Mini BurlExpo

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m so sorry for the recent silence. I have a lot of catching up to do! It’s been crazy busy for me recently and this was part of it.

Mini Expo PostcardThe last Saturday in July was the first ever Mini BurlExpo. The what? Every year Scratch hosts The Great Burlesque Exposition, a massive three-day burlesque event, which for various reasons beyond his control, has been held in February for the past several years. And invariably there has been a snowstorm that very weekend, causing chaos and disruption. He thought it would be fun to have a small, low-key version of the Expo in the summer.

Friday night there was a performer cookout, sponsored by Viva Vermont Burlesque, held in the backyard at The Manor. We cooked hot dogs and s’mores over the fire, drank local beer, and generally had a lovely time.

Next morning it was off to The Thalia for a day of classes. The regular Expo has 4 tracks of classes over 3 days, so a mere 5 classes (plus one on Sunday) was a bit more manageable. The offerings included marketing, ballet for burlesque, chair & floor work, and twerking.

In the evening there were two shows, as compared to The Expo’s four over three days. The first, The Mini Event, was a take off on The Main Event, the Expo’s competition. Instead of competing for serious titles like “Most Classic”, the performers were in the running for audience-voted awards like “Damn! That Was Awesome!” and ridiculously random trophies.

The show opened with an adorable group number from The Expositionettes, created by Betty Blaize and featuring her, Artemisia Vulgaris, Brigitte Bisoux, Devastacia, and Kitty Levesque. I’d like to point out that Brigitte was filling in for a performer struck ill and she only had one rehearsal. She’s just that good.

We had a whole host of performers, from all over the country, showing off the beautiful and the bizarre. There were veterans and neophytes and a whole range of performances styles, all creative and entertaining.

While the very official ballot-counters were tabulating the results (that would have been me and Betty), the audience was entertained by Diamond DeVille (Most Beautiful 2017), and Egypt Blaque Knyle (Best Solo 2016 and a huge number of other awards). I’m glad we counted efficiently and I was able to see most of Egypt’s remarkable performance.

The well-deserving winners were Bea Trouble who received “Greatest Googly-Moogly” for her cow-themed striptease (it was fabulously absurd and I’m not giving away the punchline), Mr. and Mrs. Fucksmart who were awarded “Most Pantsfeelings” for their sexy duet to “Tainted Love”, and Tapitha Kix was honored with “Damn! That Was Awesome” for her tap pointe striptease (yes, seriously, she can tap dance en pointe). Everyone put on a great show!

Then it was time for the second show, Late Night Lust, a passel of more risque acts. I was delighted to have the opportunity to perform my bathtub act with the lovely Artemisia Vulgaris as my lady’s maid. I really love this act, but it’s difficult to find a venue for it — it’s long (almost 8 minutes), it has a fussy set up, it requires a second performer to be my maid (it’s too complex a job to just ask a stage kitten to help) and requires a stage on to which the tub can be rolled (it’s really heavy once it’s filled with water, so carrying it up steps is right out). I feel so Lili St. Cyr-ish when I get to bathe. Maybe this time I’ll finally get some decent video — it’s been like a curse.

The next morning those that were up to it returned to the theatre for a little brunch and another class from Egypt (fantastic, by the way) and our little Expo interlude was over. It was a fun event for the middle of the summer. Who knows? It may become tradition! And now it’s time to start gearing up for The Great Burlesque Expo in January. Hope for no snow storms!

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 August 2017 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Arisia 2017

Dear Constant Reader,

This past weekend I attended Arisia, a local science fiction convention with a wide range of interests. For example, I spoke on three panels: on historical accuracy in costuming, on the tv show Person of Interest, and on tea (yes, tea. There was also a panel on cocktails). It’s an exhausting weekend with tons to do, like gaming, shopping, a charity auction (with associated poker tournament), music, art, historic dances, movie screenings, a geeky bellydance show, &c. And, my favorite part, amazing costumes everywhere.

But I wanted to tell you about a couple of moments I enjoyed that have nothing to do with any of the con’s programming.

When I was in the ladies’ room, I took the opportunity to refresh my lipstick, like you do. Every time I pulled out my Atomic Cosmetics liquid lipstick and the little light in the wand lit up, everyone around me was awed. I explained where it came from and did a little pitch about how awesome Dr. Jen and her products are. There was lots of interest and I saw at least one person write down the company name. I love turning people, especially strangers, on to my favorite things.

Now, true confession time, Constant Reader. Sometimes I feel what I do doesn’t matter, that it isn’t seen or appreciated. Burlesque is a niche in the performance world and we struggle to gain audiences from and be accepted by the more mainstream performance community. I often feel like I’m struggling to be recognized in the burlesque world as well. It can be daunting and dispiriting. However…

Early on at Arisia, a woman approached Scratch and me and asked “Were you in Wrathskellar Tales?” She recognized me as The Diva and praised my performance. That buoyed my spirits a great deal. Pebblestardom*, as Marrus calls it, is a great boost. As I was getting ready to leave, someone else asked me if I had been in Wrathskellar Tales. It’s great being recognized, but even more so from one of the shows of which I am most proud.

But the high point of the weekend was a woman who recognized me as a member of The Boston BeauTease. She was somewhat nervous and very shy about talking to me, but it was also clearly important to her to do so. She said how much she enjoyed our performances and that they made her happy, they gave her hope. She implored me “Keep doing what you do for as long as you can.” I was deeply touched, more that I could express.

This is why I keep doing what I do.

M2*Because you not actually famous enough to be a rockstar.

Published in: on 19 January 2017 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

BurlyCon 2016: Sunday

Dear Constant Reader,

My last day at BurlyCon began with making sure I was packed and ready to check out before I went to classes.

Achieving Closure (me): This is a relatively new class and I was delighted at how well it went. I’m particularly pleased with what I kept calling my “grown-up busy book”, cloth pages with examples of the various closures sewn on, so students could try them out. Educational and entertaining!

Icons of the Tease: From A(nn corio) to Z(orita ) (Leslie Zemeckis): A delightful look at a number of burlesque performers, illustrated with personal anecdotes, photographs, and film footage.

Book Signing (me): My first author event! I’m delighted at how many people showed up. I brought a lot of books with me and went home with almost none. Since I was there for two hours, people drifted in and out. Some stayed to chat, which was lovely, but there was enough quiet time that I could have some lunch lest I snarl at any of my adoring fans. The picture is me briefly curled up in front of the library’s little fireplace. I could have stayed there all day.

Get on the Good Foot: A Post-Stiletto Recovery Class (Elsa/Ernie von Schmaltz): This was a great class and it was the perfect thing to wrap up the weekend. I thought it was going to be about just foot massage, but since everything is connected, we did self-massage all the way from our toes, up our backs to our foreheads. So delightful. So relaxing. I will definitely be practicing this in the future.

I skipped out on the closing ceremony and caught the light rail into Seattle proper. As a method of getting from the airport to downtown, it certainly has Boston beat. I met my friend A. near the Pike Place Market and we had a lovely dinner. We’ve known each other a frighteningly long time and even though we only get together every couple of years, the conversation is always great.

Eventually I had to head back, pick up my bag at the hotel, and go to the airport for my red eye flight home. I was exhausted, but of course, I just couldn’t sleep on the plane. Usually I can sleep anywhere, but planes are just impossible. After an eternity of fitfully dozing to podcasts, the sun rose and we landed at Logan. I blearily made my way back to the Manor, there to collapse for a couple of hours with Albert.


Published in: on 23 November 2016 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2016: Saturday

Dear Constant Reader,

Saturday, mercifully, the first classes weren’t until 9. Of course, I was awake at 4:30am because of East Coast Time…

The Classic Chorus Girl (Sister Kate Dance Company): We learned some chorus girl dance steps and then dove into a short choreography based on the Shim Sham. Eventually we broke into groups of five or six and did the whole thing with an adorable entrance and fun ending. I can’t wait to share this one with the BeauTease.

Caring for Your Costumes (me): I’ve been teaching this class for a long time, but it stays popular. I refine it a bit every time I teach and sometimes (and this class was no exception) I learn a thing or two as well.

Book Signing (Leslie Zemeckis): I brought my copy of Behind the Burly-Q to be signed. I had two other hardcover books (Striptease and It’s All That Glitters) weighing down my suitcase, so I couldn’t also bring Goddess of Love Incarnate. Another time, I’m sure.

Exotic Dance Moves 101 (Peekaboo Pointe): A primer of exotic dance moves, some of which were familiar from burlesque, just done with different angles and intentions. My favorite part of the class was that we started with a Pilates warm up. Because of the intense schedule for Wrathskellar Tales I couldn’t get to the gym or barre class for about six weeks. The exertion was very welcome and I was pleased to discover I hadn’t lost all my core strength in the interim.

Props & Gimmicks (Gina Bon Bon): Gina demonstrated some of her signature moves with a boa and on a prop and then invited audience members to “show me what you learned”. Classes with Legends always remind me where we came from and are inspirational.

I had a very nice dinner in the hotel restaurant withe Maggie McMuffin, with conversation that ranged from frivolous to emotional. It was just what I needed, as I had been a bit too solitary this weekend.

Then I put on lounging attire and went to Tales Around the Glampfire for some storytelling. I think it went better than last year. Alotta Bouté was a fine hostess. That she sat on the stage with the storyteller made it feel less like *performance* and a bit more intimate. Also, it didn’t seem like they were sticking to a 5-minute limit for stories and the event itself was scheduled to run longer, so storytellers were less rushed and flustered. As expected, some stories were kind of rambling, some were excellent, and some were perfectly enjoyable. Indigo’s story about Wild Cherry was an appropriate, if melancholy, finale. Reminds me that I should remind Scratch to write up his Joan Arline story.

 And so to bed.


Published in: on 23 November 2016 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2016: Friday

Dear Constant Reader,

My second day at BurlyCon I woke early because I really, really wanted to take an 8:30am class.

Giving Good Face: Facial Expressions the Scientific Way (Tiger Tangerine): This was a splendid class. I’m terrible about facial expressions (I often look like I’m scowling) and am desperate to improve them. She used the work of Paul Ekman (the basis of the TV show “Lie to Me”) and the universality of facial expressions (like anger, joy, and disgust) to help us understand *what* our face it doing when we are expressing emotion. I found it a compatible with Delsarte theory. It was a 90 minute class, but it was clear she could have gone on for a while longer and I would have liked to. Now to practice, practice, practice.

Getting Tight: A Guide to Corsetry (me): My first class of the weekend. I was a little nervous about this one, not because of the material, which I know backward and forwards, but technology. I know it’s unusual in this day and age, but I don’t own a laptop or a tablet, so I was going to be running my presentation off an iPhone. A friend got me a converter for my phone and BurlyCon had the right cable to connect it to the projector, so it all went well.

Just around the time I was talking about the transition from corsets to other forms of support garments in the 1920’s, Don Spiro came in to take pictures of the class and tossed me a copy of the latest issue of Zelda. Excellent timing, as it just happens to have an article on making 1920s-style garters by yours truly!

Panty Magic (Sherry Bomb): I’ve been making panties for years but I hoped I might learn something new. Mostly I learned that I’ve been doing everything right. I really appreciated that she explained things for sewing machines, rather than for sergers.

Elegant and Dirty: Burlesque Movement Through the Decades (Vivienne VaVoom): Vivienne shared movements and gestures as well as historical context that she’s gleaned from films as well as interviewing our Legends. It was part lecture, part movement class.

After classes ended, I hiked almost back to the previous BurlyCon hotel to have dinner at L & L Hawaiian Barbecue, which Scratch and I discovered last year. I don’t know how authentic their food is, never having been to Hawaii (yet!), but you certainly can’t get a plate lunch in my neck of the woods. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, plate lunch is an entree, usually Asian-influenced, like the pork katsu I ordered, served with rice and macaroni salad.

The evenings activity was the class photo (which I missed as usual) and the dance. The theme this year was “Camp” and I had no idea what to wear. Pearl suggested “pin-up hiker” and that’s how I went: shorts, bandanna-print top, actual bandanna on my hair, and leopard heels. I must say that the combination of those shorts and those heels made my legs look spectacular.

I was heading to dance when I saw Maggie McMuffin and Jacqueline Boxx heading to hospitality, where the cheap drinks were, and tagged along. Maggie, the newly-elected co-Mayor of Seattle Burlesque, wanted to do short video interviews with performers from other parts of the country and I volunteered (well, I was volunteered by Scratch, from afar). We shot it in the hallway on her phone while I babbled awkwardly and people dashed between us. Fun!

I did check out the dance and the camp activities, but was too tired to make a late night of it.


Published in: on 22 November 2016 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2016: Thursday

Dear Constant Reader,

Thursday morning, not too early for once, I boarded a plane for the long, boring flight to Seattle and a long weekend of classes and glitter. My flight arrived early, the hotel had my room ready (it’s good to be a Hilton Honors member), and registration was a breeze. I could have actually made it to one of the classes in the second time slot, but I decided to relax instead. Naps and snacks are good things.

I did make it to one class: How I Came to Write Striptease (Rachel Schteir)
Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show was one of the first books I read on the history of burlesque, partially because it was one of the only ones in existence at the time. It certainly influenced my perceptions of burlesque and I was glad to have the opportunity to tell the author that. It was interesting to hear about the research process behind the book, which was extensive and lengthy.

I took myself out for a quiet dinner at one of the local fine dining establishments (that would be Denny’s) and then prepared for the evening’s entertainments, the Vintage Meet & Greet.

This year there was a Pool Party theme. I was wearing my vintage-style one-piece bathing suit, but I covered it with my Catherine D’Lish caftan. I think the only person who ever saw the suit was Jacqueline Boxx, when I pulled open my caftan to show that my leopard suit complimented hers.

Although I started the evening in my awesome leopard heels, I soon realized that the caftan was long enough that I could just wear my comfy flats and no one could tell. I got a lot of compliments on that caftan and a few on my necklace, which was my first foray into making jewelry. I didn’t last very long and soon took myself to bed.

More to report on my Friday, a much fuller day.


Published in: on 21 November 2016 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Expo 2016: Parties

Dear Constant Reader,

After the Main Event each year, The Expo holds a party at the hotel pool with music from The Waveriders. It’s a lot of fun, but very, very loud, between the music and the pool house acoustics. This year there was also a quieter option — the Game Room, overseen by the Game Warden, Scarlett Letter, with most of the games supplied by the invaluable Heather C.

I started out at the Pool Party, where it is traditional for the BeauTease to go-go to the surf music until late. You can’t really tell in this selfie, but I’m wearing 3 different leopard prints (scarf, bathing suit, and sarong). After a while of nibbling on cheese and watching my B.A.B.E. instructors frolic in the water, I realized I was completely exhausted. There would be no twisting the night away for me.

I dropped in on the Game Room which was indeed much quieter than the pool despite the rollicking game of Cards Against Humanity. It appeared that our copy of “Take It Off”, a vintage board game about a burlesque club (yes, really), was still in the storage room, ah well. No one seemed to miss it. I’ll write something up about it another time. It’s a hoot. But I was in bed long before either party shut down.

On Sunday afternoon I hosted a little tea party, with help from my hostesses, Corinne and Chelsea. I was so excited because the tea this year was provided by Jacqueline Hyde, which I just adore. I was delighted to addict a few more people with the pleasures of Bad Things (peach oolong) tea. And I got to wear my Stephanie Buscema mermaid dress with *two* crinolines. So fluffy! There are pictures out there somewhere…

As usual the food was terrific. The set-up, not so much. The staff brought in all the food when they were supposed to, but there was no sign of our tea equipment (hot water urns and tea pots). What we need to get started first is the tea! After they finally (with much prodding from me) brought in the hot water urns, I asked about the tea pots and was told that it wasn’t part of the order. Oh yes, it was. It’s been the same basic order for years now. Grrr.

At this point we were mere minutes from doors and there was already a line outside. I *hate* starting anything late, but how can we have a tea party without tea? Finally we got our pots and quickly got the tea started before opening the doors to the genteelly ravaging hoards. As I mentioned, the food was terrific — finger sandwiches, little muffins, and tiny cakes. I think the chef has fun with this event. It’s lovely to just relax for an hour or so before the final show and then strike.

And then it was time for the Sunday Showcases!


Published in: on 8 March 2016 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Expo: Shopping

Dear Constant Reader,

The Vendor Hall is one of the delights of The Expo. I never seem to spend as much time as I want there…

This year’s haul (sort of)

On the left is some soap from Amaranth and Rue. It’s a gift for Scratch, because he’s crazy about all things cherry. On the right is a new jewelry set from Farasha and Su’ad Dance and Designs. I have a lot of red costumes and very little red jewelry, so this was a no-brainer. Plus their prices are so reasonable!

The “sort of” is because I commissioned a set of pasties and a g-string from Glorious Pasties which don’t exist yet, so no photo. I have this act with a fabulous bathtub and a gorgeous costume, but my bottom layer is distinctly lacking in glam. And that’s what gets seen while I’m splashing around in the tub! Cheeky is specially making the set to withstand getting a soaking. I’m so excited!

There were a couple of vendors I didn’t patronize (this time!), but I’d still like to point out.

  • The proprietress of Vixens Ahoy has expanded her repertoire to include circle skirts along with her adorable aprons.
  • Mrs. V and the Bees makes solid moisturizer and lips balms from natural ingredients (like bees’ wax and essential oils) that smell amazing!
  • Light Painting Portraits created some incredible photos, like this one of Vita Lightly:

    I really regret that I didn’t duck into his booth.
  • Next report, parties!


    Published in: on 3 March 2016 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    The Expo: Costume Exhibit and The Atheneum

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Here we have two of my favorite things, costumes and books.

    The costumes…

    Ever since The Expo moved to Cambridge we’ve had a costume exhibit, ably curated by BettySioux Tailor, with the assistance of Baroness Blitzen von Schtupp for the last last *eight* years. As always, there was some fantastic stuff!

    From L to R (top row and then bottom row): Scarlett Letter, Dita Von Tease, Miss Mina Murray, Hedy Jo Star (pink), Hedy Jo Star (green), Jacqueline Hyde, Dangrrr Doll, Red Hot Annie, Sailor St. Claire, Matt Finish, Scarlett O’Hairdye, Raven Roland, Angie Pontani.

    The two Hedy Jo Star costumes were gifted to The Expo from a costumer working in Tokyo who found them in the storage room of her theatre company. We have no idea how they got there or who wore them, but pink one has the name “Nancy Lee” written inside. Any thoughts? Pictures can not do these pieces justice. I hope you got a chance to see them close up.

    We also had an exhibit in memory of Blaze Starr, who passed away over the summer. It included several photographs (two with Boston connections!), video of a couple of her film appearances, the costume Angie Pontani wore for her tribute to the Legend at Miss Exotic World 2006, and Blaze’s own powder puff and hand-made red evening bag with a handwritten note.

    And the books…

    The Atheneum was a new addition this year. Librarian Jennie put together a collection of relevant books and magazines in the breakfast/tea party room for people to browse during the day. Counterpoint Press was good enough to donate Leslie Zemeckis’s Goddess of Love Incarnate and Margo Christie sent her novel, These Days. Other books came from the Library at Stately Babydoll Manor and from Jennie’s own collection.

    I have a collection of “Cavalcade of Burlesque”, an industry magazine published in the early 1950’s by burlesque agent Jess Mack. They’re valuable documents for our community and I wanted to share them, but as you might expect from 65-year-old pulp paper, they’re rather fragile. So, I carefully scanned all my issues page by page and had them printed them up to be as close to the original as possible. I’m so happy to share this bit of history while keeping the originals preserved! (By the way, I’m on the look-out for the May 1953, March 1954, and May 1954 issues…)

    I certainly hope The Expo continues to offer The Atheneum and it becomes a bigger and better resource.

    Up next, shopping!


    Published in: on 2 March 2016 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Expo 2016: The Main Event

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I know this is the missive you’re eagerly awaiting. Who were The Howard Award Winners?

    First, I want to tell you about the opening number. Scratch had this idea… and he got Willy Barrett to make it reality. Scratch sang (yes, he actually sang) “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with new lyrics, of course. Whilst he did so, Willy Barrett led a bevy of beauties around the stage in a Follies-style parade with them first displaying and then discarding banners with the numbers 1 through 9. Then Betty and I came out to either side of Scratch and displayed “1” and “0”.

    I try to keep my involvement in The Expo low-profile. From year one I’ve said “I’m not in charge of anything!” So, I didn’t really want to be so prominently featured in the “Parade of Years”, but Willy insisted and I can’t say no to him. As I stood in the wings, watching the showgirls (and boy) swoop and prance, I actually got a bit teary-eyed. I’ll chalk it up a little to stress and lack of sleep, but mostly it was seeing our very own Follies number live on The Expo stage.

    And then I raced to the Green Room to put on something more appropriate for judging than a bra, panel skirt, and feathered hair ornament. On to The Main Event!

    Allow me draw attention to a couple of acts I particularly liked:

  • Maggie McMuffin‘s hot strip to Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” in which she demonstrated her mastery of the eye-fucking techniques she had taught earlier that day. I did not expect the ending. Also, I love her 70’s aesthetic.
  • Shimmy LaRoux as a booty-ful mermaid. Not only was her act adorable and funny, her music mash-up was *perfect*.
  • Delilah as “Annie White”. Due to my particular cultural illiteracy someone had to explain part of this to me later, but I still enjoyed the half-and-half act, even if I didn’t recognize the Jack White half.
  • Although this was a tough slate to judge, I have to say that my fellow judges made this a delightfully easy deliberation experience. We were done in twenty minutes! (I timed it.) In fact, there was still business happening on stage when we got back.

    And that was when I got blindsided. Scratch began calling up people who had worked on The Expo for the past 10 years. First Hunter, our long-time tech director. He and Scratch have been working together since before The Expo was even an idea. Then Willy Barrett, who was at the first Expo because Betty took a workshop with him in New York, thought he was amazing, heard he used to do burlesque, and invited him. And the rest is, as they say, history. Betty Blaize, of course, who was the original Conference Coordinator, became Queen of Registration, and has been in charge of making the new website happen (you have no idea how hard she’s been working on that, non-stop, for at least two years). And me. I almost did cry then. So much for keeping a low profile…

    And now the awards!

    Honored by Gabriella Maze: Jacqueline Boxx*
    Honored by Matt Finish: Private Tails
    Honored by Dangrrr Doll: Sunny Sighed & Bal’d Lightning

    The Howard Award Winners
    Judges’ Choice: Mimi MaShuga
    Best Hybrid: Sunny Sighed & Bal’d Lightning
    Most Comedic: Ruby Spruce
    Most Beautiful: Freaky Candy
    Most Classic: Red Velvet**
    Best Group: The Duet That Do It (aka Scarlett O’Hairdye & Bolt Action)
    Best Solo Performer: Egypt Blaque Knyle

    And then it was definitely time to party!

    * Jacqueline was appearing as a special guest, rather than a competitor, but a Legend gets to give her personal award to whoever the hell she wants.
    ** Red Velvet joins the small club of those who have won two Howard Awards.

    Published in: on 1 March 2016 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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