Los Angeles: Burlesque Bingo 1/20/19

Dear Constant Reader,

I know this is the missive you’ve been waiting for — all about the House of Knyle graduation show at Burlesque Bingo!

I was extremely grateful for this opportunity, not only to share a stage with all the women I’d gotten to know through Egypt’s program, but I can’t imagine otherwise performing in one of Audrey DeLuxe’s shows.

The venue was Harvell’s in Long Beach. Lili VonSchtupp had given me some advance info like that the dressing room was good but narrow and that the stage was carpeted and a couple steps up, which allayed a little of my nervousness. The space has a great speakeasy vibe and I can see why there’s a lot of burlesque there.

I was the first to arrive. Scratch volunteered to do whatever was needed and that turned out to be running the follow spot. All the other ladies were staying with and therefore traveling with Egypt. I kind of regretted missing out of the bonding time (and more, as it turned out), but I’m not sorry I chose to spend time with Kitten Natividad. Our Legends are so important. When everyone else arrived they briefed me on the plan for the curtain call and after, whihc they had worked on the night before at Egypt’s. That did have me a little nervous because improvisation dance is not my strength.

Burlesque Bingo works thusly: On the floor perpendicular to the stage is a bingo board, like a very low runway. At the back of the stage is a number board (see photo).
When the performer discards a costume piece, she tosses it onto the board on the floor. One of the Lucky Charms (Audrey’s adorable assistants; also see photo) turns on the light for the corresponding number on the big board and everyone marks their bingo cards accordingly. After the act is over, if no one has bingo, the Lucky Charms begin to disrobe and toss out their garments until bingo is achieved. The bingo winner then comes onto stage to claim their goodie bag of prizes. If more than one person has bingo, everyone gets a chance to roll a giant pink fuzzy die to see who claims the prize. It’s a lot of fun. It was also clear some audience members are all abut the bingo, while others are just there for the burlesque.

I wish I could do a blow by blow of the other acts, but I was more than nervous and rather in my own head most of the night, so I don’t recall a lot of the show. The line up, however, was:
Bebe Bardot
Lilac SaintClair
Dulce D’Jour
CoCo Rose
Crocodile Lightning
Nadia Lotte
Briq House
Mayo Lua de Frenchie
Mina Murray
Twirlisha Devine
Egypt Blaque Knyle

After we each did our acts, Egypt joined us on stage and presented each student with a certificate of completion.

After Egypt’s performance, we each came out in reverse order, still in our pasties, and improvised on stage for a few measures. Eventually we moved into our assigned places, arrayed around the runway, while Egypt performed again. By the end we were all over her. We wouldn’t let her leave the stage until we had presented her with our gift, a large engraved diamond.

I was very touched when Bebe Bardot, who had to race off to the airport immediately after the show, took a few moments to say some kind things about my books. I feel a kinship with this lovely lady — she’s also a scholar of burlesque history, a writer, and a classic sort of gal — so it meant a lot.

All right, I won’t make you wait any longer. Here’s my act:

What did I think? It’s still a little rough. I’m not happy with my facial expressions and I can see all the tension in my shoulders. Those shoes were giving me such trouble, especially with the turns and lunges, and you can see where I so gracefully stumble off the edge of the bingo stage near the end. However, I’m really happy with parts of it and I can see there’s some power there. I’ve since performed it three other times and it just keeps getting better as I’m more comfortable with it and I’m not stressing about trying to impress a mentor (and I got new shoes)

This act, probably more than any other one, had a lot of feedback from a lot of people. Egypt suggested the lunges after the turns (as well as other things). It was Ava’s idea that I start with the back panel draped in front. Originally I dropped to my knees for the floorwork, but Betty said “Can you drop into a plank? You do planks all the time.” Scratch came up with the belt remove. He also edited my music so there was a strong ending instead of a fade-out.

I’m so grateful to Egypt for giving me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, to perform in this great show, and to work with these amazing women.

Performance photo by Jason Kamimura Photography
Video by Cliesha

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 April 2019 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Los Angeles: Tuesday 1/22/19

Dear Constant Reader,

Our last day! You can read about the previous three here, here, and here.

Again Scratch cooked breakfast for the three of us — a delicious vegetable sauté with a lot of spinach — and again, we ate outdoors in the sunshine. I could really get used to that.

Scratch and I set out for one of our favorite places in Los Angeles, the garment district, and met up with the lovely and talented Sheila Starr Siani. I am so happy the we managed to see so many friends on this short trip. I am also pleased at our restraint. We each had proprieties — I needed gloves for B.A.B.E., Sheila wanted rhinestones, and Scratch was hunting for a name necklace for Ava, our newest troupe member — and we all found what we wanted and didn’t even buy too much else. Although I was sorely tempted. I am so jealous of the local performers and the resources for costumes they have available.

After a bite with Sheila, we returned to Kitten’s house to pack for the trip home. I was sorry to be leaving the warmth of the weather and our friends, but I was also missing Mr. Albert pretty badly. Kitten’s kittens are adorable, but more interested in racing around and chasing one another than snuggling and purring.

As a farewell and thank you, we took Kitten out to The Musso and Frank Grill, an old Hollywood classic. We love the timeless, dingy charm and it turned out to be one of Kitten’s favorites too. She used to go there all the time with Russ Meyer. The food is old-school, since the menu hasn’t changed in decades: steaks, lobster thermidor, chicken a la king, &c. I’m told the martinis are excellent and I can personally vouch for the sand dabs (it’s a Pacific flat fish, like sole). But you’re really going there for the history and the feeling of being in another era. I was excited to realize we were there during the centennial year.

After a Caesar salad, I had the fettuccine Alfredo. The story is that Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks had the original dish in Rome and cajoled, begged, and bribed Alfredo into sharing the recipe, which they brought to Musso and Frank. It really was sublime. I usually never order it because most place serve it with a gloppy cream sauce. I’m very picky about my pastas! (just ask me about how carbonara should be made). This was silky, cheesy, and rich without being cloying. I barely made a dent in the huge plate, so Kitten took the rest home. I’m glad all that deliciousness didn’t go to waste.

Then it was time to say our goodbyes and head to LAX for the red-eye back to Boston. Our flight was on-time, but we heard the morning flight, which I had considered taking, had been delayed for six hours. I’m glad Scratch convinced me to take the evening flight — more time in L.A. and no waiting to go home.

I always book an aisle and a window seat for us, hoping that no one wanted the middle seat. If someone did, I end up taking the hit and offering them the window. As the plane filled up, we kept an anxious eye on the empty seat between us. Could it be… a travel miracle? The only vacant seat on the plane was between us! I happily lay down and went to sleep until we arrived in Boston.

And that, dear Reader, is the end of my trip to Los Angeles, but not the end of my story. I still need to tell you all about Burlesque Bingo, the whole reason I was there!

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 28 March 2019 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Los Angeles: Monday 1/21/19

Dear Constant Reader,

Here’s my third day in L.A.. You can read about Saturday and Sunday as well. You didn’t miss the part about the show — that comes last.

As would become our pattern for the trip, Scratch took over Kitten’s kitchen to make breakfast. Since I had Cuban food leftover from the day before, he made eggs for himself and Kitten. In case you haven’t been reading for very long, I hate eggs. In general I don’t like a lot of traditional breakfast foods. Diners that advertise breakfast all day are not a draw for me. I’d much rather have dinner food for breakfast than breakfast food for dinner. I know, I’m weird.

Then we set out to the Los Angeles Zoo to meet up with one of Scratch’s long-time friends. I didn’t even know Los Angeles had a zoo! I mean, I knew about San Diego — everyone has heard of that zoo. I’m so glad we went. It was a terrific zoo and so big! Sometimes I’m surprise at how much wilderness there is in a city like L.A.

Our native guide took us through the best parts of the zoo. We saw animals I didn’t even know existed. I was rather taken with this antediluvian-looking critter, a tomistoma (it’s between the rope and the wire, blending in with its surroundings)
There were lots more wonderful animals, including our household favorite, gorillas. I regret I didn’t ride the carousel, but I was pretty tired at the time. There had been a LOT of walking.

Despite the slight chill, it was a lovely sunny day. Which reminds me, the weather was terrible in Boston while we were gone. There was a snowstorm predicted for Saturday night, which was supposed to be bad. Betty Blaize bunked down at The Manor to make sure the weather wouldn’t prevent her from giving Albert his medicine in the morning. She’s a big damn hero.

Later in the evening we met up with my dear friend Professor A. You know those people with whom you just fall right into conversation, even though it’s been ages since you saw each other? She’s one of those. We were having such a good time catching up over a late dinner, that we didn’t want to stop, even though the restaurant was closing up around us. We retired to her charming apartment for tea and sweets she had hand-carried back from her vacation in Lebanon. Eventually it got very late and we reluctantly took our leave. I hope we’re in the same city again soon! I got lucky last year and not only got to visit her after Stripper’s Holiday, but we were also both in New Orleans the previous month.

Kitten had worried that the guest room was going to be cold and mentioned that she wanted to get a space heater. As long as Scratch and I were out, we picked one up for her. It was the least we could do for our generous and lovely hostess. And it made the room very cozy.

One more day!

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 28 March 2019 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Los Angeles: Sunday 1/20/19

Dear Constant Reader,

Here is my second day in Los Angeles. You can read about the first one here.

As I mentioned previously, we were staying with Kitten Natividad and her guest room is a treasure trove. The walls are covered with posters and photographs from her career. She has tons of her movies — on VHS, DVD, and even film. Scratch thought she was just teasing us, since there was no way to watch them. There’s even a doll wearing a replica of one of her signature burlesque costumes. And other wondrous memorabilia, like this memento of Liz Renay. I saw her only once, but she sure left an impression.

I started my day by running my number. I reminded myself that the ceiling in the guest room was low, especially with the heels I was wearing. The music started, I forgot everything else, and WHAM! slammed my hand right into the ceiling. Chipped a couple of nails. I’m such a graceful showgirl.

After figurative licking my paws as though I meant to do that, I joined Scratch and Kitten for breakfast. Scratch took over the kitchen (as he would every morning) and made simple bowls of fresh berries and cream, which we enjoyed in the sunshine of the courtyard, watching Kitten’s kittens play. As Albert was a dignified adult cat when we found him, I forgot kittens don’t really bother with gravity. Here they are trying to scale the pergola. One would get part of the way up and the other would jump up and knock him down. Endless entertainment!

I suggested a stroll through Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which was nearby. But first we went to Larchmont Village to wander their farmer’s market. One of the things I love most about Los Angeles is the amazing produce. I just want to take it all home, but settled for sampling some oranges. Fabulous!

We drove over to Hollywood Forever, but didn’t pick up a map and thus had no idea where we were going. We decided to park over by the lake and that turned out to be the right choice. Right away I saw the very monument I’d been hoping to find! Scratch and I paid our respects to Johnny Ramone. Growing up in NYC, Scratch was fortunate to see the Ramones perform many times. As I had a more sheltered upbringing, this was as close as I ever got to the punk icons.

Wandering about the lake we found graves of many notable industry people — movie stars, directors, and starlets — but one touched me more than the others. This simple marker is a memorial to one of the greatest costume designers of Golden Age Hollywood and a personal inspiration.

On the way out we saw some of the feral cats that have made the cemetery their home. I was taken with this charmer, sunning itself on a headstone. There were a fair number of animals on the grounds — turtles and ducks on the lake, few peacocks wandering around.

Then we went back to the house so I could head over to the Fit & Bendy Studio. I was so excited when Scratch mentioned that Michelle L’amour was teaching a workshop while we were going to be in L.A. It’s called Sex Drive, and that sounded like just the thing I needed right before the big show, so I signed up right away. I quickly checked my email just before I ran out the door (so nice to be mostly unconnected all day) and saw the class was canceled. Michelle was injured and could barely walk. Obviously I was terribly disappointed, but also concerned for her. Injuries are no joke when you make your living being physical.

So instead of working on my sex drive, I joined Scratch and Kitten for a late lunch at a local Cuban restaurant.

I think I may have taken a nap, but soon it was time to head for Long Beach and Burlesque Bingo! I know you all want to heard about the show, but I’m going to make you wait. I’m going to devote an entire missive to the show, but it’s going to come last. Consider it a tease.

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 20 March 2019 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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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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.

Published in: on 30 January 2019 at 3:07 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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Los Angeles: Monday, 11/24/14

Dear Constant Reader,

What to do with our last, beautiful, sunny day in L.A.? We decided to be total tourists and head for the Santa Monica Pier. I’ll admit it — I didn’t know that it was the end of Route 66. It took a while for us to get the snapshot because a bunch of models were having a shoot in front of the sign. Just another day in Southern California.

Despite my horrible fear of heights, I insisted on riding the Ferris wheel (that would be the solar-powered Pacific Wheel). The ocean view was amazing — when I could look around.

Then we went hunting for the carousel. I love vintage carousels. One of my favorite moments was riding the Flying Horses Carousel on Martha’s Vineyard for the first time and getting the brass ring. Pure magic. At this one I was torn on choosing a mount. Most of the horses were original and normally, I’d make sure to get one of the originals. However, the two replacements, which were not horses, were made by Big Daddy Roth. Guess which one I picked?

Later we went to Venice Beach and took a stroll. Had we planned things better, we might have seen the Freak Show, instead of just visiting the building (they’re currently only open on weekends).

In the evening we headed out to Monday Night Tease: Erotic Titty. Monday Night Tease was basically the whole reason we came to L.A.. Of course, we were hoping to perform, but with a Prince-themed show, there was just no way to shoehorn any of our acts in. Next time.

We were on our way to dinner, just one minute late for our reservation and about to turn onto Vine when On Vine (that’s the restaurant — see how close we were) called to say they had a sewer pipe rupture and were closing down. Glad it happened before we got there! They helpfully directed these out-of-towners to one of their near-by sister restaurants and we had a pleasant meal.

The 3 Clubs (home of MNT) has a fabulous lounge, very Old Hollywood, where we ran into Vikki Fahrenheit, who I thought lived in Las Vegas, but is now a CA resident. We didn’t have to hang out in the lounge for long because Lili set us up at our table while the last bit of sound check was going on. The performance room is pretty small, less than 100 people, and it was *packed*. I was not surprised, given the quality of the show.

I’ve got to say that the house cocktail, the Erotic Titty, was delicious, but I knew I’d fall asleep if I had one, so I opted for my usual Captain & Coke, but it was made with a spiced rum called Coffee & Cigarettes, with a fascinating coffee finish.

The show had a loose connecting story, delivered by Morris Day (Mad Dog Delaney) and Baby (Heather Henderson) with the occasional assistance of Jerome (Mr. Snapper). Side note, I learned after the show that Heather is the vocalist for Penn Jillette’s NoGodBand (her “Ardent Atheist” tattoo had been noted).

Let’s see if I can remember all the acts in any sort of order:

  • Glama Sutra, living Sheila E.’s “Glamourous Life”
  • Egypt Blaque Knyle as Prince’s cat (her moves were *incredible*)
  • Glama Sutra and Jessabelle Thunder dancing it off as Apollonia and Vanity, backed up by Red Snapper, Nikita Bitch Project, Sheila Starr Siani, and someone I forget. Of course, it devolved into a catfight…
  • Caramel Knowledge as “The Purple One”.
  • Jessabelle Thunder, sexy as all get out
  • Sheila Starr Siani with her award-winning harem girl act. I saw it at The Expo last year, but this time I was at the right angle to see all her sensual floorwork. Oh yum.
  • Lux LaCroix, of course, brought the house down as Prince himself. I’ve seen her do the act on video, but that was nothing compared to the real thing. And so close she could sweat on us.

The energy in the room was amazing. Everyone was just having the best time, audience and performers, as well they should. I’m so glad we got the chance to see this show.

And afterward Lili invited us to join some of the cast at The House of Pies for their usual post-show breakfast. Scratch & I looked at one another and knew there would be no sleep for us. There was cherry pie and a chance to really talk with Lili until the chairs went up on the tables around us.

It was a fantastic trip. We’ll be back and sooner rather than later.

We did manage to get two hours or so of sleep before heading to the airport to return to cold, damp Boston and one really annoyed cat.

M2

Published in: on 4 December 2014 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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