Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s a very sad day in the burlesque world. Last night, we lost one of our Legends, Satan’s Angel, The Devil’s Own Mistress, Queen of the Fire Tassels. She was a force of nature and an inspiration to many performers.

I was fortunate enough to meet her a couple of times, most notably at The Great Burlesque Expo in 2008, where she impressed everyone by twirling her fire tassels. “Tatas Flambé”, she called them. Now, she’d been told the venue didn’t allow fire, but that was Angel — she did exactly what she wanted, damn the consequences. Her energy on stage belied her age and years of hard living. I still have not seen anyone work a duster like she did.

Despite her intimidating stage presence, she was quite approachable. She spoke her mind, bluntly and completely unfiltered, and if you were smart, you listened.

Today I want to share some wise words from Mr. Scratch, from when we first learned that Angel was ill:

If you are in the world of burlesque, figure out the legend who is closest to you (I don’t mean geographically; the one who speaks to you as a performer) and reach out to them. Listen to them; learn from them.

We did not invent Burlesque. We inherited it. We cannot keep its flame alive if we do not know what that flame is.

Our Legends are a precious link to our history, and a dwindling resource. Cherish them.

Yours in sorrow,
M2

Published in: on 12 April 2019 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! This week’s tip comes from the wisdom of burlesque Legend Toni Elling, The Duke’s Delight. I first met Miss Elling at Miss Exotic World in 2006, but received this pearl from her at the very first BurlyCon.

Keep your head up.

Toni said never to drop your head on stage. You’re not ashamed of what you do, so never look like it. She also said not to take a bow, but to receive the audience’s appreciation upright. I’ve taken this advice to heart ever since.

Keeping your head up is about more than just pride in your chosen art. It also keeps your connection to and interest in the audience. Dropping your head breaks that connection. If you want to direct the audience’s attention to something low on the stage, like your leg, lower your eyes, but not your whole head. Similarly if you need to pick something up, bend from the hips or sink down into a squat while looking out, rather than just bending over from the waist.

As always there are exceptions: since lowering your head signals defeat or shame, these are emotions you may want to project for a specific character or moment.

Chin up!

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

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Published in: on 5 October 2018 at 3:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In Memoriam: Blaze Starr

Dear Constant Reader,

The world has lost a burlesque legend. Blaze Starr, famed for her flaming couch, black panther, affair with the governor of Louisiana, and unrepentant attitude, died last week. You can read her obituary in the New York Times, if you like.

I’m not going to recap her fascinating life story here, for that you should read Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry, which I reviewed here some years ago.

At that time The Boston Babydolls were creating Madame Burlesque: An Evening of Tributes, a show inspired by the stars of burlesque’s Golden Age. For the most part, we weren’t doing tributes as most burlesquers use the term, meaning a re-creation of a legend’s signature act, but new acts that were inspired by those legendary performers.

Betty Blaize was creating a Blaze Starr-inspired act for one of her numbers and Scratch wanted permission before bringing it to the stage. Miss Starr generously granted it, via email, requesting that the act be “in good taste”. Betty performed a slinky, sultry striptease climaxing with the famed flames.

I was told that when Blaze’s couch burst into flames, sometimes she would holler “barbecue tonight, boys!”. Every time Betty’s flames ignited, she really, really wanted to follow suit, but it would have wrecked the mood she was creating and therfore violated the good taste request.

We’re really honored that we were allowed to present a piece in Miss Starr’s name and with her blessing.

Recently Scratch acquired this fabulous piece of Blaze Starr memorabilia:

It means a lot to us because of the Boston connection. The Pilgrim Theater was in the Combat Zone, where burlesque fled after the redevelopment of Scollay Square, and was probably the last true burlesque house in Boston. A number of big names performed there in the mid 1970’s and I suspect this handbill was from 1974.

Bold, brash, larger than life, and a good businesswoman, Blaze Starr made a huge impact on the world of burlesque (and politics!). She will not be forgotten.

M2

Published in: on 22 June 2015 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip: In Memoriam

Dear Constant Reader,

This is a special Friday Tip, laden with sorrow.

Always remember those who came before.

Saturday night at the Ohio Burlesque Festival, shortly before the headliners started, Scratch came over to me and said simply, “Dixie died.”

Dixie Evans, The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque, was the godmother of modern burlesque. She took dreams of a burlesque museum and made them reality. She created the Miss Exotic World pageant. In some way or another every current burlesque performer can trace their heritage back to Dixie and her work to keep burlesque alive. At the end of this month, performers around the world planned classes and shows to celebrate her 87th birthday and raise money for her care.

While I stood there, stunned and sad, Bella Sin began talking to Scratch. I knew what she was asking. It was a heavy request, but we all knew he was the right person.

When the show was over, and the stage was filled with energized performers having just taken their final curtain call, Scratch took the stage to announce our loss.

He spoke eloquently about Dixie’s life and legacy. About her importance to the burlesque world and her connection to all of us. And then he began to choke up: “I think you know where I’m going with this. (Fuck!) Dixie died this afternoon.” It was that muffled profanity that made me begin to weep again — seeing our silver-tongued Scratch, usually never at a loss for words, being almost unable to speak.

It breaks my heart that I can’t share his moving, extemporaneous speech with you. I was too overcome with emotion to even think of taking a crummy cellphone video. And the videographer had stopped filming. You just had to have been there.

He ended by asking everyone to light a candle, raise a glass, whatever was meaningful to you, to celebrate the life of this great Legend. And she was sent off with thunderous applause.

Every time we lose a Legend the connection to our past and our history becomes ever more tenuous. Always remember them and what they did to make what we do possible. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

April March, The First Lady of Burlesque; Dixie Evans, The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque; Lily Ann Rose, Banned in Boston

Sorrowfully,
M2

Published in: on 9 August 2013 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)  
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