evolution (The Journey Of Burlesque), presented by my House of Knyle sister, Coco Rosé on Sunday, March 31! I’m not in Atlanta for very long, but let me know if there are any must-see sights or must-eat restaurants and I’ll try to squeeze them in.

Up next, I’ll finally write about my trip to Los Angeles!

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

Published in: on 6 March 2019 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Costume Creation

Dear Constant Reader,

The fun part of creating my new act for The House of Knyle mentorship program was the costume. No great shock. I love making costumes. For this act I wanted to go minimal — no gown, no gloves. The picture I had in my head was a panel skirt and bra. I like the contrast of the classic costume and the rock music.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to do too much sewing. I decided to use the bra, hip belt, g-string, and pasties from a Halloween fan dance. The base for all those pieces is black-on-black sequined fabric, which I embellished with jet, hemitite, and black diamond crystals, plus a few silver night skull rhinestones, just for fun.

The bra is a Frederick’s of Hollywood Exxtreme Cleavage push-up. It’s so “exxtreme” that I had to take out the push-up pads. For the fan dance I took off the (removable) straps, but for this act, I put the straps back on and adorned them with large black diamond rhinestones. Despite all my tricks, a couple of stones decided to pop off every time I wore it. I think I finally solved the issue.

The belt is styled after a bellydance hip belt. I love the deep V-shape. I also like how wide it is, that it’s a substantial costume piece, which makes for a nice reveal when it comes off. The only problem with that shape is that the point of the V can roll up. To keep the front nice and flat, I added a piece of boning inside. That does mean if I’m not careful, the whole thing can flip up. Embarrassing!

The G-string is based on the pattern from my book. I used flat elastic instead of tubular and (with Scratch’s assistance) added some additional strappy bits. I also made a set of thigh garters, for that appealing butt definition. The pasties (not shown) are just standard round ones, encrusted with the three colors of rhinestone.

The only thing I needed to make was panels. I already have black and silver lace ones that I use with the belt, but they’re rectangles. I wanted really voluminous panels — a full circle in the back and a half circle in the front. I was thinking red to contrast with the black, but Scratch pointed out that I already had a set of red panels (though not as full and not compatible with the belt). I was hoping to find an impossibility — a fabric with some visual interest *and* a floaty drape. I settled on some wine-colored sheer fabric at 45″ wide. I was all set to buy it when Scratch found an identical fabric over in the draperies section. Same color, same hand, same price per yard, except it was 110″ wide. Score!

Cutting the panels wasn’t too bad. I’m very lucky that Albert isn’t one of those cats who needs to sprawl on fabric. It was hemming them that was going to be a problem. I wanted a tiny rolled hem and I usually do those by hand. A rolled hem is a thing of beauty, but it’s slow going. I had an awful lot of hem and not a lot of time. Fortunately I have a rolled hem foot on my sewing machine. Time to learn how to use it.

Oh my goodness, it was lovely! It made such a beautiful tiny hem! There was hardly even any cursing as I figured out how to use it. Even with the machine, it took me quite a while to get them hems done. It made such a difference rehearsing with the actual costume pieces and all that lovely yardage! I changed some of my choreography to take advantage of them.

I am so happy with how the panels came out! I used the same snap tape as the previous lace panels, so both sets are all compatible with the same belt (this trick was a Friday Tip). By the way, panel skirts are going to be one of the topics for Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming, Vol. 2.

Look how fabulous the panels are! (Photo credit: Harlan)

Here’s the tricky part. I decided I needed some bad-ass shoes for the number. My character shoes are too cute; ballroom shoes are too dainty. I really wanted to use the shoes at the right, hand-me-downs from Angie Pontani. I’ve wore them on stage before, but not when I was dancing. I was committed to those shoes, because the panels were hemmed for a 5-inch heel. Even with the shoes on, the panels still touched the floor. I really didn’t want to use a lower heel and risk tripping over them. And I was having problems with the shoes… but more about that later.

I’m incredibly pleased with how the whole outfit came out. I love the wine panels against the rhinestoned black. Now that I’ve mastered the rolled hemmer, I suspect there will be even more panel skirts in my future. Stay tuned, Dear Reader, to (eventually) see how it looked in action!

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 4 March 2019 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip! You’re not seeing things — it’s the same photo from last week. But it’s a whole new tip!

Embellish your bra clasp.

The most functional looking part of your bra is the clasp. If you’re not going to remove it and replace it, like with a ribbon tie, you should decorate it. I like to use rhinestones and make it look like a piece of jewelry. That tactile difference also makes it easier for your fingers to find it behind your back.

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 1 March 2019 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! It’s particularly happy for me as I’m out of my sickbed for the first time in about a week. Right after Valen-Tease, I was felled with a bad cough, kind of like the one I had back in November, but mercifully not as bad. It still meant I spent my birthday sick in bed, which was no fun at all. Now I’m tentatively up and around and ready to give you your tip.

Fasten your new bra on the first set of loops.

If you start on the first set, you’ll have somewhere to go as the elastic loosens up and you can keep wearing the bra for a good long time. If you have to start on one of the other sets of loops, the bra is too big for you.

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 22 February 2019 at 2:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Act Creation

Dear Constant Reader,

The centerpiece of The House of Knyle mentorship was to work with Egypt on an act. This could either be an existing one or a new one. I toyed with the idea of seeing what Egypt would do with “Mina in Furs”, the number I workshopped at Stripper’s Holiday, but decided to create something new. This was late September.

I wanted to challenge myself, so I picked a song outside my usual style. Really outside. “Whole Lotta Love” by Hollywood Vampires. I like the Led Zeppelin original, but I love this cover. I think it’s the harmonica and the vocals by Alice Copper and Brian Johnson that do it for me.

But I just didn’t know what to do with it. I felt paralyzed with indecision. This song wanted someone to dance with wild abandon and flip her hair around. That’s not me. Act creation is so hard for me. Choreography is not one of my natural talents.

So, I put things off. October was crazy while Scratch and I frantically tried to get Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming ready for the printer. Then I got sick and spent about three weeks of November in bed. This was about the point where Egypt announced that we had the opportunity to perform at Burlesque Bingo in January. I knew I would have to get serious.

I decided what my costume would be (and that will be a separate entry) and grabbed a reasonable facsimile. I went into the studio before rehearsal and just moved to the music in front of a camera. This isn’t how I normally create a number. Usually I’m more in my head. I break the song down and make an outline. But I was trying to do things differently, break out of my usual patterns.

I kept working on it and feeling more and more despondent. I could picture how other people I knew would dance to this song, but not me. I was thinking I would just chuck it all and start over wth something more in my comfort zone. Maybe another gown-and-gloves strip or a fan dance. I announced my despaire to the other mentees. And that’s when things started changing.

The other ladies were very supportive and Egypt and I set up an on-line date to work on it. Then I showed what I had to Scratch and he said “It’s not as bad as you think”. All that gave me the boost to keep going on it.

Egypt and I spent an hour in the studio via video chat and worked on the act. She gave me some suggestions, some of which I took, some of which sparked different ideas. I remembered Scratch’s advice to me during Stripper’s Holiday to expand my horizons, but stay true to myself.

Over the next month, I worked on the act constantly. Fear of looking terrible on stage is a great motivator. Scratch and the other BeauTease gave me feedback. I sent progress videos to Egypt. I took the floorwork section out; I put it back in, but now completely different. Scratch edited my music so the song had a stronger ending. I finalized my costume. I’m very thankful I had the time to devote to it without needing to rehearse anything else.

As for how it turned out, you’ll have to wait for a future missive.

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 21 February 2019 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Thank you to everyone who came out for Valen-Tease last night. We had a great time and hope to be back at Thunder Road soon!

And now for your tip!

Bring slippers to your gigs.

Maybe not the marabou mules in the picture (although I love them for lounging at home), but something to keep your feet off the potentially cold and dirty dressing room floor while you’re getting ready or between acts. Yes, you could wear your show shoes, but why not give your feet a break from the heels.

I know some people who favor flip-flops, but I prefer grippy socks, like I wear in barre class. I get cold easily and the cozy socks help keep my toes warm, but don’t leave marks on my legs like taller socks might.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

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

Published in: on 15 February 2019 at 3:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Before we get to your tip, I just want to mention that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. One of my Little Books would be a wonderful gift for the burlesque lover in your life. Also, The Boston BeauTease are presenting Valent-Tease Day at Thunder Road that night. Not only will we be presenting our usual burlesque delights, but some of my students from B.A.B.E. will be making their burlesque debut. AND you’ll get to see the act I debuted in Los Angeles. Right now the only way to see it is to support me on Patreon.

With no further ado or commercials, here’s your tip!

If you have pets with fur, keep a lint brush in your show bag.

No matter how carefully you keep you costumes away from your fuzzy family members, somehow fur is still going to make an appearance — and of course it will contrast as highly as possible. Albert just loves to cuddle up to dark clothing…

Scratch points out that if you’ve forgotten your lint brush, there’s still hope, “you’re a burlesque dancer — you’ve got double-sided tape!”.

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 8 February 2019 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Fierce

Dear Constant Reader,

One of the other assignments for The House of Knyle mentorship was to write an essay on Jo Weldon’s new book. Since I’d been intending to review it anyway, this was a good incentive to do it sooner rather than later. As with the essay on Sally Keith, I’ve tweaked the writing just a little here and there from the essay I submitted to Egypt.

Fierce: The History of Leopard Print by Jo Weldon (2018).

I remember my first leopard print. I was shopping for a sun hat and Scratch pointed out one with a lovely wide brim, painted with leopard spots. I said no, “I don’t think I’m a leopard print kind of girl.” He pointed out that I might be a leopard kind of girl, but I wouldn’t know unless I tried it. I’ve been wearing that hat ever since. And more leopard print followed. I’m got a wardrobe-full and still love this fierce pattern. I’ve been awaiting the publication of Jo Weldon’s book on the history of leopard print since she first started presenting her lectures on the subject.

Fierce: The History of Leopard Print is a look at fashion and society through the lens of leopard print. The viewpoint is a feminist one, a fine way of seeing a fashion choice generally considered the purview of women. As the title suggests, wearing leopard print is a bold decision that reflects the personality of the women wearing it.

The fashion for the fur of spotted cats starts in prehistory and for millennia represented power. As a human was draped in the skin of the cat, its fierceness of the cats was transferred to the wearer in a form of sympathetic magic. The book skims the appearance of leopard print in several centuries before reaching the focus of the book – the twentieth century. The next several chapters are a thematic look at each decade and the meaning of leopard print at the time.

I loved seeing how the attitude toward leopard print changed with the decades. I was particularly struck by contrast of the chapters “The Trophy Wife” and “The Bad Mother”. In a short span of time, leopard print signified polar opposites in woman – privileged and obedient versus seductive and rebellious. We see how leopard print moved up and down the fashion scale over the years, from powerful to tacky to campy to sexy to playful and back again. I particularly enjoyed the analysis of the meaning of “tacky” and how something once considered prestigious could fall to being dismissed by the elite.

Fierce is lavishly illustrated, as a fashion book needs to be. The photographs show leopard being worn by movie stars, supermodels, and ordinary women, and in advertisements, catalogs, and other photos. I know how hard it is to get the rights to images so I’m very impressed with all the gorgeous picturesshe was able to use. This book wants to be enjoyed in full color. The writing is excellent, but the impact would be lost without the images.

The history of this fashion is bookended with information about the big cats whose fur inspired this all. At the start the reader is introduced to the spotted cats and their markings, so you can tell if you’re wearing leopard print or if it’s actually jaguar. The book wraps up with some organizations that are helping big cats, if you want to get involved in preserving these beautiful creatures. Because of Jo I’ve been a supporter of Panthera for several years now.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fashion history, in feminism, or in big cats. This enjoyable and informative read is a celebration of fierce creatures — female and feline alike.

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 6 February 2019 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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