Ohio Burlesque Festival: Sunday, August 4

Dear Constant Reader,

Not too much to report on the drive back from Cleveland to Boston. About 11 hours from the hotel to Stella’s place.

However, one of the things I love about these road trips is seeing places I otherwise never would have. When we left Howe Caverns on Thursday (which feels like a lifetime ago) Dr. Nightmare (that would be the GPS) took us along a secondary, scenic route, instead of taking us back to the highway the way we’d come. We saw some beautiful scenery and lovely old houses which we would have otherwise missed.

Similarly, on Sunday’s drive, Scratch had the brilliant idea of stopping in Buffalo for lunch. We drove through the city, which I have frequently passed, but never seen. It’s a fascinating mix of gleaming new glass & steel buildings and abandoned industrial sites. We decided it looked like Gotham City.

Having lunch there was a great idea. We had. . .

Buffalo wings!

We went to Frank and Teressa’s Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the Buffalo wing. And the wings were terrific: fried crispy, but still juicy, nicely coated in sauce, but not soggy with it. We got the “medium” sauce, which had enough heat that you knew you were eating Buffalo wings, without being painful.

And here we are with the menu for proof!

That’s all the excitement for now, Constant Reader. The Boston Babydolls have 2 more stops with The Fine Art of Burlesque, Portsmouth, NH this Friday and Denmark, ME this Saturday. I’m not in this version of the show, so I’ve asked the other ladies to report back.

You can catch me next in Boston Loves Dixie, a celebration of the life of Burlesque Legend Dixie Evans on August 31st. And don’t forget that tomorrow is Teaseday! Come to The Teaseday Club and see Evie Sphinx’s last performance before she moves out of state!


Published in: on 12 August 2013 at 2:07 pm  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


Published in: on 9 August 2013 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Ohio Burlesque Festival: Saturday, August 3

Dear Constant Reader,

(If you’re just joining me, read about Thursday here and Friday here.)

Saturday came way too soon for the weary Boston Babydolls because The Buckeye Burlesque Academy was in session and we were the professors. Scratch started things off with “Who’s Who in Classic Burlesque”, a talk about our glorious predecessors, and “This IS My Day Job”, on making burlesque your career.

Then it was my turn with “Classic Boa Technique”. I was surprised and delighted to see a familiar face — Ava, who played Blanche in The Wrathskellar last year. Her family lives about an hour away and she was home for the summer. The class was fun and we left feathers ALL over the stage.

I was really disappointed in the low number of students. I know at least one who couldn’t get to the venue because there really wasn’t any good transportation from the hotel. But it seemed like there wasn’t much interest in classes. I guess I’m more used to events like The Expo and BurlyCon where people attend because they want to improve their skills and take advantage of having teachers from outside their area.

Stella taught “Vocal Skills for Burlesquers” and then Devora & Betty arrived to teach “Warm-up…or DIE!” and “Choreography for One”, respectively. Scratch, Stella, and I slipped out for some lunch & sightseeing.

The one thing we really wanted to see was The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

It was simply awesome. We were there for about 2 hours and only barely managed to see the ground floor. So many wonderful things, so much history! I think we were all struck most by the personal items, like hand-written lyrics or sketches. I mean Elvis’s gem-encrusted jumpsuit was amazing, but seeing Bruce Springsteen’s thought process as he jotted down ideas for an album title was mind-blowing.

As a trained museum person (really, I have the piece of paper from Harvard and everything), I was so impressed. The items were arranged so well in the cases. The labels were clear and the text was easy to read and informative. Occasionally I questioned their logic (why was Joy Division/New Order in the middle of an unrelated room?), but mostly it was a delight. I really liked the “Cities & Sounds” exhibit, highlighting the regional origins of musical styles.

We were running out of time, but we couldn’t leave without visiting The Wall.

Racing back to our hotel, we got ready for the night’s show. The theme this time was black and red.

Then we picked up the lovely Donna Denise and went to a soul food restaurant for dinner. It’s too bad we had a late lunch because that smothered pork chop was good, but I could only manage a taste.

Off to the Beachland Ballroom for a *long*, *long* show. Remember how I said yesterday that Scratch kept things moving along? That was not the case with the Saturday MC’s. They were really chatty. There were about the same number of performers, but the show was a least a hour longer. And we stood the entire time. In fact, many of The Babydolls were ready to call it quits if intermission ever happened.

Fortunately the last act before intermission was Red Rum’s spectacular mummy number, which energized us enough to stay through the rest of the show. I also want to mention Hazel Honeysuckle’s fabulous Cookie Monster and Chakra Tease’s impressive chair work as stand-outs. And of course, Coco Lectric was worth the wait.

There was one more thing that happened before we finally tumbled into bed, but that deserves a post of its own.


Published in: on 8 August 2013 at 11:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ohio Burlesque Festival: Friday, August 2

Dear Constant Reader,

(If you’re just joining us, the first part is here.)

This is going to be a long missive, as it was one long day… The drive from Rochester to Cleveland was easy, although there was a *spectacular* thunderstorm as we passed through Buffalo. We got to the hotel with enough time to rest up before we had to be at the Beachland Ballroom. We were at the venue promptly and had time to run our number twice on stage, figuring out the proper blocking. I’ll get back to this later.

Since we were in the headliner block at the end of the show, we could relax and enjoy the whole first half of the show. Scratch was one of the MCs and really kept things moving along, as is necessary with a festival show. There were about 25 acts, plus handing out half a dozen Golden Buckeye Awards in each half of the show.

Highlights for me:
*Getting 3 more performers to sign my copy of It’s All The Glitters (only 93 to go!)
*Buying a lovely fascinator from Holly Hock
*Bourbon Rose’s dramatic robe (I think we all coveted it)
*Vikki Fahrenheit’s sultry singing (and stripping)
*Red Velvet’s transitions from sweet to manic and back again
*Dangrrr Doll’s Sonic the Hedgehog act.

Before we knew it, it was intermission and time to get ready.

You know how when you’re close to something, you cease to see it. After working on this act for the past several months, I didn’t really think there was anything special about the costumes at all and I though our big hats were sort of dorky. Then the compliments started rolling in from the other performers and I really saw us in our matching/coordinated dresses. Yeah, they did turn out well. And we looked like a troupe. Two different people used “Dior” to describe us.

And here we are:

(Photo by Eric Paul Owens)

When we were done, we hopped back into our dresses and ran out into the audience to see Bazuka Joe in his Speed Racer act. It was almost as much fun to see the reactions of the Babydolls who hadn’t see him before. Drool City. And then we enjoyed the elegance (and powerful pectorals) of Donna Denise.

All did not go soothly, however, I’m sorry to report. One of the big problems was the lighting. Remember I mentioned we’d rehearsed on the stage to get the proper positioning? With 4 of us, it’s pretty important. As Bella was giving the performers some information for the evening, someone was on stage marking a rectangle with pink duct tape. This was the area the lights would cover. It was a *lot* smaller than the space we’d just taken up. If you left that rectangle, you’d fall into shadow.

The stage only had a few lights and they were all downlights, nothing from the front or the sides. And no follow spot. Downlights were a huge problem for us (and Donna Denise) because we were wearing wide-brimmed hats, so our faces were completely shadowed. It also meant that the hundreds of rhinestones we put on our dresses didn’t pop in the least. Scratch and the sound guy (whose name I’ve forgotten) did they best they could to focus the lights for maximum coverage, but the results were really sub-optimal.

The other problem was the other MC, Gilgamesh Taggert. At first he seemed a fine co-host with Scratch — loud, clear, a bit bombastic. And then the rape jokes started. I’m not sure why he thought that would go over well at a festival with a strong focus on advocacy for women and the GBLT community. Scratch told me that performers were asking if he would please introduce them instead of “the other guy”. The reaction was bad enough that after the festival Bella Sin (the producer) completely cut Gilgamesh loose.

After the show, we ran back to the hotel to change for the after-party. When the Babydolls go out together, we like to coordinate. Friday night’s theme was black & white and I have to say we looked awesome.

The after-party was not really our scene, but we stayed a while, chatted with some of the other performers, got chatted up by some of the other patrons. Then hunger won out.

I had thought maybe we’d get some pizza delivered to the room, but Scratch got a recommendation for a 24-hour deli from a local. My great regret was that we’d all squeezed into one car and so didn’t have room to bring Coco Lectric who was both hungry and rideless.

We got to My Friends around 1:30am and our wonderfully friendly waitress apologized for the limited late-night menu. Limited? I couldn’t make up my mind! After we had ordered, I noticed Bella Sin’s flaming red hair in the other room. Despite the chaos I’m sure it caused, we moved to the table next to her, Bazuka Joe, Donna Denise, and Eric Paul Owens.

That was a lot of fun, but it was very late (or early) by the time we got back to the hotel. And we had to teach the next day!

Tomorrow, The Buckeye Burlesque Academy, sightseeing, and night 2 of the Ohio Burlesque Festival.


Published in: on 7 August 2013 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ohio Burlesque Festival: Thursday, August 1

Dear Constant Reader,

This past weekend, The Boston Babydolls road-tripped all the way to Cleveland to headline at the 3rd Annual Ohio Burlesque Festival. We left Boston early in the morning with Scratch, Stella and I in the Babydoll-mobile and Betty and Devora in the Betty-mobile.

After several uneventful hours on the road, we stopped at Howe Caverns* in New York. Our sassy guide Ella took us through the beautiful caves. The rock formations are staggering in their size and intricacy and age. It takes a hundred years for an inch to form**. The photo to the left shows The Chinese Pagoda, a massive stalagmite which had broken off thousands of years ago and was moved to a more picturesque location more recently.

We saw stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and the rare stalag-mouse (supposedly the calcified corpse of a pet mouse). After walking through the caves for a while, following the icy River Styx, we arrived at the Lake of Venus and got into boats. Our boat pilot was a gal whose name I never got, but gave us some fun insider dope about being a cave guide. She and her identical twin sister would sometimes switch groups if they didn’t think anyone was paying enough attention. The picture shows Stella and D.D. gawking at the rock formations. And yes, we were all bundled up in sweatshirts. It’s 52 degrees in the cave.

The last part of the cave was the best — The Winding Ways: narrow twisty passages (well lit) with some really beautiful formations overhead. I couldn’t imagine what it was like exploring with only an oil lamp. It goes on for a long while, but I still was sorry when we emerged and had to head back up to daylight.

After a quick purchase of some cave-aged cheddar for Sunday Social, we dragged Stella away from the H2OGO Balls and got back in the car.

Onward we drove to our stop for the night, around Rochester, NY. We chose Good Smoke BBQ for dinner. I think Betty gets credit for this one. Sadly, they were completely out of ribs when we arrived. Every bit of spare space in the little restaurant was displaying a trophy, plaque, or other award for best barbecue. And it was damn good. We got some dessert to go and then for some reason we sent the indecisive twins (Betty & D.D.) off to get some wine. Betty claims it only took as long as it did because the white was chilled for us, using a funky auto-chilling machine.

Once at the hotel, we put on the Food Network, opened the wine, dug into the desserts, and started rhinestoning. Like you do. Our dresses were already lavishly decorated with rhinestones, due to the party we’d had a week before, but the bras and undies were somewhat lacking. With four of us working at once, we got done in record time. The desserts, by the way, were caramel pecan bars and “gooey bars” — vanilla bars topped with caramelized bananas and bacon. Stella & I hate bananas and we were sorry. Everyone else said the bars were amazing, practically swoon-worthy. From their reactions, the bars might have almost been better than sex.

And that was our adventures on Thursday. Tomorrow, on to Cleveland and our performance!


* I like caves, although actual spelunking is not my thing. I’m content to be a tourist. This was my fourth cave, the others being Indian Echo Caverns (PA), Penn’s Cave (PA), and Actun Chen (QR, Mexico).

** I was annoyed to see, right after Ella warned us not to touch the calcite (skin oils disrupt the rock growth), that one of the other tourists slapped her palm right on the wall. We had just been shown what kind of damage that can do!

Published in: on 6 August 2013 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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