Museum of Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m so excited to tell you that I am once again involved in a burlesque museum exhibit! As part of The Expo (and beyond), Scratch, Devastasia, and I (and surely some players to be named later, as this is a big job) are setting up a modest museum of burlesque history in Salem.

We’re mostly drawing on our large collection of posters, programs, photos, costumes, and other interesting stuff, but hope to have some loans (if you have something you think is important, drop me a line!).

Yesterday, Scratch and Devastasia went through a small portion of the collection, carefully inventorying each item, a task, which I admit is years overdue. It’s going to be so hard to decide what to include in the museum! I can pretty much guarantee that this beauty will be there:

Plus some of Lynne O’Neill’s costumes, including an actual hand-made garter!

Follow @burl.expo on Instagram to get a preview of some of the amazing items that will be on display, like this one

We hope to have a catalog, maybe on-line, for those of you who can’t make it to Salem in April and May, but that’s going to take time and work. More updates to come as we choose the items for display, design the exhibits, and start setting up the museum!

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

Published in: on 11 March 2020 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! It’s Expo time! Of course, yesterday when everything was coming to the hotel for loading and many of the participants were traveling, New England got socked with a monster snowstorm — more than a foot of snow, high winds, tidal flooding, and of course the inevitable canceled flights. And The Expo had been moved* from February to early January to try to get ahead of the snow. (We haven’t had any major storms at this time for a couple of years, even the Snowpocalypse of 2015 didn’t start until the very end of January.)

That brings me to this week’s tip:

Mann Tracht und Gott Lacht (Man plans and God laughs)

I’m a big fan of advanced planning. Make checklists and contingency plans. Research and prepare. And then, sometimes you just have to throw up your hands and realize that circumstances have gone beyond your control. That doesn’t mean give up, just adjust your plans as much as possible. Be willing to be flexible and creative. And maybe laugh a little.

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.

*If you’re wondering why The Expo is in the winter, it all has to do with hotel prices. Trust me, we’d all love to do this in the spring again, but the hotel charges way too much for rooms then.

Published in: on 5 January 2018 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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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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Big Props: The Bench

Dear Constant Reader,

Burlesque Legends refer to something you could sit or lie on as a prop. This was inspired by a prop used by a Legend in the 1960s, who always referred to it as “The Prop”. We generally refer to this piece as “the bench”.

The main part is a nice solid wooden coffee table with legs that attach with bolts. Scratch cut the back of the table flat so we could attach a back piece to it. We glued some foam to the top of the table so it would be a little more comfortable to lie on and I sewed a drape for it. The drape is made of satin with a drawstring just under the table top to secure it. It has a skirt that hangs down to cover the legs, but leaves the back of the table open, so we could attached the back piece.

The back piece was cut out of plywood. The original was tiled, but I couldn’t find any vinyl tiles I liked and I wasn’t going to use glass or ceramic tiles because of the weight. I tried spray painting it gold, but it still looked plywoody. Scratch suggest I make a cloth cover, kind of like a cozy. At this point we diverged greatly from the original, but needed to do something in a fairly short time.

I made the cover from a cream colored fabric, covered in dimensional roses. Then I created a clever (if I do say so myself) system of Velcro to attach a cluster of ostrich feathers to the top of the back piece. The back piece is held onto the back of the bench with spring clips.

Eventually Scratch cut the back piece in half (the long way) and attached a piano hinge, so it’s much easy to store and carry. The bench, with legs removed, fits in a big cloth bag, which is basically an envelope I sewed from an old blanket. All the soft goods (bench drape, back cover, and feathers) live in a plastic box with some spring clips. Everything together easily fits in the trunk of a standard car.

I made two other drapes for the bench and we use it a lot on stage, though rarely with the back piece on it these days. It’s great for being visible while you do floorwork moves. Scratch also drilled a couple of holes in the back of the bench so we could bolt a flame effect in place for one of Betty’s numbers.

Photo by Cassandra Mia at The Great Burlesque Expo of 2011

Pros: Looks great, really sturdy, easy to put together and take apart, very versatile

Cons: We did have to irreparably damage a really nice coffee table.


Published in: on 25 April 2017 at 11:46 am  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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    Expo 2016: The Conference

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I confess that I went to fewer classes this year that I think I ever have before. I was just so busy and tired this year. However, the ones I made it to were uniformly terrific.

    Lazy Stripper Techniques: Eye-Fucking for Beginners (Maggie McMuffin): Eye contact is one of those things that’s so important and yet I often shy away from. We did some really helpful exercises, practicing eye contact with different messages. Besides eye-fucking we also learned about the importance of walls.

    Burlesque, Broadway & Hollywood (Sailor St. Claire): This was so much fun. A look at how burlesque influenced (and still does) Broadway and Hollywood productions. Accompanied by one of Sailor’s terrific presentations with stills *and* clips from “Silk Stockings” (you must see it!). Apparently she knew this class would be Mina-bait because she included as many pictures with fans as possible.

    Burlesque vs. the Real World (panel): A discussion on how to deal with being a burlesque performer in a world that can be hostile to what we do. Honestly, this isn’t usually my interest, but panels often bring up things I never would have thought of. Mostly, I’m lucky that “outing” has never been a problem.

    Stalking the Stocking (me): Although Scandal did her best not to throw me under the bus this year (9am on Sunday, opposite Willy Barrett, &c.), I only had a single student. However, she was completely new to the world of stocking removes, so we had a terrific one-on-one lesson that I hope was valuable for her.

    Adding Drama with Isis Wings (Baroness Blitzen von Schtupp): I’ve had a pair of wings gathering dust (and wrinkles) for a couple of years now. I’m a lot more comfortable using them now after this class. I certainly got my quota of spinning and an arm work out. Number one project before I try using the wings again: replace the sticks. The cheap wooden ones had broken inside the wings which made holding them a little challenging.

    Dirty, Sexy, Smooth Chair Dancing (Red Hot Annie): A fun class and a real work out.We learned chair moves in a little choreography, which changed and evolved as we did it. The song we used was “In These Shoes”, which Betty often uses for a warm-up, so there was a little aural confusion for me at first. The hotel chairs are really terrible — the backs are too high and they’re balanced poorly — but we did our best. I decided to save the inversion tricks until I’m in the studio with my beloved Stefan. A few people went down and I didn’t want to add myself to those numbers.

    As always I’m grateful to all the teachers who share their knowledge and all the students who give the teachers someone to teach and Scandal and her staff for making it possible.


    Published in: on 17 February 2016 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Expo 2016: The Bordello

    Dear Constant Reader,

    After The Rhinestone Revue, the action moved next door to the Exhibit Hall for The Bordello, a little late-night entertainment and dessert. The show was hosted by Sailor St. Claire. Yes, she closed out the Rhinestone Review and then hopped into her gold jumpsuit and ran over next door to welcome the guests.

    There was a terrific dessert buffet (I should have grabbed another one of those brownies when I had the chance…) and three sets of burlesque acts.

    Set One

  • Elsa Riot with her award-winning act to “Everybody Loves My Baby”. This gets better everything I see it.
  • Ginge O’Lolly as Medusa. Really disturbing, especially after she got off stage because she wore the costume (including the snakes in her hair and the contacts) for the rest of the night.
  • Scarlett O’Hairdye with her “Meteor” act to “Don’t Stop Me Now” was blazingly fabulous, especially the silk veil fans.
  • Red Hot Annie lived up to her name. That act was gorgeous, so sexy, and red hot! (and very purple too).
  • Elsa Riot

    Ginge O’Lolly

    Scarlett O’Hairdye

    Red Hot Annie

    Set Two

  • I adored Raven Gemini‘s space strip, as her costume pieces came off and drifted away into space (with Shimmy LaRoux playing the part of Space). It was the tassels pointing straight up that really made it perfect.
  • Ruby Solitaire had an absolutely beautiful costume for “La Vie en Rose”, including a hand-made vegan boa.
  • It was delightful to see Vita Lightly on stage again. She first performed this act when she was with The Boston Babydolls, before being on America’s Next Top Model took her away from burlesque for a while. It was great to see how it has evolved.
  • Alice Azul was simply stunning in a sensual striptease that was new to me. It was clear she had taken her Delsarte lessons from Willy Barrett to heart!
  • Doctor Vu tricked us all when she took the stage as Loki.
  • Raven Gemini

    Ruby Solitaire

    Vita Lightly

    Alice Azul

    Doctor Vu

    Set Three

  • Corinne Southern sang “Moonage Daydream” as she stripped.
  • Sara Dipity also sang and stripped, but in a Broadway style with “Life of the Party”.
  • I always manage to miss an act and unfortunately, it was Whiskey Joy. Can someone tell me what she did?
  • Trixie Paprika was an adorably mischievous jewel thief with a terrific mask.
  • Alexa Luthor cranked up Awesome Mix Vol. 1 to strip as Groot. Yes, you heard me correctly. Groot. Strip.
  • Corinne Southern

    Sara Dipity

    Whiskey Joy

    Trixie Paprika

    Alexa Luthor

    You can see the photos from George Ross in all their full-sized glory in this Facebook album


    Published in: on 16 February 2016 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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