Review: Mix-Your-Own Mask

Dear Constant Reader,

The other day I took my own advice and used a skin care mask. I’d done three weekends of shows, hadn’t been sleeping well, and winter is settling down here in New England. All this conspired to make my skin look very tired. I’m actually terrible about taking said advice because commercial face masks need to be refrigerated and I’d always use a mask once and then forget about it in the fridge until it dried up or got moldy.

Dr. Jen from Atomic Cosmetics had sent me a sample of her Mix-Your-Own Facial Mask. There’s a tube of wet ingredients and one of dry, that you store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Keeping the two parts separate means she doesn’t have to use serious preservatives. You combine the contents of the tubes in a bowl (I found a fork helpful to mix it smooth) and slather the results on. There’s enough in the tubes for a single generous use (you don’t want to save the leftovers because of the aforementioned lack of preservatives). I used the dry/aging skin mask, which has fabulous ingredients like coconut water, evening primrose oil, French green clay, and powdered goat’s milk.

The result is a greenish goo with a funky aroma — that’s the goat’s milk. It made more than enough for me to spread all over my face, neck and decolletage. That frightening image to the right is indeed me under a freshly-applied layer of this stuff. Don’t say I don’t show you the true glamour of being a burlesque performer. Then I relaxed in my boudoir whilst watching a couple of Ask a Mortician videos, staying far away from where ordinary people could see my swampy visage.

Then I washed the dried mask off with some warm water, which was more of a challenge that I anticipated, seeing as I had the stuff ALL OVER myself. Next time I’ll step into the shower instead of trying to do it over the sink. However, it was worth it. My skin felt smooth & soft and most importantly, no longer looked tired.

Dr. Jen has four formulations of this stuff — dry/aging, oily/combination, sensitive, and custom blended for your unique skin issues. I think $7 (for a standard mix) is reasonable for a once-in-a-while skin treat.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

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Published in: on 15 November 2017 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Book Review: April Unwrapped

Dear Constant Reader,

Every once in a while I receive a request to review a book or film. I’m always happy to do so!

April Unwrapped: My Naked Dreams Revealed by April Brucker (2017)

April Bucker is an actress and comedienne, not a burlesque performer, but her book addresses being naked in public. Everyone has had that dream of being naked in a public place, whether it’s in the classroom, the boardroom, or on the subway. In April’s case, her nightmare was being naked on the stand-up stage. In reaction to that bad dream, she created April Unwrapped, in which she faces her fear by being naked in the pages of a book.

In the tradition of the pin-up calendar, April presents more than a dozen photos of herself, naked, each one themed for a month. She’s not actually naked, but coyly covered with an item or two, appropriate to the theme. The effect is more cute and a touch campy than it is provocative (although the creamy “bikini” of August was more revealing than most of the other months).

Each photo is accompanied by a short message, relating her dream to the reader. In May, where she holds a vase of yellow roses in front of her crotch and a single rose across her breasts, she writes “I dreamed you planted my May flowers. Au Revoir! April”. It reminded me of the old ads — “I dreamed I argued before the Supreme Court… in my Maidenform bra!” only without the bra.

As I said above, April is not a burlesque performer, so taking off her clothes for an audience isn’t a common occurrence for her. She’s also not a pin up model and she employs none of the glamourous artifice of that profession. She’s truly unwrapped, naked and exposed before our eyes. This is art created to confront a fear and make a statement, not to seduce or entice.

As a book, it’s a little thing and I think it might have worked a little better as a calendar. I would have like to have seen more of April’s creative concepts, untethered by the constraint of the monthly theme. It’s a charming collection, nonetheless, and is both amusing and brave.

If you, Dear Reader, have a book, film, product or anything else you’d like me to review, please drop me a line.

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 2 November 2017 at 3:20 pm  Comments (2)  
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Review: Growing Up Naked

Dear Constant Reader,

Scratch got me a copy of Burlesque West: Showgirls, Sex, and Sin in Postwar Vancouver for the holidays, but that’s not the book I’m reviewing. I’ll get to it. Eventually. Early in the book, the author mentioned a book I’d never heard of, I was intrigued, and found a copy. And here it is.

Growing Up Naked: My Years in Bump and Grind by Lindalee Tracey (1997).

Lindalee Tracey began stripping, underaged, in an unspecified Canadian city in the 1970s, a transitional time for burlesque. She worked at Eden with angry, artistic Emma, Ruby who would spread, elegant Yvette who was once on a bill with Lili St. Cyr, and beautiful, bitter Sugar. She discovered the joy and power of dancing on the club stage. She also dealt with backstage jealousies, sleazy management, and a trial for lewdness. After being forced into a humiliating publicity stunt, she left Eden to tour in the U.S. There she discovered some unfortunate truths about Americans, in the industry there and in general.

She returned to Canada in time for the Olympics and found a home in Montreal at the SexOHrama. Some of her colleagues from Eden had also made the move, but their lives and fortunes had diverged from hers. After a while, she began drifting away from stripping to concentrate on her writing. Before she left the business entirely, she founded the Tits for Tots strip-a-thon, which raised both money for a local children’s hospital and the esteem of the participating strippers. Her final project before leaving stripping entirely was to be involved in a feminist documentary, which didn’t quite go as she’d hoped.

Her writing borders on poetic (not surprising, since she also wrote poetry). It’s all present tense, which gives it a sense of immediacy, but it has a misty quality of looking backwards as well. Unlike some other burlesque memoirs, she often looks inward and describes her feelings and emotional experiences, not just events and actions. Her story is interspersed with letters from some of her fans and her own poetry.

One of the aspects I found interesting was the changes in burlesque during the author’s career. When she started in burlesque, features (strippers) were still performing 20 minute sets. Early in her career the author muses on themes and songs for an act. Also, the features never mingled with the audience. It was go-go dancers who hustled drinks for tips. Periodically the go-gos would come on stage for a “paltry” three-song set. Then the go-gos were being brought on stage en masse for what became known as “the meat market”. The features were trying to compete with twenty girls at once (many of whom would “spread”) but also with porn movies being shown in the clubs. Once table dances were introduced, some strippers chose to step down in status to become a go-go for the increase in income via tips. You can see the evolution into the present day strip club.

It’s clear Lindalee loved stripping and what it had been when she started. She felt it made her more, bigger, stronger. She fought constantly against being diminished and demeaned by her employers, the audience, and others who wouldn’t see the power the performers had on stage. When she left, striptease had changed completely and she mourned the loss of what it had been.

Besides her published writings, Lindalee Tracey also made films. At some point, I’ll review her documentary The Anatomy of Burlesque.

I filmed myself reading a short passage from this book, but only my Patrons can see the video. The rest of you will have to content yourself with this photo.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 12 July 2017 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Always Something Doing

Dear Constant Reader,

Another book review from the archives! I originally wrote this review years ago on another platform. I should get back to my current books to review, but this was low-hanging fruit, so to speak.

Always Something Doing: Boston’s Infamous Scollay Square by David Kruh (1999).

Boston has a reputation (rightly so) for being full of Puritans and blue-noses. And, right in the heart of the city was a hotbed of low past-times and pursuits. Always Something Doing (the motto of the Old Howard) is a history of Scollay Square from its very beginnings to the 20th century. Although the square as a location existed before the American Revolution, it didn’t get its famous name until 1838. The Charlestown trolley line that stopped in front of the Scollay’s Building had been using that as the unofficial name of the area.

Although Scollay Square is remembered for seedy entertainment (think of it as the Times Square of Boston), it was a respectable and ritzy area until the mid-19th century when the Brahmans fled for the newly created Back Bay and the Square became more commercial and affordable for the majority of Bostonians, including the influx of Irish immigrants. Besides being a major shopping district, it was full of restaurants and entertainment, including the famed Howard Atheneum. Despite hosting the first American performance of Giselle and other highbrow performances, by the end of the Civil War the Old Howard was presenting more popular entertainment at lower ticket prices.

By the 1920’s Scollay Square was well known as a haven for burlesque. Many of the biggest names, including Ann Corio and Georgia Sothern, played the Old Howard and Sally Keith, tassel twirling queen, was a standard at the Crawford House. Boston had such a great history of burlesque and I’m proud to be a part of that now.

But there’s more than just burlesque to Scollay Square. The book is full of vintage photographs and anecdotes from those who remember the Square well. I was particularly amused by the poor sailor who woke up after a drunken night in the Square to discover a pink elephant tattooed on his butt. Boston has never had another haven for sailors since the Square was demolished.

Scollay Square fell pray to urban renewal when it and the entire West End of Boston were razed in the early 1960’s to make way for the new City Hall and other government buildings. This plan had the side effect of creating the much deplored Combat Zone.

It’s clear the author’s sympathies are with the long-gone lively, sleazy neighborhood of cheap eats, burlesque theatres, tattoo parlors, and photo studios, than with the stark, soulless Government Center that replaced it.

M2

Published in: on 26 January 2017 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Plain Jane to Pinup Queen

Dear Constant Reader,

I know it’s been forever since I reviewed a book! The Boston BeauTease just had a photoshoot and in preparation, I pulled out this book.

Plain Jane to Pinup Queen: Pinup Modeling Workshop in a Book by Bombshell Betty (2008).

This is one of Bombshell Betty’s famed pinup workshops, recast as a book. She give the readers all the basics of how to have a successful photoshoot, illustrated with unretouched photos from her own shoots.

Part one is all about posing and it’s rightly the bulk of the book. Good posing is key to a successful shoot. She covers how to pose in the most flattering way for your figure and how to use props and clothing items so they enhance your pose, rather than hiding you and taking over. She explains why certain poses work better in the medium of photography and how to think of yourself in 2-D. I found the section on facial expressions to be particularly useful, but I’m almost never happy with my expressions.

In the second part, she covers styling, but it’s just a brief overview. After some basic tips for makeup, she covers makeup styles by decade for 1920’s through 1950’s. The section on hair is similar — basic tips on curling and then iconic styles by decade. There’s a very brief section on costume styling by decade. There’s a URL for further resources, but it doesn’t seem to be currently active. If you’re looking for more in-depth help in creating vintage looks, I’d recommend Retro Makeup and Vintage Hairstyling.

The third part is about photoshoots, with sections on how to work with a photographer, what to expect from a shoot, &c. There’s important information on safety at shoots and the does & don’ts of modeling releases. I like the timeline of preparing for a shoot and (or course) the check list of what to bring.

The book wraps up with an cheat sheet of key points for posing and a URL of further resources which sadly seems to be dead. Sic transit gloria Internet…

Obviously a book isn’t going to replace a workshop where the participants are coached and can see the results of their poses on camera, but it’s still a fine resource. It’s directed at the novice model looking for guidance, but it’s also useful for the more experienced pin-up looking to improve her posing skills. It’s out of print, but I’m sure my clever readers can find a copy out there.

M2

Published in: on 12 May 2016 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: My Journey

Dear Constant Reader,

Here’s another review from the archives.

My Journey: Burlesque: The Way It Was by Doris Kotzan (2005).

This is the memoir of burlesque dancer Dolores Rozelle, also known as Bambi Brooks, Bambi Jones, and Joi Naymith. These days she’s know as Bambi Sr., to distinguish her from her daughter, Bambi Jr. Her story well documents the declining days of burlesque in the 1950’s & 60’s, as the shows moved from theatres to nightclubs and the performers went from stars to glorified B-girls. I was particularly interested because she was from Massachusetts. Unfortunately, her run at the Crawford House with Sally Keith was over before it began, since she wouldn’t mix (hustle drinks from the customers). She did work the Casino Theatre and saw Winnie Garret flash the audience.

She met a lot of luminaries of the burlesque world, like Blaze Starr, Carrie Finnell, Zorita, Hedy Jo Star, and Candy Barr, but there are mostly just snippets about each one. During the height of Joe Namath’s fame, she hit upon the gimmick of a football act, billing herself as “Joi Naymith”. At one point, she was booked with that act in Suriname, a Dutch colony in South America and it was an utter dud. Her audiences knew nothing about American football. A lesson for us all when drawing from pop culture for our inspiration…

As with all the other autobiographies of burlesque performers that I’ve read [at the time I originally wrote this], it is in desperate need of an editor (probably more than most). Ms. Kotzan does not have a great writing style. Her tone is very casual and more than a little rambling. In fact, it feels more like a transcript of an oral history than a memoir. It’s mostly a random collection of stories and thoughts with little logical order. Each chapter title is a town where she performed, and it might be sort of vaguely chronological (with lots of divergences), but it’s hard to tell and there is no organization other than that. My biggest gripe is the truly atrocious punctuation: randomly sprinkled commas, erratic capitalization, and an egregious and often incorrect use of quotations marks. It made me want to whip out my red pen.

There are some gems that make it worth plowing through. When performing at a club in a dry area of Kansas, she got paid more than she expected, she was told she got a commission on steaks. Normally the dancers had to hustle drinks, not meat! The same club held church services Sunday morning. One of her bookings, in Western Massachusetts, required that her costume be weighed at the end of her act. In Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada), the audience showed their appreciation by flinging silver dollars at her.

Although the author is not a polished writer, she was a burlesque performer and her memories and stories are valuable to our understanding of our history.

M2

Published in: on 11 March 2015 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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